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Aric Almirola unfazed about returning to Kansas, where he broke his back during the spring race

Tod Palmer, The Kansas City Star on

Published in Auto Racing

"When I took my steering wheel off and threw it up on the dash, just putting my arms out in front of me, the pain was incredible," Almirola said. "It took my breath away."

Fortunately, that's also when he realized his car wasn't on fire, but now the waiting game started until help could arrive.

It would be 20 minutes before a Kansas Speedway safety crew could cut through the roof and roll cage, extract Almirola from the car, and immobilize him on a backboard.

"It felt like forever," he said. "When you're in a lot of pain like that, seconds feel like minutes and minutes feel like hours."

Almirola was taken by ambulance -- an adventure in and of itself -- to the infield care center before being taken by helicopter to the University of Kansas Medical Center.

Of course, Almirola's not complaining, because the care and diligence of the safety crew allowed him to continue his racing career.

"The injury that I had, it's actually really important for them to stabilize my spine in getting me out of the car," Almirola said.

In fact, he even has a sense of humor now about the ambulance getting lost on Kansas Speedway's infield.

"We had a little miscue there and the guys were yelling at each other," Almirola said.

Safety crews pre-run routes through the infield to the care center during race week, but the crew got lost trying to duplicate that route under the lights for a night race and with the infield filled with people, cars, and RVs.

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