Aric Almirola’s seventh full season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is his first with Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). Despite having a new home in 2018 and a new ride – the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion – it comes with some familiar faces: team co-owner Tony Stewart and crew chief John Klausmeier.
A Florida native, of Cuban descent, Almirola made his first foray into NASCAR competition in 2004 behind the wheel of a LTE-model stock car. He made his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Start in 2007 and immediately began to climb the ranks over the next few years, competing in all three of NASCAR’s premier series. In 2012, Richard Petty tapped Almirola to race the famed No. 43 Ford and he rewarded Petty’s belief in him by winning the pole for the Coca-Cola 600 and finishing the year with a top-five and four top-10s.
The 2014 season was a breakthrough one for Almirola. He won his first Monster Energy Cup race at the Daytona International Speedway. The success of the 2014 season earned Almirola a spot in the Top 25 Latin Athletes in ESPN Deportes The Magazine.
From 2015 through 2017, Almirola collected six top-fives and 13 top-10s. While a variety of factors made the success of 2014 difficult to emulate, Almirola made sure his abilities remained on display by winning two Xfinity Series races – one at Daytona in 2016 and another at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in 2017.
The following weekend after his victory at Talladega, Almirola was involved in a violent, multicar accident at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. Injuries from the accident sidelined Almirola for seven races, but he returned stronger than ever, earning three top-10s to complete the season – setting him up for his newest and best opportunity at Stewart-Haas Racing.