NASCAR's Regan Smith replaces injured Almirola in Charlotte

How NASCAR drivers reacted to Saturday's terrifying fiery crash

Almirola suffered a back fracture in a crash last week at Kansas Speedway and is expected to be out of the vehicle for two to three months.

"I'll come back when the doctors clear me", Almirola said in his Friday morning press conference. They want me to lay low the next couple weeks. They had no idea was what wrong with me. They didn't know if I was paralyzed.

"I've learned I have a hell of a polo shirt collection at this point", Smith said Friday. They were literally three feet away from the accident, hanging through the catchfence with their shutters running wide-open the entire time. But there was honestly nothing I could do.

Almirola was actually almost two seconds behind the initial incident between Danica Patrick and Joey Logano. His auto turned into the right rear of Danica Patrick's Ford, sending her slamming into the wall.

Loganos Ford veered left into Patricks auto putting it into the wall. "I've got a broken back and one of my vertebrae is crushed in half, but besides that, I'll live".

Almirola says he felt pain in his back on the initial impact with Logano and then the rear end of his vehicle lifted high enough that he could see the pavement below him.

However, when he removed his steering wheel and threw it on the dash, he knew he shouldn't move.

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 auto as it happened, or seeing the photos posted online.

"Well, I saw that Danica was on fire and when I got in the accident I got this intense burning sensation in my back coupled with pain, so I thought I was on fire", Almirola said.

Safety workers had to extricate Almirola after a fiery crash that resulted in a compression fracture of his T5 vertebra. "I promised that I'd be here to walk with him, " Almirola said. I was mentally prepared to hop in a different race auto.

"I think that was extremely unprofessional".

Regan Smith will replace Almirola in the Ford No. 43 vehicle at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in the qualifying session in preparation for the All-Star Race. That days that Aric is not available to move around because of the pain and because of the guarding are days that he's not using those muscles fully and we're going to have to rehabilitate those. We feel like he's gonna bring the vehicle home safe. "He drives a lot like Aric and that's what helped us come to this conclusion". It's "cool" driving Petty's vehicle because of the history behind it.

Almirola said NASCAR and RPM reviewed all available data on the incident and that a dislodged spring could have made the impact worse.

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