Aric Almirola Has a New Crew Chief for 2022

Aric Almirola

Getty Aric Almirola will work with a new crew chief in 2022.

The No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing team will have a major change for the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season. Aric Almirola will work with Drew Blickensderfer as his crew chief after two seasons with Mike Bugarewicz.

SHR issued a press release on Tuesday, January 4, and made two major announcements. The team promoted Bugarewicz to performance director, ending a two-year tenure in which he and Almirola reached the playoffs twice together and Victory Lane once — New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2021. SHR hired Blickensderfer in a corresponding move, securing the crew chief who helped Michael McDowell win the 2021 Daytona 500.

“Drew has been in the sport a long time and knows how to get the best out of the people around him, and that’s really what the job of crew chief has become,” said Greg Zipadelli, vice president of competition, in a statement. “We have the same parts and pieces, but what we do with those parts and pieces will make the difference. Drew has worked with a lot of drivers and managed a lot of people. He already has a rapport with Aric, and that will make the learning curve in a season full of learning a little less steep.”

Blickensderfer & Almirola Will Reunite in 2022

Drew Blickensderfer

GettyDrew Blickensderfer will reunite with Aric Almirola in 2022.

Blickensderfer joins SHR after three seasons at Front Row Motorsports. He previously served as the crew chief for McDowell, resulting in nine top-10 finishes, four top-fives, and a Daytona 500 win. Though Blickensderfer has extensive experience as a Cup Series crew chief, dating back to the 2009 season, including 35 races spent with Almirola.

The duo first worked together at the end of the 2016 season when Almirola drove for Richard Petty Motorsports. They joined forces at Dover International Speedway and worked together for the final seven races. This pairing resulted in Almirola posting his only top-10 finish of the year — an eighth-place run at Talladega Superspeedway.

Blickensderfer and Almirola continued to work together during the 2017 season. The veteran driver only started 29 of the 36 races due to a violent crash at Kansas Speedway, but he still posted six top-10 finishes and three top-fives.

Almirola departed RPM at the end of the 2017 season and moved over to SHR. Blickensderfer remained with the No. 43 team for another season and served as the crew chief for Bubba Wallace. The two kicked off the year with a runner-up finish in the Daytona 500, but they only finished the season 28th in points.

Bugarewicz Has Multiple Wins as a Crew Chief

With Bugarewicz landing this new promotion, he will end his time as a crew chief with six years of Cup Series experience and a total of 214 races. He will move to his new role after accumulating 79 top-10 finishes, 35 top-fives, and four wins.

Bugarewicz has achieved success with all three full-time drivers under the SHR banner. He helped Tony Stewart win a race at Sonoma Raceway in 2016 and then he guided Clint Bowyer to two wins in 2018. Bugarewicz added his fourth win in 2021 with Almirola.

While Bugarewicz has multiple wins as a crew chief, he will bring different expertise to his new role as performance director. The Pennsylvania native has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Penn State University, which he will use while helping SHR move to the Next Gen era of stock car racing.

“With the NextGen car being brand new, there will be continuous development on it every time it turns a wheel. Going into it, we knew we needed to shore up our resources and really bolster our competitive approach. Buga is the right guy to tackle all the newness that’s coming at us pretty fast,” Zipadelli said in a statement. “He’s an engineer and he’s also a racer. He will be that glue between simulation, at-track reality, engineering, and our race teams, and his laser-like focus in this new role of performance director will be a huge asset to our team.”

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