One of the worst-kept secrets in the NASCAR garage is finally out.
On Wednesday (Nov. 8), Stewart-Haas Racing announced that Aric Almirola will move to Stewart-Haas Racing to drive the No. 10 Ford in 2018. Almirola will replace Danica Patrick, who has not announced any plans for next season as of yet.
Smithfield Foods will follow Almirola to Stewart-Haas Racing from Richard Petty Motorsports and serve as the team’s primary sponsor.
With the move, Almirola sees himself in a much better position to add to his win total.
“This is the opportunity every racer wants,” Almirola said in a press release. “Stewart-Haas Racing is an experienced organization with a lot of depth, great technical support from Ford, and staffed with racers from top to bottom. They lean on each other, challenge each other and make each other better. I’m really looking forward to being a part of that.
“I’ve known Tony Stewart since our time together at Joe Gibbs Racing,” Almirola continued. “I know what he expects and he knows my commitment. I can’t thank him and Smithfield enough for believing in me and providing this opportunity.”
For Smithfield Foods, Almirola’s knowledge of the company was a key factor in why they decided to stay with the Tampa-born racer.
“Obviously, we strongly believe in Aric’s ability and that of Stewart-Haas Racing, and those abilities transcend the racetrack,” said John Pauley, Smithfield Foods’ executive vice president of sales and marketing. “They want to consistently run up front and contend for wins, but they’re also very interested in helping us win in the marketplace. This is a strong partnership with outgoing personalities who are driven to succeed.
Team co-owner Tony Stewart said he knows what he’s getting with Almirola.
“I’ve known Aric since 2004 and have always been impressed with him on the racetrack,” Stewart said. “I’ve raced with him and seen him mature into a really good race car driver. He can compete for wins here at Stewart-Haas Racing and help our other drivers compete for wins. He’s an excellent fit for this team and for Smithfield.”
2018 will be Almirola’s seventh season with Smithfield Foods sponsorship. In that time, he’s started 207 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races for Richard Petty Motorsports. He has one victory (the rain-shortened 2014 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway), 10 of his 11 career top five finishes and 29 of his 31 career top 10 finishes. He also earned his only career pole position back in 2012 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. His average finish in those 207 starts is 20.048, slightly better than his career average of 21.5.
Stewart-Haas Racing did not announce how many races that Smithfield Foods will be on the No. 10 on Wednesday. The Virginia-based company reached a settlement with Richard Petty Motorsports last week regarding the acrimonious ending of their relationship. As a result, Smithfield Foods will continue to be involved with the No. 43 team in some capacity in 2018.