NASCAR's Aric Almirola out 8-12 weeks with broken back

Aric Almirola and Regan Smith talk prior to practice last fall at Texas Motor Speedway

Aric Almirola faces a long recovery after breaking a vertebra in a fiery crash last weekend at Kansas. He had to be cut out his vehicle and airlifted to the hospital, where doctors determined he broke a vertebra.

"Everybody is telling me that with this type of fracture it is eight to 12 weeks, so I'm not happy about that", said Almirola, 33. Regan Smith will drive the No. 43 Smithfield Ford in this weekend's Monster Energy Open Race. The two cars exploded into flames as they hit the wall and Almirola plowed into the melee with such impact that it lifted the rear wheels of his vehicle off the ground (WATCH HERE).

Almirola's absence nearly surely will take him out of the championship picture, but the driver has a longer-term perspective, one that will allow him to heal completely before he returns. I watched the replay and feel like an idiot even being involved in the wreck. "I don't know if there's any crew members in the garage who have been with more teams than I have".

"He's well aware. And he won't be rushing back to put himself in any kind of danger going forward". "The thing I was most amazed with was how high my auto got off the ground". In that story, Almirola said he thinks he ran over water and oil after Joey Logano and Danica Patrick crashed, and that didn't give him a chance to avoid the other cars. The auto was immediately taken to the Research & Development Center in Concord, North Carolina. RPM has not determined who will replace Almirola when the regular-season resumes next week at Charlotte. "I should have missed the wreck, but I committed to turn one". There was nothing I could do. "I saw it. I braced for the wreck and immediately when I hit Joey's auto I felt pain in my back". I saw it. I braced for the wreck, and immediately when I hit Joey's vehicle, I felt pain in my back. When it came back down, it felt like someone twisted that knife. "I've got a broken back, and one of my vertabra is crushed in half", he said, dryly.

Almirola immediately knew he was injured.

"I'm not going to risk that", he said. I got my window net down just based on pure adrenaline. He stayed in the auto momentarily before climbing out under his own power. I was in way too much pain. I didn't think I was that lucky, but after talking to all the doctors in Kansas and Charlotte, I realize how lucky I was.

Almirola was in obvious pain from the wreck and had to get permission from a doctor to walk in the show.

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