With Noah Gragson linked to Stewart-Haas Racing, it seems more likely than not that Aric Almirola is going to retire from NASCAR Cup Series competition.
One of the biggest remaining questions about this year’s NASCAR Cup Series silly season pertains to Aric Almirola’s future — or lack thereof — behind the wheel of the No. 10 Ford at Stewart-Haas Racing.
Almirola initially planned on retiring at the end of the 2022 season, but he changed his mind during the year and signed a new deal to remain with the team in 2023 “and beyond”, continuing his relationship with longtime primary sponsor Smithfield in doing so.
But his new deal was said to contain a clause that would allow him to retire after 2023 if he chose to do so, and there has been speculation on this particular subject for the last several months.
Almirola missed the playoffs for the first time since joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018 last year, and his 2023 season has unfortunately been even worse, with just four top 10 finishes to speak of through 34 starts.
Even going back to 2021, his performance has seen a dip since his first three years with the team, though some of that undoubtedly has to do with the team’s drop-off in form. His most recent win came in July 2021 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway during what was an otherwise disappointing year.
Almirola said a few months ago that he had a window of between 30 and 60 days in which he needed to make a decision on whether or not he would be returning in 2024, and that window has come and gone.
Is Aric Almirola going to retire from NASCAR after the 2023 Cup Series season?
Nothing has been confirmed one way or the other, but with Noah Gragson being viewed as the “likely” candidate to drive the No. 10 Ford next year, all signs point to the 39-year-old Fort Walton Beach, Florida native opting not to return for a seventh season with Stewart-Haas Racing in 2024.
Stewart-Haas Racing have already confirmed that Josh Berry is set to replace the retiring Kevin Harvick behind the wheel of the No. 4 Ford next year, while both Chase Briscoe and Ryan Preece are set to return to the No. 14 Ford and No. 41 Ford, respectively.
Cole Custer has also been viewed as a potential replacement for Almirola after losing his ride to Preece ahead of the 2023 season, but with the emergence of Gragson, Custer will likely spend another season with Stewart-Haas Racing’s Xfinity Series team either way. Riley Herbst has already re-signed with the team to continue competing in the Xfinity Series.