Connect with us

NASCAR

Grading 2018′s New Driver/ Team Pairings – Aric Almirola/SHR

Published

on

Marred in a boundless rut for the past two seasons.  Aric Almirola prepares himself for life after Richard Petty Motorsports in 2018.

 

Following a disappointing 2017 campaign (29 starts, o wins, 3top 5’s, 6 top 10’s 29th in the driver standings) the former Fresh Prince of Tampa made perhaps the most difficult decision of his racing career leaving RPM, a place he’s called home for the past six seasons.

Despite never setting the world ablaze in their six years together Almirola & RPM collected (1 victory, 10 top 5 finishes, 30 top 10 finishes, 1 pole, 1 Playoff appearance 2014) disguisedly respectable numbers for a driver/team combination absolutely, nobody had ever given a fighting chance back in 2012.

Gradually as time progressed Almirola found his groove in the #43 car, collecting a dramatic victory at the mecca of racing, Daytona in July of 2014. The win would be the first of Aric Almirola’s career in the Monster Energy Cup series and the first for RPM since 2012.  Winning at Daytona elevated Almirola in to the playoff picture that season (2014) ultimately finishing 16th in the final driver standings following a first-round exit.

 

Qualifying for the playoffs in 2014 generated new life into both RPM & Aric Almirola. Hitting their stride when it mattered most Almirola would once again solidified himself as a playoff contender in 2015.

 

Finishing inside the top 20 in 19 of the first 26 races of the season.  Aric Almirola entered the final race of the regular season at Richmond in September firmly inside the playoff picture sitting 16th in the driver standings.

Notwithstanding his courageous efforts in the closing moments of the race, the Fresh Prince of Tampa would fall one lap shy of producing back to back playoff seasons. Finishing 4th in the race dropped him into 17th place in the driver standings one position short of making it back atop center stage with the sports elite drivers.

 

The cyclical nature of the business would have a profound impact on Richard Petty Motorsports over the next two seasons. Incapable of replicating prior successes RPM regressed considerably. A bevy of changes within the organization ranging from crew chief changes to downsizing the King’s multi car operation into a single car team for 2017 left the door wide open for Aric Almirola to take his talents elsewhere.

 

 

Aric Almirola and longtime Richard Petty Motorsports sponsor Smithfield foods are on the move for 2018. Both are set to take over the #10 car at Stewart Haas Racing.

 

Stewart Haas Racing made an official announcement in mid-November, welcoming Almirola into the fold   after weeks of speculation regarding the future of the #10 car. Even with championship caliber drivers on the open market SHR was one hundred percent committed to signing Mr. Almirola once he became a free agent at the end of the summer.

Crew Chief Billy Scott will remain with the team in 2018, his third overall with SHR. Scott was hired in December of 2015 to work with then driver of the ##10 car Danica Patrick in hopes of turning her racing career around following flashes of brilliance on the track the previous season in 2014. With Billy Scott at the helm Danica would only record 1 top ten finish in three seasons. Vainly the Danica/ Billy Scott experiment lost its gleam.

 

Smithfield’s involvement is paramount for a team that found itself overwhelmed by sponsorship woes last season. For Almirola having Smithfield grace the hood of the #10 car provides him with a sense of familiarity. Both driver and sponsor have been together through thick and thin for the past 6 years.  Smithfield’s undying loyalty to Aric Almirola is incredibly remarkable.

 

Joining a championship winning organization for the first time in his 11-year Cup career undoubtedly elevates Almirola’s confidence beyond any fragment of time prior to his arrival at SHR.

 

The simple fact Tony Stewart believes whole heartedly in Almirola’s credentials speaks volumes for a driver most racing fan have failed to connect with.

 

Perhaps the most integral component of Almirola’s future success at SHR relies heavily on establishing a firm working relationship with championship winning teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch. Both whom have experienced a career renaissance since joining Stewart Haas Racing in 2014.

Taking a few pointers from two of the sport’s finest drivers can only make Almirola better on race day.

 

Unquestionably, the addition of Aric Almirola transforms the #10 car from a middle of the pack team into a team that will most certainly contend for a coveted playoff position in 2018. Having tasted bittersweet playoff glory in the past, Almirola knows he’s been given a second chance to make a profound impression on the entire Monster Energy cup series garage.

 

Although he most likely won’t compete for the championship in 2018, Aric Almirola’s number one goal in year one with SHR is establishing the #10 car as a legit playoff hopeful for the next several years.  Building a successful campaign in 2018 automatically gives credence to Tony Stewart’s unconventional driver choice.

