By David Morgan, Associate Editor
A mainstay on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit for more than a decade, Aric Almirola announced Monday that the upcoming 2022 season will be his last behind the wheel, as he’ll be hanging up the helmet at season’s end to spend more time with his family.
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 will close out his career.
“I truly enjoy driving racecars and I’m excited to race my heart out in 2022 for Smithfield and Stewart-Haas Racing,” said Almirola. “But to be the best in this business, you’ve got to be selfish, and for the last 37 years my life has always revolved around me and what I needed to do.
“I want to be present. I want to be the best husband and father, and that to me means more than being a racecar driver. So, it’s one more year where I’m all in on racing, where we’ll do whatever it takes to compete at the highest level. But when the season is over, I’ll be ready to wave goodbye. I’ve loved every minute of it, but it’s time for the next chapter of my life.”
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.
“I’ve watched Aric develop into a really good racecar driver and it was a proud moment when we were able to bring him to Stewart-Haas Racing,” Stewart-Haas co-owner Tony Stewart said. “He’s really delivered for our race team and for Smithfield, always putting in maximum effort. I know he wants to go out on a high note and we’re going to give him all the resources to succeed.
“That being said, we also want him to enjoy this season. Aric is a great husband and father, and this year will bring a lot of cool moments that he’ll be able to share with his family. He’s earned this opportunity to go out on his terms.”
As Almirola heads into his final season in the Cup Series, he’ll be doing so with a familiar name on the side of his Ford Mustang, as Smithfield has re-upped with SHR for the 2022 season. Having served as Almirola’s primary sponsor throughout his full-time tenure in the Cup Series, the partnership between the driver and sponsor has been one of the longest lasting in recent memory.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure to have Aric as part of our Smithfield Family for more than a decade now,” said Shane Smith, president and CEO, Smithfield Foods. “In addition to being an incredibly talented racer and devoted family man, Aric embodies Smithfield’s values and has embraced our commitment to do good for our customers, employees and communities. He will always be family. We wish him all the best in his next chapter and look forward to another great year with him and Stewart-Haas Racing.”