When Aric Almirola moved to Charlotte in his late teens to run in Joe Gibbs Racing’s developmental program, Tony Stewart was in his fifth season driving for the famed owner. The two formed an early friendship.
Fifteen years later, Almirola joined Stewart-Haas Racing and is having one of the best seasons of his career.
“Tony kind of took me under his wing and took an interest in me and almost treated me like a nephew,” Almirola told Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Steve Letarte in Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America.
First and foremost, Almirola was a fan when he started racing for JGR. In 2003, the Cuban-American driver participated in the combine program for Joe Gibbs Racing’s diversity program. Part of his agreement with the team was that he could spend time in the race shop and attend Cup races, which brought him into contact with Stewart.
“I built a relationship with (Stewart),” Almirola said. “It was friendly. He took me under his wing, let me stay on his couch in his motorhome when I started racing Trucks on weekends when we’d race Trucks on Friday and I wanted to stay all the way through Sunday and hang out and watch and be a part of it. … We’ve been friends ever since.”
Stewart left JGR in 2009 when he bought a stake in a race team owned by Gene Haas. At the time, Almirola had moved on and was racing select events in the Cup series for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, but the two never lost contact and that resulted in his current ride in the No. 10.
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