More than a year after suffering an injury that could have ended his time in the NASCAR Cup series, Aric Almirola is grateful that he had an opportunity to reassess his career and get back inside a race car.
“Breaking your back is not ideal,” Almirola told Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Steve Letarte on NASCAR America. “But for me, breaking my back was actually better than breaking a leg or an arm or something like that. Because I had a severe amount of pain for two to three weeks and then all of the sudden, most of the pain went away and I could actually resume normal everyday activity.
“I just couldn’t drive a racecar because my bone wasn’t healed enough and if I got into another accident that was similar, I could have compressed the vertebrae and while it was broken, it could have slid backward into my spinal cord and caused paralysis.”
Almirola came to the realization that the physical aspect of the injury was not nearly as bad as what he faced mentally. The injury could have been much worse if his vertebrae had shifted just a little more.
“I think the mental part was the most challenging,” Almirola said. “In the beginning, I was more focused on my injury and concerned by the fact that the doctor told me I was a quarter of an inch away from my vertebrae slipping back into my spinal cord.”
But his thoughts turned positive soon after he began to heal. The time spent away from the track allowed Almirola to contemplate what he wanted out of the rest of his life.
“On top of that, thinking about racing and do I really want to do this,” Almirola said. “Just going through that at the very beginning and thinking, maybe this is it. Maybe I take this as an opportunity to say, ‘I’m out.’
“Watching those races without me in it was killing me. And going to the shop and seeing the racecar load up and go to the racetrack and me not going to be a part of it was killing me. I knew right then and there that the fire wasn’t out. It almost reignited and rejuvenated my career.
“To have it taken away, makes you realize how fortunate and lucky you are to get to do what you do.”
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