By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – The events that occurred on the 200th lap of the 2017 Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway are ones that Aric Almirola and his family would like to forget.
Ahead of Almirola, Joey Logano and Danica Patrick had wrecked violently in turns one and two. Unfortunately for Almirola, he had already committed to running the high line in the corner. He ran into some fluid and slid out of control into Logano’s car at over 160mph.
The impact was so violent it lifted the rear of Almirola’s car nearly six feet into the air and sent parts and pieces bouncing down the backstretch. As a result, Almirola had to be cut out of his car before being airlifted to a local hospital, where he would be released the following day, having suffered a compression fracture of his T5 vertebra.
“I braced for the wreck and immediately when I hit Joey’s car I felt pain in my back,” said Almirola as he described the impact. “It felt like somebody stuck a knife in my back and then I realized that my car was airborne because I could see the asphalt and when it came back down it felt like somebody took that knife and just twisted it up in my back.”
Shortly after the accident, photos and video of the wreckage of his No. 43 Smithfield Ford Fusion and Almirola’s extraction by the medical team began to spread like wildfire on social media.
When asked for his thoughts on the photos, Almirola made it clear that he was unhappy that the photos were online.
“I’m pretty pissed off about it, to be honest with you,” said Almirola. “I think that is extremely unprofessional of them (the photographers). They have no medical expertise whatsoever. They had no idea what was wrong with me. They didn’t know if I was paralyzed. They didn’t know anything, but they used it as an opportunity to go snap some pictures of me. They were literally three feet away from the accident, hanging through the catchfence with their shutters running wide-open the entire time. I’m pretty upset about that.”
“I’ve got a wife and two kids that are sitting at home that have no real idea what’s going on. They’re trying to get in communication with the staff at the race track and our team, so they’re finding out more through looking at images online or during the race broadcast than our PR department or people at the race track getting back to them, and I just think that’s wrong. I was obviously in a very vulnerable situation and I’m disappointed to say the least. I just think it’s extremely unprofessional.”
Almirola will now focus on his recovery, which will take 8-12 weeks. For this weekend, Richard Petty Motorsports has enlisted Regan Smith to fill-in as the driver of the legendary No. 43.
“This is nothing to mess around with, definitely need to make sure that this is properly healed before I get back in a race car. Getting back in a race car two weeks too soon is just gonna add two more starts to my start column and the stat book, but if I were to get in another similar accident and not be properly healed, you’re talking about potentially being paralyzed from the belly button down, so I’m not gonna risk that. I’ve got a lot of baseball to play with my son and I’d like to dance with my daughter one day at her wedding, so I’m not gonna risk it. Whenever the doctors clear me, I’ll be ready to get back in a race car.”
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