Tony Stewart

Aric Almirola starting from ‘ground zero’ with Stewart-Haas Racing

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After six years of racing and struggling to compete for the most famous name in NASCAR, Aric Almirola is getting a reboot to his Cup career.

Tuesday and Wednesday, the 33-year-old drove a Cup car that didn’t have Richard Petty’s famous No. 43 on the side of it for the first time since 2010.

Almirola took part in a Goodyear tire test at Texas Motor Speedway in his unofficial debut in Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 10 Ford.

It was just another part of the busiest offseason of Almirola’s career, sparked by the November announcement of his move from Richard Petty Motorsports to SHR.

“We run a long schedule, so I certainly took some time to myself,” Almirola said Tuesday. “But I have spent a lot of time at the shop. Probably more time at the race car shop this offseason then I’ve ever spent. I’ve basically started from scratch, right? Started from zero, with all new seats, pouring inserts in seats and just everything. Gauges, dash and just everything that you can think of that a driver looks at or is a part of inside the race car, I’ve started from ground zero.”

During his six seasons with RPM, the offseason was “pretty mellow and relaxed and routine” for Almirola. That changes when you transition to a larger team.

“New seats, new team, new cars, new people, new names and faces to learn,” Almirola said.

There are some familiar faces at the SHR shop for Almirola from his days racing at Dale Earnhardt Inc. a decade ago.

“That part’s been fun to rekindle those relationships that I’ve had in the past,” Almirola said. “But just to go there (to the shop) and see the operation … when you drive up to the complex it’s so big and so massive. They have so many resources at their fingertips inside their race car shop.”

Almirola, who has just one Cup win in 244 starts, is reminded of Richard Petty Motorsport’s lack of success during his tenure there every time he visits SHR’s Kannapolis, North Carolina, shop. He sees the two championship trophies and trophies from the 39 Cup victories in their first nine seasons.

“You see all their trophies in their trophy case and their championship trophies, it’s very evident why,” Almirola said. “Just the attention to detail, the amount of people pulling in the same direction – it’s incredible to see first-hand, so knowing I’ve had to race against that the last six years has been disheartening, but I’m glad I get to be a part of it finally.”

Of SHR’s roster of drivers – Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch and Almirola – only Harvick (14) and Busch (five) have wins with the team. Bowyer hasn’t won since 2012.

Almirola replaces Danica Patrick, who went winless in her 180 starts with the team. He said he hasn’t given much thought to replacing Patrick, but that the pressure to drive the No. 10 doesn’t come close to what it took to drive the No. 43 for six years.

“When I get in the car, the only thing I see is the windshield and 39 other drivers that I’ve beaten or want to beat,” Almirola said. “So for me, I’ve driven the sport’s most iconic car for the last six years, so if you want to talk about it from that aspect, there’s been more pressure driving that Petty blue 43 car than I think I’ll ever have driving a black and white 10 car.”

Tony Stewart hints at return to NASCAR on Xfinity Series road courses

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KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Stewart-Haas Racing announced Aric Almirola as its new Cup driver Wednesday morning, but the team’s namesake had an announcement of his own.

Tony Stewart, who retired from NASCAR’s premier series after the 2016 season, said he has explored the possibility of running road courses in the Xfinity Series during the news conference to introduce Almirola in the No. 10 Ford.

Almirola was asked if he would drive an SHR-affiliated car in the Xfinity Series in 2018. “I hope so,” he said, turning to Stewart. “Can I drive an Xfinity car?”

“We’ll work on that,” Stewart said. “I might want to drive it at some point. You guys act like you don’t need something that’s shocking a little bit. There’s actually some road-course races that I might be interested in running. We actually discussed it in house here.

“We don’t have anything near worth announcing by any means, but there are some really cool races, especially Charlotte having a road course race next year, there might be some opportunities that might be a little fun for me to come out, dust things off a little bit.”

After the news conference, Stewart, 46, told reporters it wasn’t likely that he would race Xfinity next season, but he also said he would be fine if reporters wrote he had expressed an interest in running Xfinity races.

There are four road courses on the 2018 Xfinity Series schedule: Watkins Glen International (Aug. 4), Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (Aug. 11), Road America (Aug. 25) and Charlotte Motor Speedway (Sept. 29), which will be using its infield road course for NASCAR races next year for the first time.

