Aric Almirola looks back at how his horrific wreck changed the course of his career

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Aric Almirola remembers how his terrible wreck at Kansas changed his mentality moving forward in his career.

- On your mark. Get set. Go.

I think one of the hardest things, in general, in life is finding that work/life balance, but especially in our sport.

Who's ready for breakfast for dinner?

- Me.

- I feel like that's one of my biggest challenges is putting forth the effort to not only be the best race car driver I can be, but then to try and be the best husband and the best father that I can be.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Yep. Good night, honey.

- Love you too.

- Love you too. Mwah.

ANNOUNCER: Big crash in turn one. Aric Almirola come piling in.

ARIC ALMIROLA: Kansas, probably the worst wreck of my career. And it was-- really violent crash. In the moment, I felt so helpless.

ANNOUNCER: Whoa. Trouble! Big, big crash. Danica Patrick and Joey Logano.

- I started to slow down and I tried to steer away from it, and my car just went into a slide. I went rocketing in there at 185, 190 mile an hour and just smashed into their cars. It was so violent.

ANNOUNCER: The whole back of Almirola's Ford came up in the air.

ARIC ALMIROLA: When the car got airborne and came and slammed back down, that's when the pain got real.

ANNOUNCER: That was a hard, hard impact.

ARIC ALMIROLA: I knew right away that something was wrong. I started trying and make sure I had feeling in my legs and my toes. And when I went to go put my steering wheel up on the dash that about put me through the roof. I was screaming bloody murder.

ARIC ALMIROLA (OVER RADIO): My back. My back. My back.

[SCREAMS]

ANNOUNCER: Aric Almirola is awake and alert as they work on cutting roll cage bars to be able to get him out of that car.

ARIC ALMIROLA: I was panicked. I was worried. I was just really hopeful that I was not going to be paralyzed. The doctors came in and said that I had a compression fracture to my T5 vertebrae. I was, like, so how long till I can get back in a race car?

My spinal doctor, you know, he warned me. He said, if you get back in the race car too soon, and you get in another wreck, and that vertebrae slips backwards, you won't feel anything from your belly button down the rest of your life.

I want to be able to run around with my kids in the front yard. I want to be able to dance with my daughter at her wedding. And I was not going to do something to jeopardize that. From that moment forward, that's all I cared about was, you know, how quick can I get back on my feet? How quick can I rehab and get healed? And when can I get back in a race car.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

What we do is dangerous. I assume that risk every time I strap into a race car. But that risk I'm willing to take, because I love what I do.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

TONY STEWART: Extremely proud to announce that Aric Almirola's going to be behind the wheel-- the number 10 Smithfield Ford next year.

ARIC ALMIROLA: I feel like I've accomplished so much more than I ever dreamed about. And now, here I am with the best opportunity I've ever had to go out and be successful. And this is my time to go big or go home. And I'm ready.