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June 29, 2017

Almirola expected to take part in on-track test in July

RELATED: Almirola gives post-wreck update, recovery timeline

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Aric Almirola is expected to take part in an on-track test sometime in the next two weeks as he prepares to return to competition following a back injury suffered earlier this year.

The driver of the No. 43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports was cleared to test by medical personnel following a routine check-up and scan June 28 in Charlotte.

Almirola will have to receive clearance from NASCAR’s medical team before he will be allowed to return to competition. The upcoming test would likely be the last hurdle in order receive that approval.

RPM team officials told via email that an exact date for Almirola’s test as well has his return to competition has not been determined at this time but that doctors were pleased with the healing following the driver’s latest scan.

During Thursday’s final practice at Daytona International Speedway, Almirola told NBCSN that the likely timetable for a test would be in “a couple weeks.” Almirola said the proposed location was “between Charlotte and Darlington. Just trying to figure out somewhere close to home.”

Almirola suffered a compression fracture of the T5 vertebra in a crash on Lap 199 during the Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway in May. Contact with the No. 22 Ford of Joey Logano (Team Penske) was so severe it lifted the rear wheels of Almirola’s Ford off the ground.

RELATED: See what happened at Kansas | Almirola’s career statistics

Neither Logano nor Danica Patrick (Stewart-Haas Racing), who was also involved, were injured. Almirola had to be cut from his car; the 33-year-old was transported to the University of Kansas Medical Center for further evaluation and released the following day.

Three drivers have competed for the organization in Almirola’s absence. Regan Smith filled in at Charlotte and Dover; road-course racer Billy Johnson was behind the wheel this past weekend at Sonoma and Darrell Wallace Jr. has made two starts, at Pocono and Michigan, for the team.

The Pocono start was Wallace’s first in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. He returns to drive for the team in Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Almirola has 226 starts in the Monster Energy Cup Series with one victory. He also has wins in NASCAR’s XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series.