Stewart Haas Racing announced Aric Almirola will pilot the #10 Smithfield Ford in 2018. This marks a continuation of the relationship between Smithfield and Almirola. After six years at Richard Petty Motorsports, Smithfield decided to leave the famed #43 for the greener pastures at SHR.
A contentious break up between Smithfield and RPM led to a bit of news. Smithfield claims to have paid over $100M during their tenure with RPM and didn’t see the performance gains they expected. Smithfield mentioned they are a performance driven company and they wanted to be competitive on the track in their original SHR release.
Moving to SHR is an upgrade without a doubt. 2017 has been a growing year for the team thanks to their switch to Ford. However late in the season, they seem to have a great handle on the package now going into Homestead. Smithfield is on an elite race car for the first time since joining the sport in a primary sponsor capacity.
There is one question though.
Why Aric Almirola?
All we’ve heard is that Smithfield wants to be competitive and win races. So why then did they bring Aric Almirola over to SHR to join them? It’s an honest question because based on the numbers there is nothing to indicate Almirola is an elite race car driver. Not of the caliber, SHR should employ.
Almirola has 31 Top 10’s in 234 career starts. He has never been in elite equipment but for a career that dates back to 2007 with DEI, you’d expect a little more. One Cup win in 2014 thanks to a rain-shortened Daytona race doesn’t scream “future champion” to anyone.
When you look at his Xfinity results they are minimally better. Three wins in 100 races over 10 years. Dude wins 3% of the time and for some reason, people look at him as a contender. Tony Stewart referenced Almirola’s Milwaukee win with JGR in 2007 when Denny Hamlin replaced him halfway through. Stewart said it’s that time of drive that made him want Almirola. That’s over a decade ago at this point. Almirola is 33 and currently sits right in the prime of a Cup driver’s prime.
If Smithfield wanted a competitive driver that could win races and compete for championships they should have hired someone else. This is a strange sponsor driver relationship that seems to have no family ties. Almirola is a great family guy, clean cut and respectable. However, what’s the appeal on the track?
Maybe This Is What He Needed
Maybe Almirola really does have elite talent and just needed better equipment to unleash that talent. Eleven has to be pissed off to use her full powers. Almirola is Eleven and doesn’t know it. Maybe he’s like Joey Logano and needs a change of scenery to spark his eliteness. There’s no one out there that would classify Almirola as an elite driver currently.
He’s still the fourth driver at SHR. He has fewer wins than everyone else on the team. He’s literally Clint Bowyer #2 just with less personality. Bowyer used to be able to wheel but lost it along the way. Maybe there will be an SHR resurgence in 2018 with a stable of mid 30-year olds and Harvick. While everyone else moves toward a youth movement SHR has gone the opposite direction.
Maybe it works.
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