Aric Almirola has announced that his upcoming 15th season as a NASCAR Cup Series driver will also be his last.
“I truly enjoy driving racecars and I’m excited to race my heart out in 2022 for Smithfield and Stewart-Haas Racing,” said Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang. “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.”
The 37-year-old, who is Florida-born of Cuban heritage, was one of the first drivers to go through NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program in 2004, and emerged onto the Truck and then-Nationwide scene as part of Joe Gibbs Racing’s development program. That led to a Cup debut at Las Vegas in 2007 in a one-off with JGR, but another three years of part-time Cup programs for various teams followed before he linked up with sponsor Smithfield Foods and landed a full-time ride with Richard Petty Motorsports in 2012.
He remained at RPM for six seasons, and then moved to his current home at Stewart Haas in 2018, earning his first career win at Talladega that same season. A second victory followed last year at New Hamphire.
“It means a lot to be able to walk away on my own terms,” Almirola said. “It’s been a great ride. I have been blessed beyond my wildest imagination and I honestly have no regrets.
“Do I wish I would’ve won more races? Sure, and there’s still an opportunity this year. Do I wish I would’ve won a championship? Sure, and I’ve got a lot of drive to make that happen this year. I’m a competitive person. I want to win and I want to be a champion, but at the end of the day, I know that those things mean way less than being there for my family.
“I made it to the highest level of American motorsports as a professional racecar driver. It’s been amazing, with a lot of ups and downs and everything in between. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But I’m ready to go back to being a fan.”
SHR co-owner Tony Stewart’s relationship with Almirola dates back to when they both raced for Gibbs in 2004, and the three-time series champion said he respects the journey that Almirola has been on in the years since.
“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 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.”
Longtime sponsor Smithfield will continue as an anchor partner of Almirola and the No. 10 team, with 2022 marking the brand’s 11th year with Almirola and its fifth with SHR.