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

"We probably should have stopped at one of the campsites and I should have gotten a beer to help with the pain a little," Almirola joked.

The injury was no laughing matter, but Almirola is no stranger to the risks.

He suffered the occasional broken shoulder or arm as a young driver, running on dirt or tiny tracks in his native Florida.

When Almirola, who is from Tampa, was 13 he was even taken by helicopter to the hospital after wrecking a dirt bike in the middle of nowhere, splitting his lower leg open with a spiral fracture.

"Having to sit on the couch and watch for eight weeks, I was miserable," said Almirola, who has driven for Richard Petty Motorsports during all six Cup seasons but is considered a favorite to replace Patrick at Stewart-Haas Racing next season. "I'm a racer. I'm a competitive person, and I wanted to be in the race car. Having to sit out was painful -- more painful that my hurt back."

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