This comes at a peculiar time as Aric Almirola just had his best run of the season. One good run doesn’t undo a terrible season that’s near beyond repair at this point. This has been the season that has somewhat exposed Almirola in terms of his true potential in the Cup series.
He’s still sitting 28th in the points behind his rookie and sophomore teammates, as well as the man who I think will replace him in 2022. Ryan Preece sitting in what’s supposed to be woefully less equipment is 45 points ahead of Almirola in 25th. Preece has been performing well in a ride that’s not even fully funded for the whole season and running comparable to his teammate Ricky Stenhouse.
With the #37 more than likely getting booted in 2022, it leaves Preece without a ride heading into the next season. A lot of buzz is around him and his potential to be able to run in more competitive equipment.
There is potential for him to jump on board one of these new teams stepping up to Cup and I still think getting the GMS ride is a possible outcome, but after Friday night, I think another possibility is open to him. Preece entered his first truck race for DGR Crosley in the Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford. Well, that’s interesting considering Preece drives a Chevrolet in Cup, and Hunt Brothers is a long-time Kevin Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing sponsor.
While Preece might not be under contract with Chevy, it’s still unusual for any driver to drive a different manufacturer in any series. It’s a fact that went under the radar, and I don’t think it is a coincidence that Preece was invited to drive a Ford with an SHR affiliate sponsor. This is theory territory, but I believe last Friday at Nashville was a tryout for Ryan Preece to show off for SHR, Ford, and Hunt Brothers Pizza. An opportunity he did not disappoint in.
The talent difference between Almirola and Preece is still debatable, but I think Preece has more upside at this point. Almirola has always been a solid serviceable driver who would at least get you to the playoffs in good equipment, but once he gets in lesser equipment it shows his issues.
Preece at this point has shown the ability to win in multiple forms of racing with him being an accomplished modified racer. He’s what a lot of people call a short-track guy who made it big. He’s the type of guy that Tony Stewart likes; a hometown hero guy who has had to earn his place in NASCAR.
This will all be dependent on Smithfield and if they either choose to leave or continue to sponsor Almirola. In an ideal world, they stay on board and continue to support a new driver, but we will see what they decide to do. If Smithfield is still adamant that Almirola stays, then he will remain in the #10.
Ryan Preece is not a highly sought-after name, but Ford’s development program is so scarce there is nobody capable of stepping up if Almirola leaves. He would be the best available option with an upside to choose from.