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Past Fantasy Outlooks
One of the biggest free agent moves of the off-season was Almirola. The veteran driver jumped from Richard Petty Motorsports and the iconic No. 43 Ford and into the No. 10 Ford of Stewart Haas Racing. Almirola takes over the ride that Danica Patrick vacated at SHR. It's a huge opportunity for the South Florida native to make a big jump in performance. This will be by far the most capable and talented team Almirola has raced for in his 10 seasons of competition at NASCAR's top level. He could challenge his career-best marks of seven Top 10's and a 16th-place points finish. In fact, we expect Almirola and his new team to challenge for a Chase playoff berth. John Klausmeier will team with him as crew chief and give guidance in season one at SHR. It's a situation set up for success.
Last season was a complete disaster for Almirola and Richard Petty Motorsports. This driver experienced a major power outage and only claimed one Top-10 finish in all of 2016. That led to a lowly 26th-place finish in the final driver standings for Almirola. Those marks were career lows since he joined the Monster Energy Cup Series full-time in 2012. Things got to the point where a team shakeup happened last September. Drew Blickensderfer took over the crew chief responsibilities and led Almirola to his only Top 10 of the season (Talladega) and three Top 15s during the Chase. Things appear to be on a much better trend line going into the new season. Hopefully, Almirola can get back into the middle teens of the driver standings and nab 6 or 7 Top 10s along the way to a much better campaign than last year.
The No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports team has developed nicely the last couple years under Almirola's control. He has one Chase berth to his credit (2014), he's won a race (Daytona July 2014) and he's been finishing inside the top 20 of the driver standings each season. The big question is will Almirola and this team take the next steps in development or are they maxed out? We would tend to think the latter. Nothing is changing about the sponsorship, technical alliance, or team members for the upcoming season. Trent Owens will still call the shots from atop the team's war wagon. There's good reason to believe his hot and cold streaks we accustomed to seeing throughout a year will be the rule once again in 2016. A campaign of about 7 top 10s and a challenge for another Chase berth should be in store.
Almirola will return for another season of Sprint Cup Series Racing with Richard Petty’s historic No. 43 team. Despite five years and 71 starts of experience, 2012 was his first full-time season in NASCAR’s top division. The learning curve was steep and the lessons were many for Almirola last season. He labored to just four Top-10 finishes and a 20th-place finish in the final driver standings. 2013 should hold some incremental success for Almirola. He and crew chief Todd Parrott seemed to have things pretty well figured out at the end of last year. The duo posted a pair of Top 10’s in the final four races and had the No. 43 Ford team performing as well as they had all year long. We expect that momentum to carry right into February and beyond.
More Fantasy News
Leads All Star Practice
Almirola was fastest in opening practice for the Monster Energy All Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway Friday. He turned a fast lap of 181.360 mph.
Fast Kansas Practice
Almirola was fastest in opening practice for the Digital Ally 400 at Kansas Speedway Friday. He turned a fast lap of 178.153 mph.
Car Chief Ejected
Front-row start at Talladega
Almirola qualified second behind Austin Dillon for Sunday's race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Crash and DNF at Bristol
Almirola crashed and finished 37th in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway Sunday afternoon.