For Pete's Sake

Driver who broke his back at Kansas Speedway fulfills pledge to boy with cancer

NASCAR driver Aric Almirola walks red carpet despite fractured vertebra

NASCAR driver Aric Almirola was determined to keep his promise to Devin on Wednesday by walking him down the runway during the Catwalk for a cause event at Statesville Municipal Airport. Almirola suffered a compression fracture of the vertebra whe
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NASCAR driver Aric Almirola was determined to keep his promise to Devin on Wednesday by walking him down the runway during the Catwalk for a cause event at Statesville Municipal Airport. Almirola suffered a compression fracture of the vertebra whe

NASCAR driver Aric Almirola could have been excused for missing this charity event.

Almirola was involved in a fiery crash during Saturday night’s NASCAR race at Kansas Speedway. He had to be cut out his car and airlifted to the hospital, where doctors determined he broke a vertebra.

But by Wednesday, Almirola was at the “Catwalk for a Cause” event. NASCAR.com said that is a “James Bond-themed gathering held at Statesville (N.C.) Regional Airport. Fifteen ‘Catwalk Heroes,’ ranging in age from 3 to 17 years old were introduced on stage leading up to the main event. These children are either battling or have beaten cancer.”

Almirola told the Charlotte Observer that he promised a 5-year-old boy named Devin, who is battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, that the two would meet there.

“I can walk a little bit. ... I’ve got a broken back, and one of my vertebra is crushed in half,” Almirola told the Observer. “Besides that, I’ll live. But it’s a lot easier to come here and deal with the pain, knowing what all of these kids are going through, being able to put up with a few hours of discomfort to support them.”

Almirola told NASCAR.com on Friday that he expects to miss 8 to 12 weeks. In that story, Almirola said he thinks he ran over water and oil after Joey Logano and Danica Patrick crashed, and that didn’t give him a chance to avoid the other cars.

Martin Truex Jr. won the Go Bowling 400 on Saturday, May 14, 2017, at Kansas Speedway.

“It didn’t slow down, it didn’t turn, it didn’t do anything,” Almirola told NASCAR.com. “I just slid right into the wreck. There was nothing I could do. It was the most helpless feeling because I saw the wreck. I braced because I knew it was coming and as soon as I made impact with Joey’s car it felt like someone put a knife in my back.

“And when I went up in the air and came back down it felt like someone took that knife and just twisted it in my back. And I got a really bad burning sensation in my back.”

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff

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