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Why is Noah Gragson the Favorite to Take Over for Aric Almirola?

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With Aric Almirola officially out of the 10 car for 2024 at Stewart-Haas Racing, the favorite to replace him surprises some. Noah Gragson has emerged as the favorite to land that ride, but what makes him the favorite to race at SHR in 2024?

A Look at the Free Agent Pool and Ford Prospects

It is late in the game in NASCAR silly season, and Gragson is likely the top free-agent driver available. Most of the drivers left in Silly Season are primarily candidates for Xfinity Series and Truck Series teams. The first place SHR could look is in the Ford camp, and that is looking quite thin at the moment.

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The top Xfinity Series drivers are Cole Custer and Riley Herbst with SHR. Herbst has won only one race, and he failed to make the Playoffs this season. Custer has three underwhelming Cup Series seasons under his belt, so, he is not an exciting choice.

Noah Gragons truly could be the best free agent out there currently. As a result, why would SHR not want to go after Gragson? Especially considering his potential and the reputation SHR has for bringing in these types of drivers.

SHR’s Reputation of Hiring These Kinds of Drivers

SHR tends to hire some oddball drivers. Drivers who are either primed for a second chance at the top level or drivers who have patiently waited for and earned that opportunity in top-level Cup Series equipment. It has often worked with plenty of Cup Series drivers having breakout seasons with SHR.

Drivers like Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer each experienced a career renaissance during their times with Stewart-Haas Racing. Aric Almirola won two races and made all of his Playoff appearances driving for SHR after six seasons driving the 43 for Richard Petty.

Even today, next year’s SHR lineup has that element to it. Ryan Preece is a driver who has worked his way up for years to get into a ride like SHR, and Josh Berry is the same way as he takes over for Kevin Harvick in 2024. Gragson could easily be the next driver to fit that category.

Gragson was suspended earlier this year by NASCAR, but he has now been reinstated. SHR has hired guys like Gragson in the past, and a few of those drivers have been able to rebuild or reinvigorate their careers. On top of that, Gragson is a driver that oozes potential.

Noah Gragson Himself

Despite having a difficult season with Legacy Motor Club before his suspension, the talent of Noah Gragson is obvious. He won 13 races in four seasons with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series with two Championship 4 appearances. Gragson went toe to toe with Ty Gibbs throughout the 2022 Xfinity Series season, and we all know how impressive Gibbs has been in the Cup Series this season.

One bad rookie year in equipment that was clearly behind the rest of the field should not be a death sentence to Noah Gragson’s career. Obviously, not all of Gragson’s struggles can or should be pinned on the equipment he was driving, but it has to be included when evaluating Gragson.

The biggest hurdle for Gragson might be sponsorship with Smithfield leaving. It all depends on which partners stuck with him following the suspension, and how much funding they are willing to give in 2024. However, if he is rumored to be the favorite, then there has to be something positive going on in terms of funding for Gragson.

At the end of the day, Gragson might end up with a great opportunity at the end of a difficult road. If he is afforded this opportunity, he will be a fun driver to watch for 2024.

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