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It’s Decision Time for Aric Almirola

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Joshua Lipowski

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We know that Kevin Harvick is retiring at the end of the NASCAR Cup Series season, but the story is much less clear with his teammate. Almirola recently went on to Sirius XM NASCAR Radio and gave some insight into where he is at on his decision.

Just like he has over the last few months, he continues to push the decision back. However, he gave a very specific timeline for when his decision could come. Almirola said that within one or two months, he would need to make a decision on his future.

What does Almirola have to consider, and what are the potential consequences, good an bad, of his options?

The Consequences Almirola Retiring

The easiest thing to point out with Aric Almirola is his sponsorship. Almirola get a large amount of funding from Smithfield in order to race. Given the fact that he is a Cup Series race winner and made the Playoffs in each of his first four seasons at Stewart-Haas Racing, calling Almirola a “Pay driver” is a bit harsh, but, that does not mean the sponsorship he brings in does not play a role in this decision.

Recently, Tony Stewart announced the signing of Josh Berry to race in the NASCAR Cup Series in the 4 car for the retiring Kevin Harvick. Stewart famously mentioned in the press conference that he was “Not interested in some kid’s father buying their way into the Cup Series”. However, the caveat to that is that Berry does not bring any sponsorship with him to Stewart-Haas Racing.

Almirola does bring sponsorship with him, and that is a necessity for the vast majority of race car drivers. If Almirola leaves, then what happens to Smithfield? Does it stay with Stewart-Haas Racing, leave, or scale back?

Not only does Almirola leaving potentially affect the team in terms of sponsorship money, but it also affects the team in terms of who will drive. We recently took a look at the potential candidates for replacing Almirola in the Cup Series should he leave.

The options are limited for Stewart-Haas Racing. Riley Herbst and Cole Custer in the Xfinity Series are not the most inspiring of options. Zane Smith is probably the most interesting choice, but he is under contract with Front Row Motorsports. Shane Van Gisbergen has entered the fray over the month of July, but, will Almirola make a decision in time for SHR to sign SVG?

These are all reasons why Almirola needs to make his decision sooner rather than later. If he leaves, SHR has a lot of things they need to figure out. From a new driver to new sponsors to new crew, and so on. It’s a lot to handle for Stewart-Haas Racing.

The Consequences of Almirola Not Retiring

If Almirola were to not retire, then all of those potential issues for Stewart-Haas Racing would be mitigated. Instead of trying to find a driver and a full year’s worth of sponsorship for a car, they could keep the status quo.

For Almirola, it’s one more year in the Cup Series. However, Martin Truex Jr. put it well when talking about the decision he is mulling after the New Hampshire race.

This sport isn’t exactly what it appears to be sometimes. It takes a big commitment…It takes a lot. It’s not just show up at the track, drive the car, go home. It takes a lot. It takes a lot of commitment. It’s a lot of travel. A lot of time missing things with family and friends.

Martin Truex Jr.

People may forget that Almirola originally planned to retire at the end of the 2022 season, but he came back for this year. Does he want to keep racing, and does he want to keep taking time away from his family?

Only Almirola can answer that, and one more year in the sport is one more year of making those sacrifices that Truex Jr. mentioned. Is Almirola willing to do that again?

That’s what this all comes down to. The clock is ticking, and a decision needs to be made soon. However, as Almirola mentioned in the clip above, it is far from a simple decision.

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Joshua Lipowski

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