NASCAR's Regan Smith replaces injured Almirola in Charlotte


Richard Petty Motorsports has selected Regan Smith to replace injured Aric Almirola in the No. 43 auto for Saturday's All-Star night festivities at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Almirola suffered a compression fracture in his T5 vertebra after ramming into a collision between Joey Logano and Danica Patrick on Saturday at Kansas Speedway.

Smith has one win - the 2011 Southern 500 - in 211 Cup Series starts.

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Three stage winners plus one driver voted by fans will transfer from the Open preliminary event to the All-Star Race Saturday night. The top of Almirola's auto had to be cut away for him to be removed from the vehicle and airlifted to the hospital. He was released from a Kansas City-area hospital Sunday and the team said he probably wouldn't need surgery.

The 33-year-old is no stranger to the Cup Series, and although it's unclear how long Smith might have to fill in for sidelined Almirola - RPM is having a press conference to discuss it Friday - here are three reasons why he could do well this weekend.

Smith, who will drive Almirola's auto in the Open race in the hope of making into the All-Star event, is the 2008 Cup Series Rookie of the Year with 211 starts. His best finish in the $1 million-to-win event came in 2012 with Furniture Row Racing - 12th. It's too early to tell whether Smith would again fill in should Almirola be unfit to race. There are 17 races remaining in the regular season, which will resume May 28 with the Coca-Cola 600.