Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) driver Aric Almirola, who suffered an acute compression fracture to his T5 Vertebra after a multi-car accident at Kansas Speedway last Saturday night, will be forced to miss races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series during his recovery. The standard healing time for the injury is eight to 12 weeks. Regan Smith will drive the No. 43 Ford this weekend in the Monster Energy Open.
Almirola was on a streak of Top-10 finishes and an XFINITY win before competing Saturday night. Unfortunately, he was involved in a multi-car accident on Lap 199. Returning home, Almirola met with top doctors in the Charlotte area to determine a recovery plan.
"First off, I want to thank the track safety and medical team, all of the doctors and nurses at The University of Kansas Hospital for taking good care of me," said Almirola. "My family, friends and people in the NASCAR community who reached out to me, I truly appreciate your support, and, to all the fans for their prayers and support. I want to thank my race team, everyone at RPM, and our great partners who have been supportive of me over the last five years and have continued to show support during this difficult time. I want to thank our doctors in Charlotte, Dr. Petty, Dr. Coric and Bill Heisel. They will be the team that leads my roadmap to my recovery. I will be meeting with them throughout the healing process, and it will be up to them to give me clearance to get back in the racecar."
"From the time I was eight years old, all I ever wanted to do was race," continued Almirola. "Now that I've made it to the highest level, that's all I ever do. It has become the norm to go on an airplane every Thursday, race and then do it all over again the next week. It's going to be challenging these next several weeks knowing that my team is preparing to go to the track, the industry is preparing to go race, and I'm not. In the meantime, I'm going to focus on getting my body back to 100 percent. I'm going to take some time to relax and recover and do everything necessary to get back in the racecar as soon as possible."
While Almirola will not be able to perform his driving duties, Regan Smith will pilot the No. 43 Ford Fusion this weekend in the Monster Energy Open at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Smith made 211 starts and tallied one win (Darlington 2011), four Top Fives and 13 Top 10s in his 10 year career in the Monster Energy Series. He also has six wins in the XFINITY Series.
"I hate the circumstances that created this opportunity, but I'm very excited and grateful to have a chance to drive the No. 43 this weekend," said Smith. "Aric is a friend of mine and his health and a speedy recovery is the most important thing right now. I can't thank everybody at RPM enough for thinking of me, and I'm excited to represent them and all of their partners."
Further information regarding the driver of the No. 43 Ford after Saturday race will be announced next week.