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Aric Almirola trending toward returning full-time in 2023

Aric Almirola is reportedly "tracking" to return full-time next season, according to Jordan Bianchi. Let's dive into the possibility and Stewart-Haas Racing.

Austin Konenski
Aric Almirola
Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Aric Almirola is reportedly “tracking” to return full-time in the No. 10 car for Stewart-Haas Racing next season, according to The Athletic’s Jordan Bianchi.

Let’s dive into the possibility and the multiple scenarios stemming from Almirola’s decision.

Aric Almirola and Smithfield could return in 2023

NASCAR: Cup Practice & Qualifying
Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Aric Almirola could be renouncing his intentions to retire and continue driving in the NASCAR Cup Series. It would feel unexpected but it certainly seems like a realistic possibility.

Bianchi said conversations between Smithfield Foods, Almirola’s sponsor, and Stewart-Haas Racing continue, but the primary sponsor of the No. 10 car wants its current driver to return.

It makes sense why Stewart-Haas Racing is likely pushing for Almirola to reconsider his decision. If the 38-year-old driver retires, would Smithfield stick around for the aftermath?

That might be a possibility but it’s telling how they want Almirola back in the seat. There haven’t been many names linked to the No. 10 car, which could be notable in possible negotiations.

Almirola currently sits 16th in the standings and likely needs a victory to make the playoffs after winning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway during the 2021 season due to darkness.

Cole Custer, driver of the No. 41 car, doesn’t have much sponsorship and Almirola leaving would create another possible void. Unless Custer leaves, which has been reported by The Athletic and a few more outlets.

We’ll discuss the scenario above below when it relates to Aric Almirola possibly leaving the No. 10 car as intended before the season started.

Multiple different scenarios with Aric Almirola in 2023

Ironic, right? What if Aric Almirola decides to retire as intended instead of coming out of an expected retirement before the 2022 season even started?

Right now, it feels like the unlikely scenario when everything is put together. But, it would make sense to bring in a driver linked with sponsorship or someone like Kyle Busch.

NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Riley Herbst has Monster Energy as his sponsor but is likely not ready to make the jump from the organization’s Xfinity Series program.

Stewart-Haas Racing would likely push for Busch if he is let go from Joe Gibbs Racing. It would be a massive mistake on Joe Gibbs’ part, but Stewart-Haas would benefit from another’s failure.

Noah Gragson seems deadset on Petty GMS Motorsports while John Hunter Nemechek’s possible move to the Cup Series doesn’t feel likely as suggested a few months ago.

However, what if Aric Almirola decides to return for one more season? It likely gives Stewart-Haas Racing more options on the table since their lineup of Almirola, Kevin Harvick, Chase Briscoe, and Cole Custer would be full.

Related: NASCAR: Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course will return in 2023

If they decided to not keep the current lineup, Custer would be on the outside looking in when it comes to a quality Cup Series ride. Custer could benefit from a move similar to Justin Allgaier when he re-entred the Xfinity Series.

This opens the door for the No. 41 car. Stewart-Haas Racing could slide any driver they want into the car since the sponsorship situation would likely not change much.

If they wanted Busch or Ryan Preece with little sponsorship, it would be easy to slide them into the ride. Any improvement in sponsorship with the No. 41 vehicle would end in a net gain due to Almirola’s return.

Would Stewart-Haas Racing swap Custer and Herbst’s rides for the 2023 season? It doesn’t feel like a likely situation, but sponsorship does talk very loud in NASCAR nowadays.

There is a lot to sort through but it seems like something could be coming soon as August is at its beginning. Things change quickly in NASCAR and the latest developments show just that.

Related: Jimmie Johnson ‘open’ to NASCAR return, racing in the NASCAR Cup Series