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NASCAR America: Aric Almirola battled back from physical and mental injury

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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.”

MORE: Kansas crash rekindled Aric Almirola’s love of racing

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.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

Report: Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano clear the air ahead of Kansas race

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas– On the eve of the Sprint Cup Series’ first of two races at Kansas Speedway, Matt Kenseth told USA TODAY Sports that he and Joey Logano have discussed their issues from last weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway.

The last time the two were seen together, Kenseth was wagging his finger at Logano outside the track’s medical center and lecturing him after the two were involved in a crash that saw Kenseth’s No. 20 Toyota flip in the air.

Their talk came as the Sprint Cup Series returns to Kansas, where the Logano-Kenseth feud began last October before escalating three races later at Martinsville Speedway.

Kenseth didn’t go into details about the conversation when asked about it by USA Today.

“Nah, if we wanted that, we would have made it a conference call,” Kenseth told USA Today on Friday.

The tension between the drivers reached its apex at Martinsville when Kenseth, a lapped car, intentionally wrecked race leader Logano, taking both out of the race. Kenseth was suspended for two races.

Then last Sunday at Talladega, a bump from Logano sent Kenseth out of the racing groove and forced him to merge farther back in the pack.

“(I) lost four or five spots and then got us back there where we didn’t want to be,” Kenseth said. “I thought we were done with that, but maybe we aren’t.”

Not long afterward, Logano again was behind Kenseth when the No. 20 was hit by the No. 10 of Danica Patrick on the backstretch, which started the 12-car wreck.

Both Logano and Kenseth enter the GoBowling.com 400 seeking their first wins of 2016. Kenseth starts the race in second, and Logano rolls off 14th.

Starting grid for NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway

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The Sprint Cup Series’ race at Kansas Speedway tomorrow night will start with three Joe Gibbs Racing related drivers at the front of the field.

Martin Truex Jr. will lead the field with his first pole since 2012, followed by Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski.

Ryan Blaney starts seventh, tying his best qualifying effort of the season (Daytona, Texas).

Roush Fenway Racing has two drivers in the top 10, with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (ninth) and Trevor Bayne (10th).

Here is the full starting grid for the GoBowling 400.

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GoBowling.com to sponsor spring Sprint Cup race at Kansas

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Kansas Speedway announced Wednesday that it’s May 7 Sprint Cup race will be sponsored by GoBowling.com.

The Saturday night race will be known as the GoBowling.com 400, which falls on the evening before Mother’s Day.

“Bowling is the number one participation game in the U.S. and NASCAR is one of the most popular fan-based sports making this a natural partnership,” Strike Ten Entertainment President John G. Harbuck said in a track media release. “We have very similar demographics so the exposure we get from this sponsorship – both in the Midwest and nationally –  will allow us to promote bowling to current and potential bowlers, especially families and young bowlers.”

The race is part of a two-day weekend including the Toyota Tundra 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Friday, May 6.

Follow @JerryBonkowski