Aric Almirola not sad his fulltime career is over

LOUDON, NEW HAMPSHIRE - JULY 17: Aric Almirola, driver of the #10 Smithfield Ford, waits on the grid prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Crayon 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 17, 2023 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Longtime NASCAR Cup Series competitor Aric Almirola will be making his final start this weekend as a fulltime competitor. The Tampa native formalized the news last weekend and said he may still make occasional starts in various series, but his primary focus now is being a dad and husband.

Almirola, 39, who has three career wins – at Daytona, Talladega, Ala. and New Hampshire – qualified for five Playoff runs highlighted by a fifth-place finish in the 2018 championship standings.

“I originally thought that I might be sad, but I’m not sad – I’m happy it happened,” Almirola said Saturday before qualifying. “When I flew on the plane for five hours, I was thinking and enjoying re-living the last six years at SHR [Stewart-Haas Racing] and 12 years being a fulltime Cup driver – all the ups and downs and everything in between.

“It’s been such a journey. And through that process of sitting and thinking about it all and knowing this will be the last one of doing it fulltime, I felt a sense of gratitude really, not sad at all. Just happy it happened.”

The Florida native said what he’ll take away from his career is less about the victories and more about the people he met. He’ll celebrate it all Saturday evening with dozens of friends and family in Phoenix to watch his final fulltime start.

“If I wouldn’t have made it in racing, I’d probably still be in Florida running my grandfather’s body shop and the people around me and the dynamic of what my family looks like would just be so different form today,” he said. “I wouldn’t have met my wife, wouldn’t have had my kids, wouldn’t have had the friendships and relationships I have because of God allowing me to become a race car driver so I feel incredibly grateful and an overwhelming sense of being blessed.

“The friendships, the relationships will last way past the driving.”