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.