Stewart-Haas Racing's focus turns to filling No. 41 seat for 2018

Stewart-Haas Racing's focus turns to filling No. 41 seat for 2018

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (AP) — Aric Almirola has been officially named Danica Patrick's replacement at Stewart-Haas Racing. Team owner Tony Stewart stated "I think we have the confidence that Aric's gonna do a great job". "I'm a competitor and it doesn't matter if it's a game of Monopoly at home or I'm at the race track on Sunday trying to compete to win a race, I'm going to compete at the highest level that I know how to". "The expectations are pretty much assumed, f you look around this race shop and see all of the banners, win flags and championship flags that's what's expected out of this team". Meanwhile, Almirola has been with Richard Petty Motorsports since 2012. "We've had tremendous success in building our brands the last five to six years while we've been involved with NASCAR and Aric's knowledge of our company, our products, our culture is something that we were determined to keep". "Stewart-Haas Racing is an experienced organization with a lot of depth, great technical support from Ford, and staffed with racers from top to bottom".

Almirola, 33, has one Cup Series win on his resume - the 2014 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona - in his 10 years of racing - at the Cup Series level. Almirola was 20th in the standings when he broke his back in May, an injury that caused him to miss seven races. He's 29th now and would be 24th when you extrapolate his points-per-race average out to a full season.

"This is the opportunity every racer wants", Almirola said. The way I look at it is he made a commitment to come here because he thinks it's gonna be better, we hired him because we think he can do a great job in the vehicle, and it's just a matter of getting the chemistry right with the crew chief and team.

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Will Daytona 500 victor Kurt Busch be back next year to drive the No. 41? Richard Petty Motorsports has already announced Bubba Wallace as the new driver of the No. 43. After Patrick said she was out, both Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne said they were not candidates, which left Almirola as the obvious choice.

"I've known Aric since 2004 and have always been impressed with him on the racetrack", Stewart said.

In 2018, HMS' Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team will include 19-year-old William Byron and 24-year-old Alex Bowman. Stewart did not disclose terms. They lean on each other, challenge each other and make each other better.

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