Aric Almirola has found his 10…
The 33-year-old Cuban American stock car race driver, nicknamed “The Cuban Missile,” will replace Danica Patrick in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 car next season, and new SHR sponsor Smithfield also has agreed to continue a relationship with Richard Petty Motorsports, sources to ESPN.
Last week Almirola said he was still working out his 2018 plans, and SHR has announced that it would hold a news conference Wednesday morning to introduce the driver of its Smithfield-sponsored No. 10 car.
Smithfield, which has sponsored Almirola for the past six seasons at RPM, announced in September that it would move to SHR in 2018 but didn’t announce a driver. At the time, Almirola wouldn’t say what his 2018 plans were but just that he would not return to the Petty team.
Smithfield has recently agreed to an ongoing collaboration with RPM next season as it transitions to SHR, according to a source. RPM and Smithfield executives exchanged harsh words after that announcement, with Richard Petty saying the team had a handshake deal with the sponsor. Teams often put clauses in sponsor contracts that can make it difficult for a sponsor and a driver to leave together, which industry sources said was the hold-up for SHR to announce the hiring of Almirola.
Almirola has one career victory — the July 2014 race at Daytona — in 241 Cup starts. He was 20th in the Cup standings when he broke his back in a crash in Kansas in May. He also has three victories in the Xfinity Series and two in the Camping World Truck Series.
SHR still has to announce a driver for its No. 41 car, currently driven by Kurt Busch and sponsored by team owner Gene Haas and Monster Energy. SHR didn’t pick up Busch’s option as it awaits a decision from Monster Energy, but Haas has said he fully expects Busch to return, and Busch has said remaining at SHR is possible.