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Almirola Rips Photographers In KC

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 19 2017

Regan Smith is taking over the wheel of the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports car this weekend because of a back injury to regular driver Aric Almirola. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Ashley R Dickerson)

CONCORD, N.C. – Aric Almirola said Friday he was “pretty pissed off” about the photos that were taken of him as safety personnel removed him from his mangled race car following his horrendous crash that left him with a broken back last weekend at Kansas Speedway.

“I wasn’t going to talk about it unless somebody asked, but I think that is extremely unprofessional of them,” Almirola said during a press conference at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “They have no medical expertise whatsoever.  They had no idea what was wrong with me.  They didn’t know if I was bleeding to death.  They didn’t know if I was paralyzed.  They didn’t know anything, but they used it as an opportunity to go snap some pictures of me.  They were literally three feet away from the accident, hanging through the catchfence with their shutters running wide-open the entire time. I’m pretty pissed off about it to be honest with you.”

The three-car crash was triggered when Joey Logano’s Ford broke a brake rotor. His car turned into the right rear of Danica Patrick’s Ford, sending her slamming into the wall.  Fire erupted from the two cars before Almirola’s Ford plowed into the left side of Logano’s car. The impact was of such magnitude that the rear of Almirola’s car became airborne and then slammed back onto the track. Almirola dropped the window net on his car, but he said Friday it was because he thought his car was on fire.

However, when he removed his steering wheel and threw it on the dash, he knew he shouldn’t move. The race was red flagged until Almirola could be safely removed from his car and the track cleared.

“I’ve got a wife and two kids that are sitting at home that have no real idea what’s going on,” Almirola said. “They’re trying to get in communication with the staff at the race track and our team, so they’re finding out more through looking at images online or during the race broadcast than our PR department or people at the race track getting back to them, and I just think that’s wrong.  

“I was obviously in a very vulnerable situation and I’m disappointed to say the least.  If they got $500 for selling it for USA Today I hope they enjoy that $500 because they had no idea when I got pulled out of the race car if they were gonna see a pool of blood all over my uniform, they didn’t know if my legs were going to be attached, they didn’t know any of that and they were just sitting there with their shutters flying wide-open.  I just think it’s extremely unprofessional.”

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Regan Smith will substitute for Aric Almirola in Saturday’s Monster Energy Open at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but Richard Petty Motorsports CEO Brian Moffitt said it had not yet been decided who would take over Almirola’s duties until he can return.

“When we got back to North Carolina the King (Richard Petty) 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,” Moffitt said. “We were looking at a Cup driver for this situation and Regan stepped in. We feel like he’s gonna bring the car home safe. Consistency is what we were looking for and he has that type of record. He drives a lot like Aric and that’s what helped us come to this conclusion.”

Smith said he received the call Wednesday morning from RPM about driving the No. 43 Ford this weekend. It’s “cool” driving Petty’s car because of the history behind it.

“I guess because me and Aric are friends I’ve got a little bit more of an emotional investment into this and wanting to do well for him and his team,” said Smith, who’s been friends with Almirola for about a decade.

“I’ve leaned on Aric in a lot of different situations. Him and Janice are the same age as my wife and myself. We’ve both got two kids and we both have two kids with very similar age gaps apart. Last year when we were expecting our second they were two people we leaned on and talked to a lot as to what to expect and what it would look like.”

Smith said he was under the impression that most everyone was using this weekend as a test session for next weekend’s Coca-Cola 600.

(But) if we’ve got the opportunity to get in the All-Star race … that would be the goal,” Smith said.

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Fox Sports is bringing a revolutionary idea to the telecast of the June 10 NASCAR Xfinity race at Pocono Raceway. The entire broadcast team for that event will be comprised of active Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers.

For the race that will be televised on Fox, Kevin Harvick will handle play-by-play while Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer will be the color analysts. Pit reporters will be Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Danica Patrick will be stationed in the Hollywood Hotel.

For the last three seasons, Fox Sports has rotated Cup Series drivers in the Xfinity booth. This, however, is the first time in motorsports history that a race broadcast has been handled entirely by active Cup Series drivers. The regular Xfinity team of broadcasters will shadow the drivers during the race.

Patrick believes the all-driver broadcast crew could revolutionize televised sports coverage. Bowyer, however, believes it will guarantee the professional broadcasters their jobs.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 19 2017
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