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NASCAR Cup: Aric Almirola cleared to return for New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Aric Almirola (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)

Aric Almirola (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Aric Almirola has been cleared to return to the driver’s seat of the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford for the Overton’s 301 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday. He was cleared by doctors to compete after a test Tuesday at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.

“It felt great to be back in the race car yesterday,” Almirola said. “After racing in the Monster Energy Series for five and a half years, it got to be routine, and I took it for granted. When something gets taken away from you at a moment’s notice like that, it has certainly made me appreciate my passion for racing and my desire to compete at this level. The thrill of running 200 miles per hour in a stock car was something that I had honestly lost a little bit. After being out of the car for eight weeks, the passion is back, now more than ever.

“Physically, I felt great in the car and had no pain associated with the injury during yesterday’s test. I’d like to sincerely thank all of the medical personnel that have helped me through this process, my family, my friends, my team and all the fans that supported me. I’m very grateful to Bubba (Wallace), Regan (Smith) and Billy (Johnson) for all of their efforts subbing for me both on and off the track. I’m excited to get back to racing against all my friends and peers in the Monster Energy Series.”

Almirola’s reinstatement came two months after he sustained a fractured T5 vertebrae in a crash in the Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City in May. He missed seven races. Regan Smith drove the No. 43 in two races and road-course specialist Billy Johnson drove the car at Sonoma Raceway. Most recently, Darrell Wallace Jr. has raced the car. Wallace drove the No. 43 in four race, improving with each race. At Kentucky Speedway on July 8, Wallace finished 11th in the Quaker State 400. Wallace is out of a ride with Almirola’s return. Wallace previously drove the No. 6 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, but RFR has shuttered the operations of its No. 6 Xfinity team.

“We kept improving. Each and every time on the racetrack, each and every race, we kept improving. I kept improving. I am getting more and more comfortable with these cars,” Wallace said. “I will be on some phone calls trying to get something. I won’t be gone too long, at least I hope not. It is a bittersweet moment.”

Almirola competed in the first 11 races of the season prior to his injury. In those races, he posted two top-fives and three top-10s. He’s likely to get a waiver that will allow him to compete for a playoff spot, despite missing seven races. He returns to competition 32nd in the points standings. To make the playoffs, even if he receives a wavier, Almirola will have to win one of the remaining regular-season races and get into the top-30 in points. He is eight points behind current 30th-place driver Matt DiBenedetto with eight races remaining in the regular season.

After Almirola’s injuries, doctors prognosticated that recovery time would be eight to 12 weeks. Almirola recovered in eight. His recovery process included physical therapy, swimming, and racing simulation.

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (Facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (Facebook.com/nascarexaminer)

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Posted by on July 12, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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