Almirola Cleared To Return

| , RacinToday.com Friday, July 14 2017

Richard Petty Motorsports driver Aric Almirola will be back at the RPM wheel. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)


His passion rekindled after being sidelined for eight weeks by a severe back injury, Richard Petty Motorsports driver Aric Almirola has been medically cleared to return to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Almirola suffered an acute compression fracture to his T5 vertebra in a grinding, multi-car accident at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway on May 13. The injury, which has a standard healing time of eight to 12 weeks, saw Almirola recover in eight weeks. Throughout the recovery process, Almirola underwent physical therapy, swam and tested in simulation and on-track environments.

A test at the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway on Tuesday was the final hurdle in a multi-step process involving his doctors and NASCAR officials allowing Almirola to return to the cockpit of the No. 43 Smithfield Ford Fusion.

“It felt great to be back in the race car (Tuesday),” said Almirola, who drives for the team co-owned by NASCAR Hall of Famer “King” Richard Petty and business entrepreneur Andrew Murstein based in Mooresville, N.C. “After racing in the series for five and a-half years, it got to be routine and I took it for granted. When something gets taken away from you at a moment’s notice like that, it has certainly made me appreciate my passion for racing and my desire to compete at this level.

“The thrill of running 200 miles per hour in a stock car was something that I had honestly lost a little bit. After being out of the car for eight weeks, the passion is back, now more than ever.

“Physically, I felt great in the car and had no pain associated with the injury during the test. I’d like to sincerely thank all of the medical personnel that have helped me through this process, my family, my friends, my team and all the fans that supported me.”

The “Petty Blue” No. 43 Smithfield Ford most recently has been driven by Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., who started 17th and finished 11th Saturday night at the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway. Almirola, who has fallen to 32nd in the Cup point standings, will be searching for his first stage victory of the season at NHIS.

“I’m very grateful to Bubba (Wallace), Regan (Smith) and Billy (Johnson) for all of their efforts subbing for me both on and off the track,” Almirola said. “I’m excited to get back to racing against all my friends and peers in the Monster Energy Series.”

Almirola has experienced modest success at the 1.058-mile track in Loudon, N.H., where he has scored one top-five and two top-10 finishes.

| , RacinToday.com Friday, July 14 2017
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