Aric Almirola announced on Saturday that he is stepping away from full-time NASCAR Series competition says that he may race next season but that he will wait and see.

Speaking during a post-practice Q&A at Martinsville, Almirola was asked:

ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang – WHY WAS THIS THE RIGHT TIME TO ANNOUNCE THIS? “It was not just about my timing. There were a lot of factors and a lot of key players, so it’s not just about me. It’s about making sure that we did it the right way and tried to do the best thing for all of our partners, make sure we do the best thing for the organization. So it wasn’t just about me. If it was just about me I think I would have made the announcement a lot earlier just to make it to where you guys didn’t have to ask me every week, so there’s a lot of factors and there are a lot of things that happened behind closed doors that you just have to work through.”


HOW DO YOU REFLECT ON YOUR SHR TENURE? “It’s been great. Obviously, as a race car driver and as a competitor you always want more. I would have loved to have won more races and won a championship. That’s what I went over there for. I have won some races, so I’m proud of that and we’ve had a lot of success, but I think at the end of the day that’s temporary. The friendships that I’ve made. The relationships that I’ve made, all of that will last forever and I’m grateful for that. I really am. I’ve very grateful for the six years that I’ve showed up to work every day there and they treat me like family. I feel extremely close to all of the employees over there and they brought me in with welcoming arms when I showed up in 2018 and it has been a really fun ride ever since.”


ARE YOU HOPING TO STILL RACE NEXT YEAR? “I hope so. I’d like to not quit cold turkey. I think there are some opportunities, but it’s hard. It’s challenging to figure out things that make sense for race teams to do it part time. Most race teams want somebody to run full-time and race for a championship, so we’ll see if we can get it worked out. I’d love to still scratch the itch, but just don’t want to do it like I have been doing it for the last 12 years, where it’s 38 weeks and it’s a grind. I’m not complaining that it’s a grind because I’ve loved it and I signed up for it, but I think, for me, as I look toward the future and what my life looks like, I would like to find a better work-life balance than what I have currently.”


COULD THAT BE XFINITY RACES? “Potentially. I’m excited just about having some weekends off, so go back to doing some late model racing like I used to do when I was a kid. If there’s an opportunity to run a handful of truck races here and there or something like that, or run some Xfinity races, I think the door is open. I’ve had a lot of just amazing conversations over the last four to six months about different opportunities, so I want to stay involved in the industry. I love this industry. I love the people in the industry. This industry has afforded me and my family a wonderful life and I don’t want to just walk away from it. When I originally announced that I was gonna retire over a year ago, that was the vision that I had. I had a vision of just walking away from the sport and starting a new chapter of my life and really going to explore something completely different, and I just feel like God has me here for a reason. I really do. I feel like the people and the relationships and everything, and, honestly, the opportunities to stay involved in the sport and continue to work with TV partners or different race teams. Even with drivers there are opportunities to help some young drivers speed up their learning curve and coach them along, so there are several different opportunities out there that I’m excited about and we’ll see how it all works out.”


ARE YOU DISAPPOINTED SMITHFIELD ISN’T RETURNING AT ALL? THERE WAS SOME TALK YOU COULD MOVE WITH THEM TO AN XFINITY RIDE OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT? “No, honestly that was never the talk. All through the summer I worked really diligently with SHR and we worked really hard to put a program together. I expressed my desire to step back and not continue full-time and they took that and digested it and we worked really, really hard as a collective group to figure out what that would look like going forward without me in the race car and, unfortunately, it didn’t work out. It was something that they decided they didn’t want to continue to do and so I respect that, but, at the end of the day, I made the decision on what was best for me and for my family and I was hopeful that it would work out and they would stay with SHR.”


