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Aric Almirola’s Future is Uncertain…But Who Could Replace Him?

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On Tuesday, Aric Almirola expressed to the media that he is uncertain about whether or not he will return next season for Stewart-Haas Racing. This is not a major surprise as Almirola was planning on retiring following the 2022 season before reversing course.

However, Stewart-Haas Racing is already rumored to have the hottest NASCAR free agent on the market, with Josh Berry reportedly the favorite to replace Kevin Harvick. Harvick is most definitely not backing out of that, so, what are Stewart-Haas Racing’s options for Almirola should he leave?

Zane Smith

Zane Smith is probably the best prospect in the Ford stable currently. The defending Craftsman Truck Series Champion actually had a Cup Series offer from Chip Ganassi Racing before they were bought out by Justin Marks, Pitbull, and Trackhouse. Add to that, Smith just got his first career Cup Series top-10 for Front Row Motorsports at the Coca-Cola 600.

Is it strange to make the jump straight to the Cup Series without a full-time season in Xfinity? Yes it is, but Smith is not a normal case. He has enough experience and a good enough pedigree to justify such as jump if Stewart-Haas Racing sees value in it.

Martin Truex Jr.

Martin Truex Jr. has yet to sign with Joe Gibbs Racing beyond this year, and it remains to be seen if the two will renew their contract. Add to that, the free agent list that Stewart-Haas Racing has to choose from is…lackluster…to say the least. If Truex wants to race outside of JGR, could Stewart-Haas racing see value in bringing in a veteran driver who definitely can win races as a stop gap?

Letting Truex be a stop gap-type driver could be a good idea if Stewart-Haas feels there is someone that will be available in 2025 or 2026. This is probably not super likely, but the candidates for this potential ride are not exactly great.

Cole Custer

Cole Custer has rejuvenated his career in the Xfinity Series this season. He got a win this past weekend at Portland, and he currently sits fourth in the points standings, better than Josh Berry. Custer is also on a streak of seven straight finishes of seventh or better.

The problem with Custer is his unimpressive Cup Series resume. In 2021 and 2022, Custer was not even close to qualifying for the Playoffs, and he only scored one win in the 2020 season. But, maybe one year in Xfinity gives both him and SHR a confidence boost to push him forward.

Riley Herbst

Yes he has not won an Xfinity Series race yet, but, he is racing for Stewart-Haas Racing in the Xfinity Series. With a list of candidates as thin as this, that’s about the only requirement needed to be under consideration for this potential opening.

In fairness to Herbst, he is consistently running in the top-10. He has 60 top-10s in 122 Xfinity Series races, which is a decent total, and he has pointed his way into the Playoffs each of the last three seasons. If Stewart-Haas Racing want give a young guy a one-year prove it type deal, Herbst is not the worst option.

Ty Majeski

Ty Majeski is definition of a wild card pick, but so were guys like Ryan Preece and Kurt Busch to an extent. Majeski has found a bit of a career resurgence in the Craftsman Truck Series winning two races and qualifying for the Championship Four last season. Majeski currently sits second in Truck Series points this season.

He has yet to run a full-time season in Xfinity, but he is a Ford driver in a thin market. With Stewart-Haas Racing potentially in a desperate situation, why not throw a bone at someone like Majeski.

Stewart-Haas Racing does not have many options for the 10 car if Almirola chooses to retire. However, it could be a great opportunity for someone that may not get one in a normal year.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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