The 2018 Monster Energy Cup season is filled with many stories for fans to watch. One big one, which I am keeping an eye on is the performance of Aric Almirola in his new ride for Stewart Haas Racing. Danica Patrick was let go by Stewart Haas Racing after the 2017 season. Almirola who had his struggles driving for Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) was named as her replacement.
Aric Almirola is on the Rise
After four races, the results Almirola has had have been drastically different to what we witnessed from Patrick in seasons past. Almirola had his own Danica-like struggles racing for RPM. The 34-year old veteran had run 250 races prior to this season. He finished 29th in points last season.
Almirola won the 2014 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, but that was the only time he tasted victory. In fact it was the only time he even came close to winning. In his 250 races, Almirola only captured 35 top tens. Its an understatement to say he needed a change of scenery.
The Change of Scenery
Along comes Tony Stewart offering Almirola what could be described as one last chance at creating a successful NASCAR resume. Thus far the results have been positive. After leading the pack on the final lap of the Daytona 500, only to be wrecked fighting for the win, his 13th (Daytona) 10th (Atlanta) and 7th (Phoenix) place finishes have this team motivated moving forward.
A win win for Driver and Owners
So far this season Almirola and his team have shown speed to race up front. Given his past struggles and the struggles of Danica Patrick in that same equipment, it was fair to wonder if Almirola would have any more success in that ride. Man, has he answered that question!
“As a race car driver you never know where you stack up”, Almirola recently told NASCAR America. “So much of it is driven by equipment and team. For me, for the last six years I’ve really never known, because you feel you’ve got an excuse”.
We have seen vast improvement from the #10 Ford with Aric Almirola compared to the struggles that we’ve seen from Danica Patrick before. It is fair to think the prior struggles of the #10 team had more to do with Danica Patrick than the car.
At the time of writing, Almirola sits 10th in the NASCAR Monster Energy Series standings. Last season, Danica Patrick finished 28th. A striking difference.
Recently I asked Motor Racing Network’s Alex Hayden about that. His answer:“I think Danica knew how to drive. I don’t think she knew how to race.”
Almirola credits his teammates for his early season success. Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer are veteran drivers that Aric has been able to feed off. In addition, having Tony Stewart as a car owner has to be helpful as well.
“It’s changed everything for me. I now get to look at driver data from other drivers and really talented drivers at that,” Almirola said.
Promising Season Lies Ahead
The Ford’s have been the class of the field through the early part of the 2018 season. There’s a long way to go in the season. But Aric Almirola has proved that given the right equipment and the right team, he can be competitive at this level. I have every reason to believe that we will see more from Aric Almirola racing at the front of the field in 2018.
Thanks for reading. Listen to WTBQ Radio on Monday and Friday mornings as I join Frank, Taylor and the Morning Show gang to discuss the current happening in NASCAR. 1110AM, 93.5FM, or online at WTBQ.com. Follow me on twitter @Jimlaplante.
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