NASCAR: 5 drivers who should already panic in 2021

NASCAR (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
NASCAR (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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Aric Almirola, NASCAR
Aric Almirola, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Drivers who should panic: #3 – Aric Almirola

  • 26th in points with 40
  • 27 points behind the cut line

Aric Almirola is in a similar situation to that of Ryan Blaney throughout the 2021 season.

He was involved in the “Big One” in the Daytona 500 on lap 15, he had a mediocre day at the Daytona International Speedway road course to finish in 20th place, and he had contact with Blaney at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The contact with Blaney could have been worse, but the damage was enough to put both drivers multiple laps down.

This kind of a slow start is uncharacteristic for Almirola. In the last three years to start the season, the #10 Smithfield Ford has been easily inside the top 16 in points through three races. He’s even spent time at the front over the last few seasons, most notably with 36 laps led at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2019.

After this year’s Bluegreen Vacations Duel win, I expected a lot of motivation out of Almirola, enough for him to be able to consistently execute and finish in the top five or top 10, perhaps even with multiple wins.

But of his 40 points so far this season, 10 are thanks to his Duel win. Without that, he would be sitting in a 29th place tie in the point standings with Jamie McMurray, who only competed in the Daytona 500.

Success hasn’t happened yet for Almirola, and I’m shocked. This team has had a big chance to greatly improve since Almirola took over for Danica Patrick in 2018. They have improved in great Stewart-Haas Racing equipment, but the execution still hasn’t been there. It was there in 2018 at Talladega Superspeedway when he had enough fuel to pass Kurt Busch on the final lap and win, but aside from that, it hasn’t been.