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Aric Almirola released from hospital with fractured vertebra

Aric Almirola has been released from the hospital after suffering a compression fracture in his back in a violent crash Saturday at Kansas Speedway.

The Richard Petty Motorsports driver, conscious and alert after the crash while being put on a backboard after the roof was cut out of his car, was airlifted Saturday night to the University of Kansas Medical Center.

In a statement Sunday morning, the team said Almirola suffered a compression fracture to his T5 vertebra. He will fly to his home in North Carolina on Sunday and his driving status has yet to be determined.

"Almirola is mobile and will follow-up with his doctors in Charlotte," the statement said.

ESPN racing commentator and emergency room physician Dr. Jerry Punch said that a compression fracture to a thoracic vertebra is different than the lower back injuries suffered to NASCAR drivers in recent years. Denny Hamlin missed four races in 2013 after suffering a compression fracture in his lower back (L1 vertebra) and Tony Stewart needed nearly three months to recover from an L1 burst fracture last year.

The accident occurred on Lap 200 when something broke in the right front of the Joey Logano car, turning him left into Danica Patrick. Patrick took a wicked hit into the wall and Almirola slid into the front of Logano's car at high speed, picking his car off the ground.

"That's the last thing you want to see, a big hit like that for anyone," Logano said. "It's unfortunate for everyone. ... Everything was fine and then [my car] just took a hard right."

Almirola is 23rd in the NASCAR Cup standings, 62 points outside the current cutoff for the 16-driver NASCAR playoffs with 17 races left in the regular season. If he misses any points events -- the exhibition NASCAR all-star race is Saturday with the regular season resuming May 28 with the Coca-Cola 600 -- he would need a waiver from NASCAR (along with a win and a spot among the top 30 in the standings) to remain eligible for the playoffs. NASCAR typically grants waivers in those circumstances.

The 33-year-old driver from Tampa, Florida, in his sixth full season in the series driving for Richard Petty Motorsports, has one career win and 10 top-5s in 226 career starts. He has had a pair of fourth-place finishes at Daytona and Talladega this year, and he won an Xfinity Series race May 6 at Talladega.

Before joining RPM, Almirola competed in 35 races for five different teams. He then competed in the Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports in 2011, finishing fourth in the standings and landing the ride at RPM.