A song once opined that a “ch-change could you good.” Aric Almirola- a NASCAR journeyman will hit the reset button when he climb inside the cockpit of the 10 at Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018. Surprised? I am only slightly.
What do you think when you think Aric Almirola? A casual fan may think “who?” Other thoughts spring to mind like “nice guy,” “doesn’t make trouble,” or maybe “he’s ok, I guess.” My earliest memory of Almirola was back in the days of the Busch Series where he started a race for Joe Gibbs, he was leading at Milwaukee, and the team made him get out of the car for Denny Hamlin- who had flown in from Michigan- to finish it for ‘sponsorship obligations.” I always felt like he got hosed there.
Aric Almirola has been racing full-time at the top since 2012. In 242 races, he has one win- in a rain-shortened race- 11 top fives and 31 top tens. Not bad. It doesn’t elicit superlatives, but the numbers are good enough to say he doesn’t suck. In middling equipment at Richard Petty Motorsports, the Floridian of Cuban descent has finished inside the top twenty for the season three times.
All this build up is to say no one would argue that Aric Almirola doesn’t have a place in NASCAR. As he takes over Danica Patrick’s ride, it will be interesting to see if he can improve on her performance. I can hear you critics now, and I’m just not going to go there. He’s a solid driver. I just wonder what you all may be thinking about who got passed over to take Aric Almirola.
Most notably, 2003 champion Matt Kenseth appears as though he will be sitting out 2018. While he’s announced he’ll be on the sidelines, you have to know that he would have jumped at the chance to take the 10 car.
My question is this: should SHR have taken Kenseth over Almirola? Is Kenseth over the hill? Has he ruffled too many feathers with the Joey Logano dust-up to enjoy widespread acceptance? I really don’t know myself.
Let’s not forget Carl Edwards is still out there, and so is Greg Biffle. We’re just saying there are other, perhaps more accomplished options out there. Perhaps they’ve decided they don’t miss it.
Whatever the case, Aric Almirola has a new opportunity with an organization that’s further along than RPM. We’ll really see how much of the 10 team’s performance had to do with the polarizing Patrick, and how much of it may have been the sometimes it seems like Stewart-Haas Racing may be spread too thin. For my part, I hope he does well. How much success he will enjoy remains to be seen. There shouldn’t be too much pressure. The bar he has to clear to improve the 10 team’s performance isn’t terribly high. It sounds harsh, but let’s face it: it’s not.