Aric Almirola is in no hurry to return to competition in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and is expected to miss from eight to 12 weeks while recovering from a fractured vertebra.
“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," Almirola said Friday at a news conference at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “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.”
Almirola said doctors have told him he needs at least eight to 12 weeks for his T5 vertebra to expect to completely heal from the accident he suffered in last Saturday night’s Cup series race at Kansas Speedway.
Richard Petty Motorsports tapped veteran Regan Smith to drive Almirola’s No. 43 Ford in this weekend’s All-Star Race events but a permanent replacement has not been named.
Dealing with the pain
Almirola, 33, doesn’t require any surgery and doesn’t even need to wear a back brace but unlike a lot of injuries, the pain doesn’t subside simply by resting or remaining immobile.
“Nothing alleviates the pain,” Almirola said. He said the initial impact from the wreck “felt like somebody stuck a knife in my back.”
The impact lifted the rear wheels of his car off the track and when it landed, Almirola said: “it felt like somebody took that knife and twisted it in my back.”
Almirola was actually nearly two seconds behind the initial incident between Danica Patrick and Joey Logano.
“I should have missed the wreck,” he said. “My car wouldn’t slow down, it wouldn’t steer. It felt like I was on railroad tracks and I was headed straight for the wreck.
“I feel like an idiot even being involved in the wreck. But there was honestly nothing I could do. It was like it was on ice.”
Almirola praised the track safety crews and the doctors that treated him, both at the track and back in the Charlotte area.
Displeased with photographers
However, he said he’s been very upset with the photographers who continued to shoot photos of him and his accident without knowing how seriously he was injured, particularly while he was being extricated from his car.
“I think that was extremely unprofessional. They had no idea was what wrong with me. They didn’t know if I was paralyzed or anything,” Almirola said. “They were literally three feet away with their shutters running wide open the entire time.
“I was obviously in a very vulnerable situation, and I’m disappointed, to say the least. They didn’t know if my legs were going to be attached, they didn’t know any of that.”
Almirola said his wife, Janice, and two kids were home that race weekend and he didn’t like the idea of them watching him being removed from the car as it happened, or seeing the photos posted online.
“I’m pretty pissed off about it, to be honest,” he said.