Almirola Back Behind the Wheel

Aric Almirola

“I got to get back in the car Tuesday in Charlotte so I was back on the race track then but it is always different when you come to race weekend and you go out there and are getting ready to compete." (Photo: Getty Images)

Aric Almirola is looking forward to getting back to work in the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Ford this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Almirola has been sidelined because of back injuries he sustained in an accident at Kansas Speedway in May. He suffered a T5 vertabra fracture in the incident and has been on the sideline since.
Regan Smith, Billy Scott and Bubba Wallace all filled in for Almirola during his absence but he’s ready to take the seat back for Sunday’s Overton’s 301.
“I am stoked. Really excited,” Almirola said Friday in Loudon. “I got to get back in the car Tuesday in Charlotte so I was back on the race track then but it is always different when you come to race weekend and you go out there and are getting ready to compete. 
“It felt really good to be back. It felt really nice to be able to walk through the garage and see all my peers and guys in the garage area. To have so many people that walk by and say, ‘Hey, welcome back.’ It certainly makes me feel good.”
Almirola has been on an intense regimen of rehabiliatation since sustaining the injury. He took part in a test session at Charlotte Motor Speedway earlier this week and was medically cleared to return on Wednesday.
After practicing Friday at New Hampshire, Almirola believes he is more than ready to compete again.
“I do, I really do,” he said.  “I feel great. I feel like I did pre-crash. I think based on the word that I have gotten from the doctors, I went again yesterday morning to Charlotte Medical Center to get tested. They looked at everything and everything looks great. I have no concern based on their doctors recommendation that I can get back in the race car.
“Physically I feel great. There are some muscles that after the race on Sunday might be a little sore or tired just from being out of the race car for two months. That will come back. Even when you start out the year after taking the winter off there are muscles that are sore. When you get back in the car week after week for a few weeks it gets back to normal.”
There’s work to be done for Almirola and the team to get competitive.  He is expected to receive a medical waiver from NASCAR for the time out of the car and if Almirola can win a race over the eight races left in the regular season and maintain a spot inside the first thirty of the point standings, he could make the palyoffs.
Wallace drove the team’s entry to an 11th place finish last week in Kentucky and there is optimism Almirola can build off that success to make a run down the stretch.
“I think really, for us, it is about picking back up where we left off,” he said.  “I would love to sit here and tell you we are going to go out and win this weekend but we have to be realistic and understand where our cars are at. Right now it is about getting back to a top-15, top-10 car. If we can do that we will put ourselves in position to strategize and maybe pull a win out. You can’t do that from running 20th. You can’t do that from running 22nd. A guy that is running 12 spots ahead of you is also going to gamble on fuel. You have to be running up front to capitalize on opportunities like that. 
“For the 43 team and all of us on the Smithfield Ford Fusion, it is about getting the car to running up to where we can take those opportunities and gamble on two tires or not tires or fuel strategy to go and try to get us a win here to close the year.”

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