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According to The Athletic’s Jordan Bianchi, Aric Almirola is “tracking” his full-time return to the #10 Stewart-Haas Racing car next season.
Let’s dive into the possibility and the multiple scenarios arising from Almirola’s decision.
Aric Almirola and Smithfield could return in 2023
Aric Almirola could give up his intentions to retire and continue driving in the NASCAR Cup Series. It would seem unexpected, but it certainly seems like a realistic possibility.
Bianchi said talks between Almirola sponsor Smithfield Foods and Stewart-Haas Racing are ongoing, but the #10 car’s main sponsor wants its current driver back.
It makes sense that Stewart-Haas Racing is pushing for Almirola to reconsider. If the 38-year-old driver retires, will Smithfield stick around?
It might be a possibility, but it shows how they want Almirola back in the seat. There haven’t been many names linked to the #10 car, which could be notable in possible negotiations.
Almirola currently sits 16th in the standings and likely needs a win to make the playoffs after winning New Hampshire Motor Speedway during the 2021 season due to obscurity.
Cole Custer, driver of the #41 car, doesn’t have many sponsors and Almirola’s departure would create another possible void. Unless Custer leaves, which has been reported by The Athletic and a few other outlets.
We will discuss the above scenario below as it relates to Aric Almirola possibly leaving the #10 car as planned before the start of the season.
Several different scenarios with Aric Almirola in 2023
Ironic, right? What if Aric Almirola decides to retire as planned instead of coming out of an expected retirement even before the start of the 2022 season?
Right now, it looks like the unlikely scenario when everything is set up. But, it would make sense to bring in a driver tied to the sponsorship or someone like Kyle Busch.
NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Riley Herbst has Monster Energy as a sponsor, but likely isn’t ready to make the leap from the organization’s Xfinity Series program.
Stewart-Haas Racing would likely push Busch if he was let go by Joe Gibbs Racing. It would be a huge mistake on Joe Gibbs’ part, but Stewart-Haas would benefit from someone else’s failure.
Noah Gragson looks dead on Petty GMS Motorsports while John Hunter Nemechek’s possible move to the Cup Series doesn’t look likely as suggested a few months ago.
However, what if Aric Almirola decides to return for one more season? This likely gives Stewart-Haas Racing more options on the table as their roster of Almirola, Kevin Harvick, Chase Briscoe and Cole Custer would be complete.
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Should they decide not to keep the current lineup, Custer would be on the outside when it comes to quality Cup Series driving. Custer could benefit from a similar move to Justin Allgaier when he returned to the Xfinity Series.
This opens the door to car #41. Stewart-Haas Racing could slip any driver they want into the car, as the sponsor situation probably wouldn’t change much.
If they wanted Busch or Ryan Preece with little sponsorship, it would be easy to drag them into the merry-go-round. Any sponsorship upgrades with vehicle #41 would end in a net gain due to the return of Almirola.
Would Stewart-Haas Racing swap Custer and Herbst rides for the 2023 season? It doesn’t seem like a likely situation, but sponsorship speaks very loudly in NASCAR these days.
There’s a lot to sort through, but it looks like something might be coming soon as August is in its early stages. Things are changing fast in NASCAR and the latest developments show it.
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