Tony Stewart hints at interest in future XFINITY Series road course race

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Could we see Tony Stewart back in a NASCAR entry next season?Never say never.The three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion hijacked new driver Aric Almirola's introductory press.

One of the worst-kept secrets in the NASCAR garage is finally out. At one point, Almirola turned to his new boss and asked if he can run Xfinity Series races next season. Those are good numbers, but this is his first season in Xfinity. Only the sponsor wanted Hamlin in the vehicle, and Almirola had to get out in the middle of a race he was dominating.

In fact, he's more active than ever before, spending more time behind the wheel of his No. 14 Tony Stewart Racing sprint vehicle alongside teammate Donny Schatz.

Stewart retired from the Cup Series following the 2016 season, but has continued to regularly compete in sprint vehicle races. "He qualified on the pole and, I mean, anybody that remembers watching that race, he didn't have small leads, he had huge leads up to the point where he got out of the auto". "I know what he expects and he knows my commitment".

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Smithfield Foods will follow Almirola to Stewart-Haas Racing from Richard Petty Motorsports and serve as the team's primary sponsor.

For Smithfield Foods, Almirola's knowledge of the company was a key factor in why they made a decision to stay with the Tampa-born racer.

"This is a great moment for Aric, and Smithfield is very happy to be a part of it because it's a great opportunity for our company", said John Pauley, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Smithfield. He has one victory (the rain-shortened 2014 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway), 10 of his 11 career top five finishes and 29 of his 31 career top 10 finishes.

After four-straight seasons of finishes inside the top 20 in the points standings Almirola was 26th in 2016. It caused him to miss seven races, and the team is now 29th in the standings. I'm really looking forward to being a part of that.

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SHR has already qualified Kevin Harvick for the season-finale championship race later this month at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Almirola is replacing Patrick, who said shortly after Smithfield announced it was moving to SHR that she would not be back with the team next year. Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne also said they were not candidates, which left Almirola as the obvious choice.

Team co-owner Tony Stewart said he knows what he's getting with Almirola. Rather, he's known Almirola more than a decade and was ready to give him the chance. The 33-year-old from Tampa, Florida, will drive the team's No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion. Stewart did not disclose terms. They make you feel like you matter as a driver.

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