Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Aric Almirola goes from frustrating season to NASCAR playoffs, praises God along the way

Aric Almirola was 27th in the NASCAR Cup Series points standings entering Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, meaning there was likely only one way for him to reach the playoffs.

Almirola had to win a race.

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He did just that, reshaping the playoff picture with his automatic qualification for the postseason in the process.

After the weather-shortened race, he gave thanks to God for the special moment in what has been a frustrating season.

“This is by far one of my favorite racetracks,” Almirola told NBC Sports. “I love coming up to the New England area and racing, I love this racetrack. I had this race won a couple years ago, and I gave it away – I lost it. And I am so glad to win a race here with this race team. 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 victory was his first since winning at Talladega Superspeedway during the 2018 playoffs, and his third top-10 finish this season.

Keeping the faith is something Almirola has done throughout his NASCAR career. The Tampa, Florida, native grew up going to church, but he did so mostly because he thought it was the “right” thing to do. Even as he realized his dream of becoming a professional race car driver, he felt empty and incomplete.

“I’ve got everything I could ever dream of and still I oftentimes found myself unsatisfied and unfulfilled,” Almirola said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in February. “And I remember thinking to myself, ‘What is going on, what is wrong with you? How can you be so uncontent?’”

He started seeking advice from Christians in his life, trying to figure out how he could find the same kind of joy they had. Those conversations motivated Almirola to make his faith a priority.

“As I walked with the Lord and started daily reading again, I realized that all I really needed was grace,” he said on the podcast. “It was simple. All the other stuff didn’t matter and I was gonna fall short.”

On Nov. 6, 2019, the 37-year-old posted a video on social media of him being baptized. Almirola included Romans 10:9-10 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.”

The video has narration from Almirola discussing his unsuccessful search for joy in worldly things and the contentment he found in Christ.

 

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“Baptism is symbolic of a transformation — dying to your old self and old ways, being buried or submerged, and resurrecting a new person with a new life to be lived for Christ,” he said. “Now, this doesn’t mean from this day forward I am going to be perfect. I will continue to fall short in so many ways. But by the grace of God, I know that I now will live in eternity with Him.”

Up next for Almirola on the NASCAR circuit is a race at Watkins Glen on Aug. 8. Four races remain before the playoffs begin with the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Sept. 5.

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