Tony Stewart hints at interest in future XFINITY Series road course race
09 November, 2017, 19:41
At a Wednesday morning news conference at its team headquarters, Stewart-Haas Racing announced that Aric Almirola will replace Danica Patrick on its team next year.
"For this vehicle, we thought this was the flawless fit", Stewart-Haas co-owner Tony Stewart said. "I've raced with him and seen him mature into a really good race auto driver".
Hamlin closed out the win, which is credited in the record books to Almirola. "I watched a lot of details in that race that a lot of other people didn't focus on and that's why it's such a big deal to me because I know what kind of talent he has".
Almirola and longtime sponsor Smithfield Foods have spent the past six seasons at Richard Petty Motorsports in the iconic No. 43, but they will remain together at the team co-owned by NASCAR legend Tony Stewart and Gene Haas.
"This is a great moment for Aric, and Smithfield is very happy to be a part of it because it's a great opportunity for our company", said John Pauley, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Smithfield. "He can compete for wins here at Stewart-Haas Racing and help our other drivers compete for wins". In his 6 years in the famed 43 vehicle, Aric scored 1 win, the 2014 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.
Almirola was 20th in the standings when he broke his back in May. He's 29th now and would be 24th when you extrapolate his points-per-race average out to a full season.
"Christmas came early for me", Almirola said Wednesday. The way I look at it is he made a commitment to come here because he thinks it's gonna be better, we hired him because we think he can do a great job in the vehicle, and it's just a matter of getting the chemistry right with the crew chief and team. The team also fields cars for Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch, who is in a contract year with the team but could return at a reduced salary.
Petty announced last month that Bubba Wallace would replace Almirola at RPM next year. Patrick has been with SHR since 2013, and her future racing plans are yet to be known. Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne also said they were not candidates, which left Almirola as the obvious choice.
A new partnership is underway in NASCAR, with a similar driver and sponsor, but a new team. They lean on each other, challenge each other and make each other better.
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