Add Aric Almirola’s name to the Great Resignation.
The affable 37-year-old racer is hanging up his helmet at the end of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Following 15 seasons on the tour—including the last five with Stewart-Haas Racing—Almirola is seeking more quality time with his family.
“I truly enjoy driving race cars and I’m excited to race my heart out in 2022 for (sponsor) Smithfield and Stewart-Haas Racing,” said the 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 race car 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.”
Almirola made his Cup debut in March 2007 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He has enjoyed support from Smithfield Foods since 2012, when he joined Richard Petty Motorsports for his first full-time season on the tour. In 388 Cup starts, Almirola scored three wins and advanced to the Playoffs four times with a career-high result of fifth in the standings in 2018. The Tampa native of Cuban descent also posted three wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and two victories in the Camping World Truck Series.
“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 race car 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.”
Almirola’s announcement comes on the heels of Stewart-Haas Racing recruiting Ryan Preece as a test driver and potential backup in the age of the coronavirus. While some speculated Preece could be waiting in the wings for the potential retirement of 46-year-old Kevin Harvick, Almriola’s decision could change the complexion of the line-up. Of course, a lot will depend on Preece’s performance throughout the coming year.
SHR co-owner Tony Stewart first met Almirola in 2004 when he was a development driver at Joe Gibbs Racing.
“I’ve watched Aric develop into a really good race car 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.”