Richard Petty Motorsports announced Wednesday that Regan Smith will drive the team’s No. 43 Ford in this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The team has not announced plans beyond this weekend.
Smith will substitute for RPM driver Aric Almirola, who suffered a compression fracture of the T5 vertebra in a crash May 13 at Kansas Speedway. Almirola indicated he expects to miss 8-12 weeks of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. Smith filled in for Almirola during the All-Star Race weekend, finishing fourth in the Monster Energy Open qualifying race last Saturday night.
Almirola was at Charlotte Motor Speedway last Friday, six days after the multicar wreck that sent him to the University of Kansas Medical Center for overnight observation. The 33-year-old driver said he would not rush his recovery for a more rapid return to NASCAR competition, saying his quality of life beyond his racing career outweighed the risk of further injury in another crash.
“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,” Almirola said. “Whenever the doctors clear me, I’ll be ready to get back in a race car.”
Through 11 races this season, Almirola sits 23rd in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings.