Aric Almirola, who suffered a fractured vertebra in his back in an accident Saturday at Kansas Speedway, will be replaced by Regan Smith this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Smith, competing in NASCAR’s truck series, will compete in his first Cup event of 2017 in the NASCAR All-Star night Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He will pilot the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 car, which Almirola would have driven. Smith, who was eligible to compete in All-Star festivities because he was in the top 50 in the standings last year, will not be eligible to get in through the fan vote.
Almirola, who suffered a compression fracture to the T5 vertebra (middle back), was released from the hospital Sunday. Almirola said Wednesday at the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation gala that he has a half-crushed vertebra in his middle back and will have more tests Thursday that will help determine his rehab and recovery time.
“[My doctor] preferred me stay home and lay on the couch, but I can walk a little bit,” Almirola said on the red carpet. “The doctors told me just be careful and don’t let anybody give me a hug and all that kind of thing.
“For the most part, I’m OK. I’ve got a broken back and one of my vertebrae is crushed in half, but besides that, I’ll live.”
Almirola’s crash occurred when Joey Logano spun into Danica Patrick and Almirola came sliding hard into Logano, picking his back wheels up high off the ground.
“I’m doing the best I can with a broken back,” Almirola said. “It was important for me to be here. … I had promised Devin that I was going to be here to walk with him. I wasn’t going to let him down.
“I’m in a little bit of pain but with the pain meds and maybe I’ll have a drink to care of it. I think all in all, I’m pretty lucky. It’s a lot easier to think about coming here and dealing with the pain knowing what all these kids are going through.”
Bob Pockrass (ESPN)