Retiring NASCAR driver to visit Smithfield

Published 4:19 pm Wednesday, July 6, 2022

NASCAR Cup Series driver Aric Almirola will visit Smithfield in August for a retirement sendoff from his corporate sponsor, Smithfield Foods.

The event will be private, according to company officials.

The 37-year-old Tampa, Florida, native announced in January that the 2022 season would be his last. Almirola drives the Smithfield Ford Mustang as a member of Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 10 team.

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Smithfield’s Town Council, on June 5, approved Smithfield Foods’ request to close Luter Drive and Commerce Street downtown from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Aug. 12 for Almirola’s retirement celebration, which will take place between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. During this time, the company plans to erect a display in front of its corporate headquarters.

Smithfield Foods declined to state who had been invited. Town Manager Michael Stallings said he wasn’t aware of any town officials being on the list.

“To be the best in this business, you’ve got to be selfish, and for the last 37 years my life has always revolved around me and what I needed to do,” Almirola stated in a Jan. 10 press release. “I want to be present. I want to be the best husband and father, and that to me means more than being a racecar driver. So it’s one more year where I’m all in on racing, where we’ll do whatever it takes to compete at the highest level. But when the season is over, I’ll be ready to wave goodbye.”

Almirola and his wife, Janice, have two children.

“At the end of this season, we’re going to have a 10-year-old in Alex and a 9-year-old in Abby, and I’m going to have a short window with them while they still think Dad is cool,” Almirola said. “I want to be there for them and to be a part of the things they’re interested in. Before we know it, they’re going to have car keys and they’re going to be running off with their friends, doing the same things I did when I was 16 or 17.”

Almirola’s NASCAR career began in 2004. That same year, he met Stewart-Haas co-owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas as teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing. Stewart was already a NASCAR Cup Series champion with the first of his three titles in hand (2002, 2005 and 2011) while Almirola was just beginning his NASCAR career after being selected as one of the first two drivers for Gibbs’ diversity program.

“I’ve watched Aric develop into a really good racecar driver and it was a proud moment when we were able to bring him to Stewart-Haas Racing,” Stewart said. “He’s really delivered for our race team and for Smithfield, always putting in maximum effort. I know he wants to go out on a high note and we’re going to give him all the resources to succeed.”

Almirola made his NASCAR Cup Series debut in 2007 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway three days before his 23rd birthday. He teamed up with Smithfield in 2012 while at Richard Petty Motorsports for his first full year in Cup racing.

The Smithfield-Almirola partnership is one of the most tenured in NASCAR. Since the duo joined Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018, Almirola has represented Smithfield in the NASCAR Playoffs every year and scored two wins – on Oct. 14, 2018, at the Talladega, Alabama Superspeedway and on July 18, 2021, at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.

The 2022 season marks the company’s 11th year with Almirola and its fifth with Stewart-Haas.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure to have Aric as part of our Smithfield Family for more than a decade now,” said Shane Smith, president and chief executive officer of Smithfield Foods. “In addition to being an incredibly talented racer and devoted family man, Aric embodies Smithfield’s values and has embraced our commitment to do good for our customers, employees and communities. He will always be family. We wish him all the best in his next chapter and look forward to another great year with him and Stewart-Haas Racing.”

Almirola’s final race will be the Nov. 6 season finale at Phoenix Raceway in Maricopa County, Arizona.