While Aric Almirola won’t be back with Stewart-Haas Racing in the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season, he stopped short of announcing his retirement.
Before the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season, Aric Almirola announced that he would be retiring upon its conclusion. But during the season itself, he changed his mind and decided to sign a contract extension with Stewart-Haas Racing to continue driving the No. 10 Ford for 2023 “and beyond”.
However, there was reportedly a clause in his new deal that would allow him to retire after the 2023 season if he chose to do so, and over the last few months, all signs pointed to him opting not to return for a seventh season with the team in 2024.
Almirola confirmed over the weekend that he will not be back with Stewart-Haas Racing in 2024, with longtime primary sponsor Smithfield making the same decision.
However, the 39-year-old Fort Walton Beach, Florida native, who followed up the announcement with a season-best second place finish at Martinsville Speedway, stopped shy of confirming a full retirement.
Aric Almirola is open to running a part-time NASCAR Cup Series schedule elsewhere.
Rick Ware Racing would make the most sense, provided that they keep both of their charters. They have not yet confirmed anything about their second seat, and that car is usually driven by multiple drivers throughout each season. Justin Haley is set to leave Kaulig Racing and join the team full-time next year.
As far as Stewart-Haas Racing’s future is concerned, this marks seven out of the last eight offseasons in which they will need to make a driver change, but it marks the first time they will need to make multiple changes during that span. Josh Berry has already been announced as the replacement for the retiring Kevin Harvick.
Chase Briscoe is set to enter the 2024 season as the team’s longest tenured driver, having arrived in 2021 as Clint Bowyer’s replacement. Ryan Preece is set to return for his second season with the team after replacing Cole Custer this year.
Custer had been seen as a potential replacement for Almirola after spending the 2023 season back in the Xfinity Series, but Noah Gragson has recently emerged as the favorite. Gragson lost his ride with Legacy Motor Club during the 2023 season.
Speculation that Stewart-Haas Racing, which have struggled over the last three seasons, could look to sell one of their four charters and run a three-car program with Almirola stepping away has cooled considerably.