Richard Petty Motorsports announced Wednesday that Regan Smith will drive the No. 43 Smithfield Ford in this weekend’s Monster Energy Open Race, replacing the injured Aric Almirola. The Open event offers three transfer spots into the Monster Energy All-Star race Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Smith is a former Cup driver with one win and 13 top 10s in 211 Cup Series starts and six wins in the XFINITY Series. He currently competes in the Camping World Truck Series for Ricky Benton Racing. It is not known if Smith will fill in beyond this weekend but he has proven to be a preferred substitute in the past for several drivers including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson.
RPM will hold a press conference Friday at 11 a.m. at Charlotte Motor Speedway with Almirola to provide an update on his injury and a recovery outlook. It will be streamed live on NASCAR.com.
Almirola was injured during the Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway, Saturday, May 13, suffering a compression fracture of the T5 vertebra after a collision with the cars of Joey Logano and Danica Patrick. The accident began with a parts failure on Logano’s Team Penske car which caused him to swerve and make contact with Patrick’s Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. Almirola was unable to avoid the wreck and slid into them, lifting the rear wheels of his car before it slammed back onto the racing surface. Emergency workers had to cut away the roof of his car to safely extract Almirola.
If Almirola is unable to compete in every regular season race, he will need a waiver from NASCAR to be eligible for the playoffs this season. He would also need to win a race as well as finish in the top 30 by the end of the regular season. Almirola is presently 23rd in the Cup Series standings.
Follow @angiecampbell_ for the latest NASCAR news and feature stories.