Aric Almirola has finished in the top 15 of the NASCAR Cup Series standings each of the past four seasons. He posted at least three top-five and at least 12 top-10 finishes in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
But 2022 will be his final season, and Sunday will be his final run in the famed Daytona 500. The soon-to-be-38-year-old announced his retirement in a video posted to his YouTube channel in January. He pointed to a desire to spend more time with his family as the motivation behind his decision.
“When I look at everything holistically, I don’t have any regrets,” he said. “It all played out exactly how God intended for it.”
Almirola has long relied on his faith to guide him. After a dramatic late-season win at New Hampshire got him into the playoffs again last season — the third victory of his Cup Series career — he gave glory to God while speaking to NBC Sports after the race.
“I am so glad to win a race here with this race team,” Almirola said. “God is so good, man. We’ve been through so much, and I’ve just stood the test and kept the faith. The team, everybody, they’ve just been working so hard.”
The Tampa, Florida, native played a variety of sports as a kid but fell in love with racing at a young age. He grew up going to church, though he did so mostly because he thought it was the “right” thing to do.
During his appearance on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in February 2021, Almirola shared that even as he was living out his dream of becoming a professional race car driver, he felt unfulfilled. He started seeking out Christians in his life in an attempt to find the same joy and peace for himself that he saw in them.
“As I walked with the Lord and started daily reading again, I realized that all I really needed was grace,” Almirola said on the podcast. “It was simple. All the other stuff didn’t matter and I was gonna fall short.”
On Nov. 6, 2019, Almirola posted a video on social media of him being baptized. He included Romans 10:9-10 (NLT) in the caption: “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.”
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Before Almirola begins the next chapter of his life, though, he has business to attend to on the track. That starts with the Duels at Daytona on Thursday night, which determine the starting positions for Sunday’s race. He won a qualifying race last year and ended up in the front row.
Almirola will start in the front row for his duel thanks to a fourth-place finish in Wednesday’s time trials. Sunday’s race begins at 2:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on FOX.
No matter how his final season plays out, Almirola is confident in his decision to step away from the sport and appreciative of the career he’s been able to have.
“It has been a wild ride,” he said in the video announcing his retirement. “A lot of ups, a lot of downs, and a lot in between. But it has been amazing. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
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