It got lost in all that “big three” talk. The 10 car of Aric Almirola took third place for Stewart-Haas Racing at New Hampshire. That’s some rarified air for what is considered to be SHR’s fourth team, and a place they’re not accustomed to.
The performance of the 10 car in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series this season tell us a lot. For one thing, Aric Almirola just might be a better driver than many of us gave him credit for.
It seems like an eternity ago that the Cuban-American from Florida was a lower series driver for Joe Gibbs Racing. Over the years, Almirola has bounced around the garage from JGR to DEI to Phoenix to Richard Petty before landing at SHR to succeed Danica Patrick. For me, I always wondered how the “Cuban Missile” might perform in top flight equipment.
While nobody will confuse his numbers with those of Kevin Harvick, Almirola has piloted the 10 car to a level of success it has never seen before. On a personal level, his nine top tens are already a career high, Almirola is enjoying a career best average finish of 12.6 and he’s led 113 laps. As far as the 10 team goes, this is a new level of performance.
If we needed any further evidence that racing in the Cup Series may not have been in Danica’s wheelhouse, consider how this year’s performance compares to hers. Last season, she never cracked the top ten. In her best season of 2014, Patrick had three top tens. For the most part, her finishes were never as good as her starts. Almirola has experienced the opposite.
Now before you think I am bashing the former occupant of the 10 car, understand that she was a better racer than I’ll ever be. She put a lot of effort into her career, and got her shot racing among the very best. Danica Patrick is far from the only one who had talent, but couldn’t quite compete with racing’s big dogs. There’s no shame in that.
Meanwhile, one can’t help but wonder with all the focus on the so-called “Big Three,” and all the star-studded up and comers, if Almirola might become the next Martin Truex Jr.- a late bloomer. So far, he only has one rain-shortened race win in Cup competition. That could very well change soon.
While he may not yet be a championship contender, Aric Almirola is getting it done. It’s called making the most of your opportunity.