Almirola, 37, will complete the 2022 season driving the No. 10 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing with longtime sponsor Smithfield Foods and then step away following the No. 6 season finale at Phoenix.
“I truly enjoy driving race cars and I’m excited to race my heart out in 2022 for Smithfield and Stewart-Haas Racing,” Almirola said. “But to be the best in this business, you’ve got to be selfish, and for the last 37 years my life has always revolved around me and what I needed to do.
“I want to be present. I want to be the best husband and father, and that to me means more than being a race car driver. So, it’s one more year where I’m all in on racing, where we’ll do whatever it takes to compete at the highest level.
“But when the season is over, I’ll be ready to wave goodbye. I’ve loved every minute of it, but it’s time for the next chapter of my life.”
Aric Almirola, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang Smithfield
Photo by: John Harrelson / NKP / Motorsport Images
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.
The Smithfield/Almirola partnership is now one of the most tenured in NASCAR, and since the duo joined SHR in 2018, Almirola has represented Smithfield in the NASCAR playoffs every year and scored two wins – 2018 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and 2021 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure to have Aric as part of our Smithfield Family for more than a decade now,” said Shane Smith, president and CEO, Smithfield Foods. “In addition to being an incredibly talented racer and devoted family man, Aric embodies Smithfield’s values and has embraced our commitment to do good for our customers, employees and communities. He will always be family.”
Almirola and his wife, Janice, have two children – a boy named Alex and daughter Abby – and decided it was time to focus more on their family.
“Janice and I have spent many nights talking about it and the questions are the same as anyone else would have when you’re going to stop doing something. Can I afford it? The answer I kept coming up with is that I can’t afford not to. Will I regret it? I think I’ll regret it if I don’t,” Almirola said.
“At the end of this season, we’re going to have a 10-year-old in Alex and a nine-year-old in Abby, and I’m going to have a short window with them while they still think Dad is cool. I want to be there for them and to be a part of the things they’re interested in.
“Before we know it, they’re going to have car keys and they’re going to be running off with their friends, doing the same things I did when I was 16 or 17.”
A winner across all three divisions
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.
Throughout his NASCAR careers, Almirola has won three Cup races, three Xfinity Series races and has two wins in Trucks.
“I’ve watched Aric develop into a really good race car driver and it was a proud moment when we were able to bring him to Stewart-Haas Racing,” SHR co-owner Tony Stewart said. “He’s really delivered for our race team and for Smithfield, always putting in maximum effort. I know he wants to go out on a high note and we’re going to give him all the resources to succeed.”
Almirola said he has “no regrets” from his NASCAR career.
“Do I wish I would’ve won more races? Sure, and there’s still an opportunity this year. Do I wish I would’ve won a championship? Sure, and I’ve got a lot of drive to make that happen this year. I’m a competitive person,” he said.
“I want to win and I want to be a champion, but at the end of the day, I know that those things mean way less than being there for my family. I made it to the highest level of American motorsports as a professional race car driver.
“It’s been amazing, with a lot of ups and downs and everything in between. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But I’m ready to go back to being a fan.”