Aric Almirola will hope to celebrate his first race back in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with a big lobster dinner.
Almirola will be back behind the wheel of the No. 43 for Sunday’s New Hampshire 301, NASCAR announced Wednesday. The 33-year-old received clearance from both medical personnel and series officials following his test at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Tuesday.
His return to racing shows his recovery went exactly according to plan, as it will come just over two months after he fractured his T5 vertebrae in an accident with Joey Logano and Danica Patrick at Kansas Speedway.
“It felt great to be back in the race car (Tuesday),” Almirola said in a statement. “After racing in the Monster Energy Series for 5 1/2 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 July race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was when Almirola was aiming to get back inside the car, though he admitted he thought he might not do so until the Brickyard 400. He’s definitely glad he met his more ambitious of the two goals, as Almirola reportedly found that absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
“The thrill of running 200 (mph) in a stock car was something that I had honestly lost a little bit,” Almirola said. “After being out of the car for eight weeks, the passion is back, now more than ever.”
The Richard Petty Motorsports driver finds himself well outside the playoff picture at 32nd in the standings after being out for seven races. As a result, a win is likely his only hope of making the playoffs, though he still would need a waiver from NASCAR for not competing in all the points-paying races.
This likely brings Darrell Wallace Jr.’s season to an early end, as Roush Fenway Racing suspended his No. 6 team’s Xfinity Series campaign when he began filling in for Almirola.
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