Aric Michael Almirola (born March 14, 1984) is an American professional stock car racing driver. He competes full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series, driving the No. 10 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing. A graduate of Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Almirola attended the University of Central Florida to work on a degree in mechanical engineering before leaving to pursue a career in racing. His nickname is The Cuban Missile because of his Cuban heritage. As well as “Daric” by some older fans.
Almirola was born on Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, of Cuban descent. He began racing go-karts when he was eight years old. At age 14, he began racing nationally. He won the pole position in his debut in the World Karting Association race and finished fourth in the standings that year. Two years later, he moved up into modifieds and won several Rookie of the Year awards.
In 2002, Almirola moved to the NASCAR Sun Belt Weekly Racing Division and finished second in the Rookie of the Year standings. He followed that up with five pole positions in 2003. In 2004, he became one of the first drivers to participate in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program. He also signed with Joe Gibbs Racing as a development driver under a partnership with former NFL player Reggie White. Almirola ran the season at Ace Speedway, and won two races before finishing 11th in the points standings. He won five more races at the track in 2005, and made his Truck Series debut with Morgan-Dollar Motorsports and had two top-tens in four races.
For 2006, Almirola drove the No. 75 Spears Manufacturing-sponsored Chevy for Spears Motorsports in the Craftsman Truck Series, as part of the JGR development program. He started every race and had three Top 10 finishes, including a best finish of ninth, ending the season 18th. That season, he also drove nine races in the Busch Series for Gibbs in the No. 19 Husqvarna/Banquet Foods-sponsored Chevrolet Monte Carlo. His best finish was eleventh at Dover International Speedway. He also served as a test driver for Gibbs teammates J. J. Yeley and Denny Hamlin when their Nextel Cup and Busch Series schedules conflicted. He also scored his first career pole at the Milwaukee Mile, qualifying the No. 20 car for Denny Hamlin, who competed in the race.
Almirola moved up to the Busch series regularly in 2007, driving the No. 18 and No. 20 Chevys for Joe Gibbs, driving each car in ten races apiece. He won his second career pole award for the Orbitz 300 at Daytona. He won the pole again, for the second straight year, at the AT&T 250 at the Milwaukee Mile, but thought he was going to give up driving duties to Hamlin again; Hamlin’s helicopter was unable to land in time for Hamlin to make it to the track, so Almirola started the race, leading the first 43 laps of the race. On lap 59, during a caution period, because of sponsor commitments, Hamlin took over for Almirola while he was running in the third place. Hamlin went on to win the race, but Almirola was credited with his first NASCAR Busch Series win because he was the driver who started the race. Almirola did not participate in team victory celebrations after the race as he had already left the track. He soon joined Dale Earnhardt, Inc. following the sale of Ginn Racing. He drove the No. 01 Chevrolet in five races in 2007 and had the best finish of 30th.