Almirola was the best of the rest this season

KANSAS CITY, KS - OCTOBER 19: Aric Almirola, driver of the #10 Smithfield Ford, prepares to drive during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 19, 2018 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

As the newcomer and fourth driver at Stewart-Haas Racing this year, most people held conservative expectations for Aric Almirola – expectations the 34-year old Tampa native blew out of the water.

After earning only his second ever bid into the Playoffs, Almirola advanced all the way to the next to last round – and then claimed fifth place overall in the championship standings – besting multi-time winners such as Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski and Clint Bowyer.

Almirola averaged an 8.6 finish in the 10-race Playoffs, picking up his first victory since 2014 and first with SHR in the Talladega Playoff race. He had seven top-10 finishes and three top-five finishes. His four top-fives and 17 top-10s on the season are career highs – the top-10 mark more than doubled his previous best effort in six earlier fulltime Cup seasons.

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.