The three-time series champion also hinted to reporters that he had was working on something “way bigger than NASCAR” for next season.

Stewart has remained active in racing this year after leaving NASCAR, returning to running sprint cars virtually full time. He also has said he wants to run the 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly Global Rallycross in the future.

Stewart has 11 wins in 94 Xfinity starts from 1993-2013. His last start was a victory in 2013 season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

Stewart-Haas Racing to partner with Biagi-DenBeste Racing in Xfinity Series in 2018

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Stewart-Haas Racing will partner with Biagi-DenBeste Racing in the Xfinity Series beginning with the 2018 season, the team announced Monday.

The Xfinity team will be called Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi-DenBeste.

The team will field the No. 00 for Cole Custer with sponsorship from Haas Automation. SHR’s No. 41 car, which ran a partial schedule this year, will become the No. 98. Kevin Harvick will drive a part-time schedule in that car with sponsorship from Hunt Brothers Pizza and FIELDS.

“We’re always looking to improve our performance and find ways to make our teams more efficient,” said Tony Stewart, who co-owns Stewart-Haas Racing with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas, in a statement. “While we’ve been in NASCAR for nine years, this was our first year in the Xfinity Series. Partnering with Biagi-DenBeste Racing gives our Xfinity Series program added depth as we prepare for next season.”

Biagi-DenBeste, which first competed in the series in 2001, has three Xfintiy wins. Aric Almirola won for the team at Talladega in May.

“Racing is our passion and to ensure our presence in this sport for years to come, it made sense to partner with an established team that also fields entries in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series,” said Fred Biagi, co-owner of Biagi-DenBeste Racing with Bill and Lori DenBeste, in a statement. “We look forward to competing for wins and defending our victory at Talladega.”

NASCAR America: What’s it like to be part of Tony Stewart’s ‘Smoke Show’ fantasy camp?

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For the first time since he retired following the 2016 season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Tony Stewart climbed back into a NASCAR Cup car on Wednesday.

It’s not like he had a sudden change of heart and wanted to un-retire.

Rather, Stewart took part in his annual “Smoke Show” fantasy racing camp at Texas Motor Speedway.

The camp has raised over $1 million dollars for children’s charities by giving fans who donate a full day of what it’s like to be a NASCAR Cup driver.

The 15 fans who took part got to ride in a Cup car with Stewart giving them likely the ride of their lives, as well as turning keys over to the fans to drive Cup cars themselves under controlled conditions.

On Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, we presented a special video replay of some of the activities that took part at TMS the day before.

Stewart, who seemed to have a constant smile on his face throughout the day’s activities, also took time to say how bullish he remains about Kevin Harvick‘s chances of advancing in the NASCAR Cup playoffs.

Check out the video above and, who knows, maybe you’ll want to take part in next year’s “Smoke Show” at TMS.

NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 91: Tony Stewart on racing in Global Rallycross and other series

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With his NASCAR career over, Tony Stewart has the freedom to drive whatever he chooses, but he still might not have the time to do it all.

During a recent episode of the NASCAR on NBC podcast, Stewart said Steve Arpin had called him many times about being a teammate in the Global Rallycross series.

“I’m very interested in doing that,” Stewart said on the podcast. “We’ve been playing phone tag back and forth trying to get organized to have a conversation about it. We just have so much stuff going on, it’s a good problem to have. It’s nice to be so busy that it’s hard to find time to do all the things we want to do.”

The three-time Cup Series champion, who also has indicated a desire to run the 24 Hours of Le Mans, made his debut this year in the Little 500, a 500-lap sprint car race on a high-banked quarter-mile track in Anderson, Indiana. Stewart finished third in a race that features the rarity of pit stops for race cars without clutches.

“It was a really big toss-up between racing the Little 500, a bucket list item for me, or going to Monaco for the Formula One race,” he said.

Next year, Stewart plans to be in Monte Carlo with co-owner Gene Haas to watch the Haas F1 team.

“It’s cool to be checking boxes off,” he said.

During the podcast, Stewart also discussed:

–The meticulous preparation necessary to get his Eldora Speedway ready for a dirt-track event;

–What appeals to a driver about racing on dirt;

–The state of safety in dirt racing;

–Adapting to sprint cars this year after a long layoff.

A new role driving his team’s souvenir trailer.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone. It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.