CONCORD, N.C. — In his first press conference since breaking his back last week in a hard crash at Kansas Speedway, Richard Petty Motorsports driver Aric Almirola sounded confident about returning to the cockpit, but not until he is fully healed.
Almirola suffered a compression fracture of his T5 vertebra after a hard crash in the Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway, where his No. 43 RPM Ford slammed hard into the wrecked car of Joey Logano.
Speaking in the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Center Friday morning, Almirola said doctors have told him, “With this type of fracture, it’s eight to 12 weeks” until the injury is healed.
And Almirola made it clear he won’t rush his recovery just so he can get back.
“Getting back in a race car two weeks too soon is just gonna add two more starts to my start column and the stat book, but if I were to get in another similar accident and not be properly healed, you’re talking about potentially being paralyzed from the belly button down, so I’m not gonna risk that,” said Almirola. “I’ve got a lot of baseball to play with my son and I’d like to dance with my daughter one day at her wedding, so I’m not gonna risk it.”
Almirola was accompanied by Brian Moffitt, the CEO of Richard Petty Motorsports, and William Heisel PA-C, Director of OrthoCarolina Motorsports.
In the Kansas crash, the back end of Almirola’s car came of the ground in the incident which began when Logano appeared to have a brake rotor failure that caused him to turn into Danica Patrick and putting both of those cars in the wall.
Neither Patrick nor Logano was injured in the crash, which brought out a caution on Lap 201 of the 267-lap race.
“I should have missed the wreck,” said Almirola, who committed to the outside line, only to see cars come up in front of him and the racing surface suddenly turn slick, perhaps from liquids from one of the cars in front of him.
When that happened, Almirola’s car was out of control.
“I watched the replay and I feel like an idiot even being involved in the wreck, but there was honestly nothing I could do,” said Almirola. “My car was on ice and when you watch the replay it looks like I’m going way too fast and I am because my car wouldn’t slow down.”
During a 27-minute red flag period after the crash, rescue workers cut the roof and windshield off of Almirola’s car to get him out. He was airlifted to a local hospital where he spent the night before returning home to Mooresville, N.C. on Sunday.
Veteran Regan Smith will fill in for Almirola this weekend at CMS. Smith will drive the No. 43 in the Monster Energy Open at Charlotte, and if he wins one of the three stages of the race, Smith will advance to the main event, the Monster Energy All-Star Race.
The three stage winners in the Open, along with a Fan Vote winner will advance to the all-star race and fill out the 20-car field.
Richard Petty Motorsports CEO Brian Moffitt said Smith is in the car for this weekend, but beyond that, the team has not made any plans going forward.
“We’re still working through that with our partners,” said Moffitt. “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.”