Aric Almirola Addresses Wild Finish in Final Daytona 500: ‘I Didn’t Get It’

Aric Almirola

Getty Aric Almirola remains at peace at the start of his final season.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola kicked off his final season as a full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver with a fifth-place finish in the Daytona 500. He did not win the Crown Jewel race despite being in position late, but missing out on the trip to Victory Lane did nothing to hamper his mood.

“I thought God was going to allow it, I really did,” Almirola said during his post-race media availability. “I thought it was going to be one of those storybook-type deals. Like, I come down here for the last time and go to Victory Lane in my hometown race. I didn’t get it.”

“I walk away from this just so pumped and so grateful,” Almirola added. “I mean, for a race car driver, this is the ultimate right here — to race in front of 150,000 fans and to do it on our sport’s biggest stage against the greatest stock car drivers in the world. There’s nothing like it, and I’ll miss it more than anything else.”

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Almirola Has a Special Connection With Daytona International Speedway

Aric Almirola

GettyAric Almirola poses ahead of the Daytona 500 qualifying session.

A Florida native, Almirola grew up close to Daytona International Speedway. This Crown Jewel race served as a homecoming of sorts for the Tampa native, and he performed well once again in front of the sold-out grandstands.

“This place means so much to me,” Almirola explained. “I’ve sat up there in those grandstands, and I’ve won an Xfinity race here. I’ve won the July race. I’ve won a Duel. The Daytona 500 keeps getting away from me, but still it’s so much fun.”

Almirola also spoke about the special qualities of Daytona International Speedway prior to the Daytona 500. He met with members of the media to preview his final Daytona 500 start as a full-time driver and explained that he was slowing down and taking in the details.

As Almirola noted, the weather was perfect and the grandstands were full after a limited-capacity crowd attended in 2021. He felt the energy from the fans, which provided a throwback feel to the Great American Race. He embraced it and then turned in one of the best performances of his Daytona career.

Almirola Could Potentially Return for Another Daytona 500

The driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang will retire from full-time competition after the season, but this doesn’t mean that he will completely step away from racing. Almirola actually left the door ajar regarding some future starts. Though he clarified that his wife, Janice, would have a lot of input on the matter.

“I’ve learned from watching my good friend, David Ragan, and watching other guys, right? Like, there’s always opportunities that might present themselves down the road,” Almirola said. “And if it’s the right fit and it works out, then I would consider it.

“My biggest thing — and I’ve talked a lot about it — the reason that I’m stepping away is that 40-week grind. Man, that is so hard, it’s hard on a family, it’s really hard on a young family. My kids are into so many different activities, and I want to be available and present for them. But there’s opportunity to do one-off stuff here and there. I’m pretty sure she’d let me.”

Almirola will face these questions about a potential return throughout the season, but he will not provide a definitive answer. Instead, he will simply focus on trying to cap off his career with another playoff run and a potential spot in the championship four.

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