Reports: Surprising Candidate Set to Replace Aric Almirola as Tony Stewart Looks to Send Shockwaves Across NASCAR Community

Published 07/05/2023, 3:16 PM EDT

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There has been a surprising twist that has sent shockwaves through the NASCAR community. Tony Stewart, the renowned former driver and co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, is reportedly considering an unexpected replacement for Aric Almirola in the #10 car. While speculations have been rife about potential replacements, the latest reports indicate that Stewart has set his sights on a rising NASCAR star, causing a buzz of excitement and curiosity.

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Amidst recent news about Kevin Harvick’s replacement with Josh Berry in the #4 car, Stewart-Haas Racing faces a series of decisions for the 2024 season. Although Almirola initially announced his plans to retire after the 2022 season, the organization, together with his sponsor Smithfield Foods, persuaded him to return for another year. However, it is now widely expected that Almirola will retire at the end of the 2023 NASCAR season, leaving a vacancy in the No. 10 car.

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Stewart-Haas Racing’s Pursuit of a Rising NASCAR Star

Rumors have been swirling about potential replacements for Almirola, but one name that stands out from the rest is Zane Smith. Well, you must be wondering, why Zane Smith? We have got the answer from none other than NASCAR’s prominent journalist, Adam Stern. And let’s just say, it makes sense.

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Stern said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, Obviously, Zane Smith has been a name that has been touted as a possibility to get to (Stewart-Haas Racing).” He further added, “I think clearly that’s one name to keep an eye on if (Aric Almirola) was to go away, but there’s probably some others as well.”

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While he currently has a contract with Front Row Motorsports, his association with the Ford camp has sparked speculation about a potential move to a more established organization like Stewart-Haas Racing. This comes as a surprise to NASCAR fans since Stewart is not going after someone more established like Corey LaJoie or promoting Cole Custer, who is winning races in the Xfinity Series. But there seem to be a couple of reasons that explain Ford’s reported influence in the decision-making process.

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Ford may have plausible reasons to get Smith into a more established organization

Defending NASCAR Truck Series champion Zane Smith has proven his mettle on the track and represents Ford’s brightest prospect. Moreover, he has already gained valuable experience in the NASCAR Cup Series, making him a strong contender for a seat in the No. 10 car in 2024. Not to mention, the team’s struggles in the 2023 season with only Harvick in the top 20 of the point standings might serve as a catalyst for Almirola’s retirement.

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As discussions unfold, it remains to be seen how the contractual obligations and Ford’s interests will play a role in determining the final decision. While Smith is an appealing choice for Stewart-Haas Racing, Front Row Motorsports holds a multi-year contract with the talented 24-year-old driver. Three other names who will be on the lookout are 22-year-old Harrison Burton, 24-year-old Riley Herbst, and 31-year-old Corey LaJoie.

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Written by:

Semran Parvaiz

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Semran Parvaiz is a NASCAR writer at Essentially Sports. With her long-standing love for motorsports and experience as a journalist, Semran brings a wealth of expertise to the team. Combining journalistic integrity with a deep understanding of the readership, she is known to weave engaging stories that offer unique insights into the dynamic world of stock-car racing.
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Edited by:

Ranvijay Singh

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