Aric Almirola confirms return to NASCAR with new multi-year deal

Not only is Aric Almirola not retiring but he’s returning to Stewart-Haas Racing next season with a new multi-year deal for himself and sponsor, Smithfield Foods.

Aric Almirola, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang Smithfield first reported on Aug. 19 that Almirola had decided to put off retirement from the NASCAR Cup Series and that he and Smithfield would return to SHR for the 2023 season.

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In addition, SHR announced on Friday at Daytona International Speedway that both driver and sponsor would return with multi-year contract extensions.

The 2023 season will now be the 12th consecutive year that Smithfield has partnered with Almirola and sixth together at SHR. Smithfield’s sponsorship will also include the largest number of races since joining SHR in 2018.

“I’ve learned a lot this year and perhaps the biggest learning was to never say never,” Almirola said. “I came into this year ready to soak everything up, and I have. I already knew I had the coolest job in the world, but being with my family and being there for Janice and Alex and Abby was really important.

“My desire to compete and win never wavered, but I didn’t want it to come at the expense of family. We found a way to accommodate both and I’ve never been happier.”

In early January, Almirola announced the 2022 season would be his last driving fulltime in NASCAR competition. At the time, he said he wanted to devote more time to his family.

He said Friday that was still the case.

“Smithfield is a big part of that. They’ve been a part of my life for 11 years and, really, my entire NASCAR Cup Series career. They’re family to me. And, of course, it’s always nice to be wanted,” Almirola said.

“Smithfield wanted me to continue representing them. Stewart-Haas Racing wanted me to continue driving their race cars. Everything just aligned and it’s something we all embraced.

“The original decision to step away from fulltime racing at the end of the season was a family one, and so is this decision. Janice, Alex and Abby are just as excited as I am to continue racing the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang.”

Aric Almirola, Stewart Haas Racing, Smithfield Ford Mustang

Aric Almirola, Stewart Haas Racing, Smithfield Ford Mustang

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

Said Shane Smith, president and CEO of Smithfield Foods: “NASCAR is exactly where we need to be. It’s where our customers are, and no one reaches them better than Aric Almirola. He’s an incredibly talented racer and devoted family man who embodies Smithfield’s values.

“From day one, Aric has embraced our commitment to do good for our customers, employees and communities. This is a reinvestment in Aric, in Stewart-Haas Racing and in NASCAR.”

The decision by Almirola eliminates the No. 10 as an option in 2023 for Kyle Busch, who remains without a confirmed ride in the Cup Series next season. Busch’s current contract with Joe Gibbs expires at the end of this season and he has yet to agree to an extension.

Stewart-Haas Racing's 2023 driver roster

SHR’s driver lineup will now look the same in 2023 as this season provided Cole Custer returns to the No. 41. Asked about Custer’s return last week, a SHR executive Greg Zipadelli said, “Right now, I believe that’s what our plan is.”

Almirola made his Cup Series debut on March 11, 2007, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, three days before his 23rd birthday. He teamed up with Smithfield in 2012 while at Richard Petty Motorsports for his first full year in Cup.

Almirola’s best seasons have come with SHR. He finished a career-high fifth in points in 2018 and scored a career-best 18 top-10 finishes in 2020.

So far this season, Almirola is 18th in the series standings with two top-five and seven top-10 finishes. He will need to win Saturday night’s regular season finale at Daytona to qualify for the playoffs this year since there are already 14 different winners.

Throughout his NASCAR career, Almirola has won three Cup races, three Xfinity Series races and he has two wins in Trucks.

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