 

While the jury is still out on Aric Almirola following a couple of dismal seasons, I’m totally convinced this is the best possible situation for both a team and driver in dire need of a positive transformation.

 

Yes, Aric Almirola is a minor upgrade from Danica Patrick as driver of the #10 car, but under no circumstances can we expect a career year from the Fresh Prince of Tampa in 2018.

 

The pieces are finally fitting, but the puzzle won’t be completed until 2019.

 

Final grade C+

 

Photo courtesy of MRN

 

 

 

 

 

)

Christopher Sorbey is a member of the Mik Maq first nation, born and raised in the Maritime region of eastern Canada. Christopher is a lifelong sports aficionado. His interests include MLB, NFL, NBA, and NASCAR. Canadian literature, theater, podcasting Christopher is a graduate of Carleton University located in Ottawa Ontario Canada.Over the last four years Christopher has spent time covering NASCAR for Stock Car Spin & Auto Racing Daily, SportsRants . When he’s not writing Christopher enjoys walking his two dogs Booner & Aidan, reading novels, playing floor hockey, working out at the gym, and listening to the Rick Howe Show on News 95.7 Halifax.Currently Christopher is developing his own podcast, Green, White, Checkers set to launch in January 2018.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

NASCAR

Kyle Busch Wins Second NASCAR Cup Title

Published

on

Kyle Busch

Kylke Busch, who is arguably the most polarizing driver in NASCAR, won his second Cup title on Sunday and took the opportunity to celebrate the victory with fans, a big change from his first win back in 2015 when Busch ruined the massive championship banner by doing smoke-filled burnouts.

“It messed up the flag and everything, and I wanted to get a good shot with the flag everywhere, make sure everybody could get a good shot of the flag because we’re the 2019 champions,” Busch said (h/t ESPN/Associated Press). “There are always your doubters. There are always your haters. You know what? This one’s for ‘Rowdy Nation’ because you guys are the best. Thank you so much.”

Busch won the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway to snap a 21-race losing streak, doing so as teammates Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. were slowed by pit-road issues.

Busch joined seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson as the only active drivers with multiple titles.

“You’ve got to be perfect. One mistake probably cost us the championship,” Truex said. “I’ve never had that happen. I don’t even know what to say. It doesn’t drive good with the left front on the right front, though, I can tell you that. It’s very tight.”

“I feel like I did all I could. I don’t feel I could have done a better job. I didn’t leave anything out there,” Hamlin said. “I was thinking we got a chance, and it just didn’t work out. We got a little aggressive there, and it cost us.”

“Everybody always says you never give up. We’re no different. We just do what we can do each and every week,” Busch said. “Sometimes we may not be the best. Sometimes we may not have the right track position. We had a really good car, and I could race around and move around. That’s what’s so special about Homestead Miami Speedway is the ability to put on a show.

“I felt like we did that there racing those guys. I know it kind of dulled out toward the end. It was exciting enough from my seat. It was a lot of fun to cap off such an amazing year.”

_

When it comes to playing at a championship level, it takes a team effort, and just as it is for Kyle Busch, it’s the same for esports teams, gamers, streamers, and even cosplayers as well. When you’re competing with the best Twitch channels, or striving to be along side the best Mixer channels, then you need to put in a championship effort.

When you’re looking to be ranked among the best female streamers, or looking to get your cosplay ranked in the best cosplay directory, then Gamactica can help! Whether you’re looking for streaming equipment or to network, the community has it all.

Continue Reading

NASCAR

Tony Stewart Punches Heckler During Race Track Fight

Published

on

Tony Stewart

NASCAR superstar Tony Stewart, a three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, got into a fight with a heckler at a Jackson, Minnesota racetrack on Friday night, which saw the 48-year old driver punch a heckler in the face.

Stewart, who was the center of attention as that Jackson Motorplex put on “Tony Stewart Night”, was driving in a spring car race when his engine apparently blew out after only one lap.

Following the race, Stewart was signing autographs for fans when a heckler approached Stewart and, according to eye witnesses, began cussing Stewart out for “quitting” only one lap into the race.

Stewart responded to the colorful tirade, which included calling Stewart a “piece of sh#t”, but saying that; “I blew out my engine, you f#cking asshole. Do you want to pay for it?”

The exchange continued and escalated further when Stewart hauled off and punched the heckler in the face, with it all caught on video, courtesy of TMZ Sports.

