CONCORD, N.C. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he’s confident that NASCAR will understand what caused Aric Almirola’s injury last weekend at Kansas Speedway and said he talked to Almirola about the crash Wednesday night.
“Having talked with NASCAR a lot over the last couple of years, I feel really good about how proactive they are,’’ Earnhardt said Thursday after revealing the Maaco-sponsored car he’ll drive in Saturday night’s Monster Energy All-Star Race. “They have specific individuals, that’s their job every day to science this stuff out and be looking at ways to improve.’’
Earnhardt saw Almirola at Wednesday night’s Catwalk for a Cause charity event held by the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation.
“I talked to Aric (Wednesday) night and he said when his car went in the air, both rear springs fell out of the car so the car came back down and hit the frame,’’ Earnhardt said. “He said it was the highest recorded G-force vertically that they’ve ever seen. I can imagine that if the car slams down on the chassis.’’
A NASCAR source told NBC Sports that it could not confirm that the springs were knocked out of the car. Rear coil springs must be tethered to the chassis and truck trailing arm by a fiber cable, according to section 18.104.22.168 of the NASCAR Cup Rule Book.
Richard Petty Motorsports confirmed to NBC Sports that NASCAR still has Almirola’s wrecked No. 43 car as its investigation continues.
Last weekend’s crash started when a parts failure in the right front of Joey Logano’s car caused his No. 22 Ford to veer into the rear of Danica Patrick’s car. Patrick’s No. 10 Ford turned up the track and slammed the wall. Almriola could not avoid the incident and his No. 43 Ford crashed into Logano’s car, the impact sending the rear of Almirola’s car in the air.
Almirola suffered a compression fracture to his T5 vertebra in the crash. Richard Petty Motorsports has not stated how long Almirola will be out, but the team has a press conference scheduled Friday morning at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Regan Smith will drive the car this weekend. The team is not qualified for the All-Star Race and will have to advance through Saturday’s Monster Energy Open. Smith told NBC Sports that nothing has been set beyond this week with the team.
Smith, who also is competing in the Camping World Truck Series this weekend at Charlotte, said he would be available for upcoming weekends if RPM needed him.
“Aric’s a friend, and if I can do anything to help that team continue to move forward, the direction he’s had them going, then that’s what I’m going to try to do,’’ said Smith, who has previously served as a substitute driver for Earnhardt, Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart and Kyle Larson.