HOW DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED? “Just as a genuine person, honestly. The wins and all of that stuff, that’s all temporary, it really is. I had to learn this the hard way, but you don’t gain happiness and satisfaction from going to victory lane. You gain momentary joy, but it’s not long lasting. As soon as that weekend is over, you immediately are focused on the next week and wanting to go do it again and if you don’t, the next week if you finish 25th you’re mad and you’re bummed out and you’re disappointed and so that cycle of emotions I’ve come to realize is very temporary. But what is lasting is friendships and people you care about and doing things that you enjoy with people you enjoy and so, for me, that’s what I want to keep doing. I want to keep working. I want to get up in the morning with a purpose. I want to go do something. I want to try and make somebody else better. For 40 years of my life I’ve focused on just me. I’ve served myself and worried about what’s best for me and what’s best for my career and all of those things, so as I look to the future, I want to make sure that I’m focusing on trying to help others achieve their goals. From what I’ve heard in talking to a lot of people and reading a lot of books about people’s next chapter in life, that’s typically how you get the most satisfaction is trying to figure out how to serve others.”


WHO DID YOU TALK TO ABOUT THIS DECISION? “The list is too long to go over it here. I talked to a lot of family because that means a lot to me. Obviously, I’ve prayed a lot about it. I talked to my wife. I talked to my kids. Alex was not super pumped about me retiring, but he also realizes that there’s a lot of sacrifices that he makes and that Abby makes as well and Janice, my wife, so we had a lot of conversations and a lot of talks with people that we care about, people that are close to us. I didn’t really seek a lot of outside counsel from people that I didn’t know or didn’t care about. I just really wanted the opinions of people that were really close to me.”


WHAT WERE THE CONVERSATIONS LIKE WITH SMITHFIELD WHEN YOU WANTED TO STEP BACK? “I think they were mixed. They’ve been a wonderful partner. We’ve worked together for 12 years and not only have they been great for me, they’ve been great for our sport. They’ve been a mainstay for our sport for 12 years. They’ve been one of the highest-paying and longest-standing sponsors of our sport at the level that they’ve been at. They’ve taken a lion’s share of the season on my race car for over 12 years. They’ve been sponsoring anywhere from 26-30 races a year for 12 years, so that’s been phenomenal and, honestly, in this day and age kind of unheard of. They had mixed emotions. They looked at it as an opportunity to try and step back and see what other ways they could get creative with marketing and doing what they do, but at the same time they were disappointed to see the end of a relationship.”


DO YOU REGRET COMING BACK THIS PAST YEAR? “Not one bit. I have zero regrets because I know that it was the right decision. It was the right decision for the race team. It was the right decision for Smithfield and it was right decision for me and my family. We’ve gotten to experience some things. Obviously, do I want more success? Would I wish we could have run better this year? Absolutely – like 100 percent – but, man, we have gotten to do some awesome things as a family. We’ve gotten to do some cool trips and going to experience different things. Honestly, the race win at Sonoma, that wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t come back for this year. That win, I want to say silly but that’s not a great term for it, but as insignificant as it would seem to many people, winning that Xfinity race at Sonoma, the fact that it happened and my family was there with me and the next week was our off week and we got to really just enjoy it and celebrate it, and my wife and kids were in victory lane, we really cherished it. We soaked it all in. That moment, several other moments throughout the year like that, we would have never had that and I do not regret one minute of this season. There’s been trials. Absolutely. But who doesn’t go through trials in life? I didn’t expect this year to be easy. I didn’t expect it to be all rainbows and kittens. I knew it would be a challenge. I knew that there would be ups and downs, but I signed up for it and I don’t regret one minute.”


WHY DOESN’T ALEX WANT YOU TO RETIRE? “Because he likes going on the trips and he just likes the lifestyle, and plus he has a lot of friends. We have a close group of friends that we travel with and on the circuit and he’s got a bunch of the other driver’s kids that he hangs out with at MRO, so he thinks that when we don’t race anymore that he’s not gonna get to see those kids, but that’s not true. We’ll still see them. We’ll still be around. We’ll still be involved in the industry, so I think he’s just sad about the potential of losing a friend group and not being able to travel and go a day early to go see baseball stadiums and games and other places. He thinks that once we decide to not race anymore full-time that it’s just gonna end completely and he’s gonna be stuck at home with mom and sister.”


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