With the 2024 NASCAR season set to begin in February, Joe Gibbs Racing announced its Xfinity Series lineup on Wednesday. A notable name on the roster is 39-year-old racing vet Aric Almirola, who will be part-time with the organization and split time in the No. 20 Toyota with John Hunter Nemechek.
It’s a return 20 years in the making for Almirola, who got his start in NASCAR with Joe Gibbs Racing as a development driver. Almirola took to social media to share his thoughts soon after the announcement.
“I am so grateful and humbled that [Joe Gibbs] called and asked me to come back home to JGR and finish my career here,” Almirola wrote in his Instagram post. “God works in ways that we can not always understand and God has quite the sense of humor.
“… All I want is to race part time in order to spend more time with family, have fun behind the wheel, and help others achieve their goals. I am incredibly blessed to have this opportunity with so many familiar faces from 20 years ago and with the new relationships that will be built. I pray that I will be able to contribute both on and off the track honoring God along the way. Bring it 2024!”
View this post on Instagram
Before his shift back to Joe Gibbs Racing, Almirola was with Stewart-Haas Racing in the Cup Series (NASCAR’s top series; the Xfinity Series is the second-tier circuit). He’s won seven times (three in the Cup Series, four in the Xfinity Series) since his NASCAR debut in 2006, finished in the top-five 47 times, and made the playoffs in five seasons. But after three dozen races per year for more than a decade, Almirola is ready to pump the brakes.
“I feel like I still have a lot left to give to this sport, I just needed to slow down,” he told NASCAR.com. “When you’re Cup racing, I felt like I was on the treadmill at like 15 miles per hour, like as fast as it would go, and you are not allowed to stop it. … I just got to the point where I felt my legs were going to give out and I was going to get spit off the back of the treadmill.”
“Throughout the course of my career, I’ve made so many mistakes on the race track, off the race track, and so I do feel like I have a lot to give to speed up the learning curve and eliminate some of those mistakes potentially,” he told NASCAR.com. “Not everybody learns from being told. I certainly didn’t. Sometimes you have to experience things yourself and learn the hard way.”
Almirola joined the Sports Spectrum Podcast in June to discuss the tough decisions about retiring from racing, his changing perspective as he ages, and his long journey of growing closer to God.
“I took my career to the altar and said, ‘God, this is Yours. You do with it what You want. If You want me to retire, I’m telling the world I’m retiring.’ And so, here we go,” he said after nearly retiring following the 2022 season. “For it to come full circle eight months later and it to be handed back to me was amazing, and it felt right. It felt like it was an opportunity from the Lord to continue to go and be a voice for His Kingdom with my platform in our NASCAR industry.”
View this post on Instagram
Almirola has been outspoken about his faith for years. Despite his hectic schedule, he finds time to pray, read through his Bible, attend pre-race chapel services and even participate in a Bible study with other racers. The 40-week-long NASCAR schedule isn’t an excuse for him to not commune with God.
“I’ve had to learn that Jesus is with me every step of the way, all day long,” he said on the podcast. “… I can be in my pickup truck driving down the road, and I can just turn the radio off and have silence and I can have a conversation with God right there.”
Now in a mentorship role where he can pass down his decades of knowledge from on and off the track, Almirola knows God will use him for His glory in powerful ways in 2024.
– SS PODCAST: NASCAR’s Aric Almirola on prayer, decisions, returning to racing
– Aric Almirola at peace with God’s plan for him ahead of final Daytona 500
– Aric Almirola goes from frustrating season to NASCAR playoffs, praises God
– SS PODCAST: Joe Gibbs – Pro Football Hall of Fame coach
– SS PODCAST: NASCAR driver Jesse Iwuji on prayer, car racing, serving in Navy