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25th of May 2017

Automotive



NASCAR driver Aric Almirola provides recovery timeline, will be out at least 2 months

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Aric Almirola will miss at least two months while recovering from a broken back suffered last weekend during a crash in the Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway.

Almirola met the media on Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway to provide insight on his recovery timeline and how exactly he found himself involved in the incident. He was joined by Richard Petty Motorsports CEO Brian Moffitt and Dr. William Heisel, director of OrthoCarolina Motorsports.

"I’m glad to be able to sit here and talk to you all this morning," Almirola said. "I want to thank God. I didn’t think I was that lucky, but after talking to all the doctors in Kansas and Charlotte, I realize how lucky I was. I want to thank the good Lord for looking out for me."

The 33-year-old endured a compression fracture to his T5 vertebra in Saturday night's three-car wreck at Kansas that began with contact between Almirola and Joey Logano. Almirola's RPM No. 43 slammed into Logano’s No. 22 Ford nearly at full speed, lifting his rear wheels into the air.

Former Cup Series driver and current Camping World Truck Series competitor Regan Smith will replace Almirola this weekend in the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star event, but nothing beyond that has been finalized.

Nor does Almirola know how much time he will miss beyond the initial 8-12 month prediction. Here are the key takeaways from the morning press conference.

NASCAR crash Video: Huge crash during NASCAR race at Kansas

Aric Almirola needed to be cut from his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series car and carried out on a stretcher following his involvement in a violent three-car crash on Lap 200 of the Go Bowling 400 on ...

How did Almirola get caught up in the incident?

Almirola admitted he probably should have avoided the wreck, but he said he went high right as the incident started to unfold. Combined with the loose condition of his car, he said there was no way to miss the crash.

"I immediately knew that they were in my line of path, so my car was loose into the corner all night anyway, but I was entering the corner, I saw the wreck -- was very aware the wreck was there -- and I got on the brakes and turned the steering wheel to the left and my car got loose. The next thing I knew, I was on oil or water or something because my car wouldn’t slow down, it wouldn’t steer," Almirola said. "I felt like, from that point, my car was on railroad tracks, and I was just headed straight for the wreck. There was nothing I could do." 

He said he "felt like an idiot" for not missing the crash even if he knows he handled it to the best of his ability. And he thinks the crash could have turned out much worse.

"I think if Joey’s car would have been 3 feet more down the racetrack and I would have hit him in the door number, that would have been very violent, and I think Joey would have been seriously injured," he said. "And obviously seeing Danica’s car on fire. If I would have got into the back of her and run into her fuel cell or something like that, it could have been a lot worse than it was.  For all relative circumstances, I guess things worked out the best they could."

Did a spring failure contribute to his injury?

Almirola said NASCAR and RPM reviewed all available data on the incident and that a dislodged spring could have made the impact worse.

"The springs are actually tethered in, but when the car came back to the garage area, the springs were not upright in the spring buckets, so I’m not 100 percent sure," Almirola said.

After the impact with Logano sent his car in the air, Almirola's Ford "violently" hit on the left-side frame rail and the left-side jack post. That's what everyone believes caused the fracture.

"So, I think that violent drop from 6, 7 feet in the air, coming down and hitting the left-side jack post and the left-side frame rail put all of that energy right up to my back," Almirola said, "I can tell you that at Martinsville when we run really low frame heights and really low air pressure, when they drop the jack on the left side, it’s violent on a pit stop, so I’m fairly confident that dropping a car from 6 feet into the air down onto the left-side jack post is a very big hit."

How long will Almirola be out of the car?

The 33-year-old isn’t sure but has been told anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks.

Who will drive the car in his absence?

Smith will drive the car this weekend, but beyond that, Moffitt and team owner Richard Petty have not finalized their plans.

"The process that we had was when we got back to North Carolina, the King and Drew (Blickensderfer, crew chief) and Aric and I sat down and came up with a list of people after we knew what the diagnosis was, and we’re still working through that with our partners," Moffitt said. "As soon as we know for the future, we’ll be letting you guys know that, but right now, we’re thrilled that Regan’s going to be in the car for this weekend."

By Matt Weaver

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