NASCAR Driver Aric Almirola Studied Mechanical Engineering Before Pursuing a Racing Career

Aric Almirola has become one of the top drivers in NASCAR. The Florida native started racing at a young age and developed a passion for it. Throughout his career, he has had many top finishes and has pulled out some impressive victories.

Before he became a NASCAR driver, Almirola was in college studying to become a mechanical engineer. He never received his degree because he had his eyes on pursuing a career in NASCAR.

Aric Almirola got into racing at an early age

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Almirola got into racing at the age of eight. He started out racing go-karts, and then at the age of 14, he began racing nationally. Almirola won the pole position in his debut in the World Karting Association race, and he also finished fourth in the standings. In 2002, Almirola moved to the NASCAR Sun Belt Weekly Racing Division. When he made the move, he put together some impressive finishes and ended up finishing second in the Rookie of the Year standings. 

The next year, Almirola continued to make positive strides as he followed up with five pole positions. He spent time racing at Ace Speedway, where he won multiple races. In 2005, he made his Truck Series debut with Morgan-Dollar Motorsports and had two top-tens in four races. 

Almirola got his first NASCAR Busch Series win in 2007 at the AT&T 250. Before the race, Almirola thought that Denny Hamlin was going to race, but Hamlin did not make the race on time due to his helicopter landing late. So Almirola started the race and led the first 43 laps of the race. Hamlin took over for Almirola on the 59th lap; at that time, Almirola was in third place. Almirola was credited with the win even though Hamlin won the race. After the race ended, Almirola didn’t celebrate the win because he had already left the track. 

Aric Almirola in the top 15 of the NASCAR Cup Series Standings

Throughout his NASCAR career, Almirola has put together some impressive finishes. In 2010, he won his first race in the Camping World Truck Series at Dover International Speedway and won again at Michigan International Speedway. In 2014, he earned his first career win in the Sprint Cup Series at the 2014 Coke Zero 400. 

During the race, Almirola avoided two major wrecks and led the field when the race was called off due to rain, securing the victory. His last NASCAR Series win came in 2018 at 500 in Talladega, Alabama. In the latest 2020 NASCAR Cup Series standings, Almirola is No. 15 with 2,235 points.

Aric Almirola had aspirations of becoming a mechanical engineer

While he was racing, Almirola wanted to have a backup plan. Almirola decided to attend the University of Central Florida to study mechanical engineering if his racing career did not pan out. He did not need that degree after all, as he dropped out and pursued his racing career full-time. In 2019, the Tampa Bay Times interviewed Almirola, and he talked about his time at UCF. 

“I think one of my favorite memories or times at UCF was second semester of my freshman year. I took intro to engineering,” he said. “Going through that class and meeting a lot of the other students that were going into engineering, and being able to work on projects with them…really that was the first time in my school career that I’ve ever been surrounded with like-minded people.”

“So being in those engineering classes and specifically the intro to engineering, I think really just opened my eyes to how many other people there were out there that had ambitions similar to mine.” Almirola was intrigued by being in that engineering class, and although he didn’t finish school, that was a memory that stuck out the most to him.