By David Morgan, Associate Editor
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – After announcing his retirement from the NASCAR Cup Series in January, Aric Almirola has decided against stepping away from the sport at season’s end and will return to Stewart-Haas Racing for at least the 2023 season.
In a Friday press conference at Daytona International Speedway, the driver of the No. 10 Ford confirmed the rumors that have been swirling as of late by announcing his return to the cockpit. Almirola added that a phone call from long-time sponsor Smithfield was one of the big tipping points in getting him to return.
“I’m here to announce that I’ll be back,” Almirola said. “I know that doesn’t come as a surprise to many of you, but I put a lot of thought and a lot of discussing it with Janice and the kids and, ultimately, the subject continued to get broached from the race team and Smithfield and through all of that dialogue, mainly with the race team and Smithfield, it was very evident that not only did they want me back, but that Smithfield wanted to increase their marketing campaign around NASCAR and around me.
“So, they’ve decided to come back for a multi-year agreement, which is incredible. The amount of support that they have given to me and my family throughout my career is humbling, so when Shane Smith called me, the CEO of Smithfield and said, ‘Hey, we really want you to reconsider retiring. We want you to come back and drive our race car.’ It’s really hard to say no.”
Almirola explained that after discussing his future with his family, he came to the decision that he was not quite ready to walk away.
“Ultimately, it just feels right,” he said. “I told you guys down here at the beginning of the year that I was retiring and it was for a family decision and this is still very much a family decision.
“Janice and the kids and I talked a lot about it and I think the person that probably has the most sacrifice involved is Janice, but the kids were ecstatic that they still get to come and be with their friends and there is a community that is involved and associated with what we do. This year, I took the opportunity to really soak it all up and embrace this year, and I have found a renewed sense of what a work/life balance looks like this year.”
The 37-year-old Tampa, Florida native first appeared on the Cup Series scene back in 2007, running part-time for a number of different teams before making the jump to full-time racing at NASCAR’s highest level with Richard Petty Motorsports and the legendary No. 43 team back in 2012.
After six years driving for Petty, Almirola made the move over to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018 to pilot the No. 10 Ford, where he has remained ever since.
Over the course of his career, Almirola has visited Victory Lane three times, with wins in the 2014 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, the 2018 Playoff race at Talladega, and most recently at New Hampshire in July 2021.
Making the Playoffs each season since joining SHR back in 2018, Almirola’s best points finish came that season with a fifth-place result in the final standings after putting up six top-five finishes and 19 top-10 finishes on top of his win at Talladega.
Through the first 25 races of the 2022 season, Almirola has scored two top-five finishes (Daytona 500 and Gateway), along with seven top-10 finishes and currently sits 18th in points as he hopes to win his way into the Playoffs in Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona.