The name sitting on top of the No. 43 car will make the driver’s identity for the first time since Kansas Speedway.
Aric Almirola will make his return to NASCAR competition at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend. The Florida native will step behind the wheel of the No. 43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports for the first time since suffering an acute compression fracture to his T5 Vertebra two months ago.
Almirola is approved to race again after testing at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Tuesday, taking the final step of his recovery before receiving the thumb’s up from his doctors.
“It felt great to be back in the racecar yesterday,” Almirola said in a team release. “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.”
Almirola’s recovery process has included a vigorous physical therapy program, along with swimming and simulator testing.
The 33-year-old missed eight races (seven points and on exhibition) while recovering from injury. Regan Smith drove the No. 43 car during the Monster Energy Open and the ensuing two races, with Darrell Wallace Jr. getting the call to run four of the next five races as Billy Johnson took the helm at Sonoma Raceway.
The No. 43 car currently sits 25th in the owner standings.
If Almirola can win a race and make it into the top 30 in the driver standings by the end of the regular season at Richmond Raceway, he will be playoff eligible given NASCAR’s waiver approval. After missing seven points-paying contests, Almirola sits 32nd in the driver standings, eight points behind Matt DiBenedetto in 30th.