Will Almirola Thrive at SHR?

by Brandon Rivero On Thu, Jan. 04, 2018

KANNAPOLIS, NC - NOVEMBER 08: NASCAR driver Aric Almirola speaks with fans during a Q&A session after Stewart-Haas Racing introduced Almirola as their driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford for the 2018 season. Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Stewart-Haas Racing via Getty Images.

In an emotional press conference on November 17, 2017, Danica Patrick announced it would be her last full-time season as a driver. Numerous fans and members of the NASCAR community were saddened that their hero and inspiration wouldn’t be back in 2018.

But in all honesty, it wasn’t a shock that Patrick was leaving. Over the past few years, she began to have sponsorship issues and wasn’t running any better. During her five full-time seasons in the No. 10 at Stewart-Hass Racing(SHR), Danica only had seven top-10 finishes and one career pole.

However, sometimes it takes an icon stepping away to open up an opportunity for someone else.

Juan Pablo Montoya, a Monaco Grand Prix and Indy 500 winner, left NASCAR after the 2013 season. Although Montoya won two races in the Cup Series, he never succeeded like he would have liked to in NASCAR.

And then, a young dirt racer from California got the opportunity of his life.

Kyle Larson would become the driver of the No. 42 car in 2014. By now, it’s safe to say Larson exceeded expectations as many questioned whether he was too young and inexperienced to earn that ride in the first place.

The story is a little different now.

Last season, Aric Almirola wasn’t even able to compete in all 36 races due to a back injury he suffered at Kansas. But last November, it was announced that the thirty-three-year-old would get the opportunity of his life. Almirola was introduced as the new driver for the No. 10 car in 2018.

Almirola, a Tampa, Florida native of Cuban descent, drove the iconic No. 43 car for Richard Petty Motorsports the past six seasons. Almirola only scored one win, one pole and 10 top-five finishes.

In November, Almirola said. “I’ve worked my whole life, my whole career for an opportunity like this — to come and be a part of a championship organization. I think (Stewart-Haas Racing has) won two of the last six championships and going for a third this year at Homestead, so I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity and to continue my relationship with Tony.”

The real question is, can this move revamp Almirola’s career?

Almirola is going to be racing for one of NASCAR’s top-tier teams. Since starting back in 2009, SHR has proven they have some of the top personnel and best equipment in the Cup Series by winning two championships. Also, longtime sponsor Smithfield will be sponsoring Almirola in 2018.

Another bright note, Almirola will be reunited with his new crew chief John Klausmeier. Almirola and Klausmeier worked together back at Dale Earnhardt Incorporated. Since 2009, Klausmeier has been a race engineer at SHR and in 2016 Klausmeier went to victory lane at the June Pocono race after serving as interim crew chief for the No. 41 team.

Team co-owner Tony Stewart said, “John Klausmeier is more than ready to be his crew chief.”

Now, Almirola has a shot at turning his career around. As a veteran in the Cup Series, he has the maturity and demeanor that some drivers lack going into the 2018 season.

Almirola has an opportunity that many wish they had, and it is his time to prove that he deserves it. Perhaps, Almirola can bring consistency to the No. 10, which is something they’ve been lacking in the past.

Follow @MrBrandonRivero for his latest articles

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