By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor
Throughout much of the NASCAR Cup Series Championship race at Phoenix Raceway the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang ran just inside the top-20. Almirola’s car came to life after the final caution of the 312-lap race. The veteran driver cruised into the top-15 during the final 31-lap green flag run.
Almirola snuck by teammate Ryan Preece, as well as fellow Ford Performance driver Brad Keselowski to take 13th. It marked the final race in a 12-year run of full-time competition in the Cup Series for the Tampa, FL native. After 12 years, six with Stewart-Haas, it’s the people that Almirola worked with day in a day out that he’s going to miss.
“I’m going to really miss that part right there, going to battle with my guys,” Almirola said. “Just competing at the top level with this No. 10 team. That’s the coolest thing about my job. I get to do what I love to do with people I love. It’s enjoyable to do this with the people that you love.
“I will certainly miss competing at the top level and competing with them and stepping into that racecar and feeling like a gladiator going to battle in front of a packed-out racetrack. I’m so grateful and so thankful. God has blessed me in ways I never imagined possible.”
The 39-year-old ends his full-time career with a 22nd-place finish in points in 2023. Throughout his career Almirola had three victories, 30 top-five and 96 top-10 finishes, along with six pole positions.
Like Almirola, fellow Stewart-Haas driver Kevin Harvick is retiring after the 2023 season. While Josh Berry will take over Harvick’s No. 4 Ford, a replacement for Almirola has yet to be announced.
After a lengthy career, Almirola gets to spend more time with friends and family.