Aric Almirola opens up about being let go by RPM, and he says it wasn't pleasant

Aric Almirola remains hopeful for 2018. That's the best he can do right now.

The 33-year-old 2014 Daytona winner was let go from Richard Petty Motorsports this week, although he tells that he was informed by Petty weeks ago that he was being released.

"Actually I was rather shocked when I found out," Almirola said of the news he wouldn't return to RPM. "Finding out many weeks ago they would go a different direction was hurtful. I was sad and disappointed, but I know they have to make decisions on what they think is appropriate and necessary.

News of his release came in a strange week for NASCAR and Petty Motorsports. RPM and sponsor Smithfield Foods got into a back-and-forth of words after Smithfield announced they were pulling their sponsorship starting in 2018 and teaming up with Stewart-Haas Racing.

Almirola says he has no immediate plans with other Monster Energy Series teams to announce, but has been exploring his options. His immediate focus is on finishing the season.

"The next 10 weeks are going to be strange. We'll finish out the last 10 races of the season doing the best we can. That's in the best interest of all us. The whole garage area pays attention to that stuff and it's in our best interest to perform at a high level and finish out year on a high note."

With Danica Patrick announcing this week that she will not return to Stewart-Haas Racing next year, speculation is running strong that Almirola will land there. Regardless of what comes next, Almirola says he his grateful for the time with RPM.

"To be associated with STP and their history in the sport and with Richard (Petty), has been incredible. Our partners with Fresh from Florida, and me being from Florida, that has been so cool for me. ... I've built all these relationships and it's been fun and really an honor."