Racer Aric Almirola conducts a practice session at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. File photo by Joe Marino-Bill Cantrell/UPI | License Photo
NASCAR Cup Series driver Aric Almirola said Friday he expects to miss eight to 12 weeks to recover from a broken back suffered in a fiery crash last Saturday night at Kansas Speedway.
Almirola will need to wait for the compression fracture of his T5 vertebra -- located in the middle the back -- to heal before getting back into a race car.
"The incentive to make sure that I can run around in my front yard with my kids is enough for me to not rush back," the 33-year-old Almirola told reporters at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Center Friday morning in his first press conference since the crash. "I'm going to listen to the doctors. I'm young. I've got a lot of life ahead of me and I've got a 4-year-old and 3-year-old at home -- I'm not going to do anything to rush myself back in a race car and risk not being able to feel anything from my belly button down for the rest of my life."
Richard Petty Motorsports indicated Friday morning that it does not have definitive long-term plans for replacing Almirola in the No. 43 Ford.
The Petty team on Thursday named Regan Smith as interim driver for Saturday's All-Star night festivities at Charlotte Motor Speedway. RPM has not determined who will replace Almirola when the regular-season resumes next week at Charlotte.
Team executive Brian Moffitt met with Almirola, owner Richard Petty and crew chief Drew Blickensderfer to produce a list of potential fill-in candidates.
"We're still working through that with our partners," Moffitt said, "so 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 in the car for this weekend."
In the three-car Kansas crash on lap 200 of the Go Bowling 400 race, Almirola was conscious and alert while being put on a backboard after the roof was cut out of his car. He was airlifted Saturday night to the University of Kansas Medical Center and remained in the hospital overnight for observation.
Joey Logano and Danica Patrick also were involved in the crash that started when Logano experienced a brake problem that sent him into Patrick's car. Patrick's car caught fire and was hit by Almirola's car. Neither Patrick nor Logano were injured in the crash.
"I should have missed the wreck," Almirola said Friday, indicating the racing surface suddenly turned slick. "My car wouldn't slow down. It wouldn't steer. From that moment on I felt like I was on railroad tracks."
The 33-year-old Almirola, in his sixth full season racing for Petty, is 23rd in the NASCAR Cup standings, 62 points outside the current cutoff for the 16-driver NASCAR playoffs with 17 races left in the regular season. Almirola has one career win and 10 top-5 finishes in 226 career starts, and he won the Xfinity Series race at Talladega Superspeedway on May 6.