Continue Reading

Auto Racing

Grading 2018′s New Driver/ Team Pairings – Alex Bowman/ Hendrick Motorsports

Published

on

Undeniably the apple of an entire nation’s eye for over two decades, Dale Earnhardt Jr poignantly announced in the spring of 2017 he would step away from driving in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at the end of the 2017 season.

 

Once the initial shock value wore off, reality set in. Who could possibly fill the shoes of the sport’s most popular driver? Dale Jr’s lasting impression on legions of fans young and old is unparalleled. Ultimately the conundrum of the century would centre around who might fill the gargantuan shoes little E would leave behind.

Dale Jr’s departure from Hendrick Motorsports left one the sport’s most coveted rides up for grabs. Immediately the rumour mill was set ablaze with potential candidates loyal Dale Jr supporters fancied.  Following three months of intense speculation, Rick Hendrick would reveal Dale Jr’s replacement in late July 2017.

 

Next man up for the #88 team a tall lanky fella from Tucson Arizona.  Chances are y’all probably remember him as the kid that subbed for Dale Jr while he recovered from concussion-like symptoms that kept him from the seat of the Nationwide Chevrolet in the fall of 2016.

 

Certainly no stranger to the Monster Energy Cup Series (Made 81 Career starts from 2014-2016), Alex Bowman makes his triumphed return as a full time driver on the circuit for the first time in nearly two years. Driving the #88 car for Hendrick Motorsports axiomatically elevates Bowman from enchanting underdog to proverbial impact player. No longer a low man on the totem pole expeditious results at HMS would give credence to an emerging young star hoping for a rebirth following past failures with BK Racing & Tommy Baldwin Racing.

 

Thrust into a precarious position at the age of 21, Alex Bowman exhibited incredible poise in the face of adversity. Visibly Alex was not equipped for the competitive environment that cup racing bestowed upon him back in 2014. One quality season (2013 – 2 top 5’s, 6 top 10’s 2 poles, 11th in the driver standings) in the Xfinity Series cannot enumerate impending success on the other side.

Instead of licking his wounds Bowman bided his time wisely eventually earning the opportunity to sub for Dale Jr in the fall of 2016.  What could have easily morphed into catastrophic gaffe #3 for Bowman positively altered his career saving him from infinite anonymity.

 

In the 10 races (2016) Alex piloted the #88 car he made quite an accounting for himself (3 top 10’s, 1 pole) earning the respect and confidence of both Mr. Hendrick and Dale Jr.

 

The simple formula for success in 2018 relies squarely on the shoulders of Alexander Bowman.

Bowman’s familiarity with crew chief Greg Ives and the entire #88 team perpetuates some of the chemistry established back in 2016.  A contingent of smart fans out there including myself firmly believe Alex Bowman was on his way to capturing the checked flag at his home track(Phoenix) in November of 2016. On this day Bowman dazzled, starting the race from the pole ultimately leading 194 laps on his way to a career best 6th place finish.

 

Even though the former self-proclaimed bad luck Bowman left the desert without the checked flag, indisputably he walked away a winner.  Bowman’s courageous showing converted the cynics into believers. Without this fine performance in the bag Bowman could have found himself easily lost in the shuffle never to be heard from again.

Perseverance spearheaded the rise of Bowman mania. The whimsical wave of momentum Bowman’s been on since that race at Phoenix spilled over into 2017. Bowman turned heads in February finishing third in the Clash at Daytona, once again piloting the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet. He would also capture his first career Xfinity Series victory at Charlotte in the fall of 2017 driving for Chip Ganassi.

 

Perceptibly this young buck is completely equipped for the fate that awaits him once the green flag drops on the 2018 Monster Energy Cup Series at Daytona in February.

Rick Hendrick has all the confidence in the world in Bowman’s capabilities. Mr. H could have taken the high road and hired an established veteran driver, instead trusting Bowman’s youthful exuberance lets the entire racing world know he’s committed for the long haul.

Alex Bowman has the credentials to resuscitate Rick Hendrick’s anaemic #88 team from the ashes. Fresh blood can unite an entire nation of fans that are starving for a breath of fresh air.

 

Don’t Be Dale Jr, Be Alex Bowman. That’s paramount.

 

Alex Bowman has an entire nation on his side. So watcha  gonna do when Bowmanmania runs wild on you?

 

Final grade – B

 

Photo courtesy of Autoweek

 

 

 

 

Continue Reading

Trending