MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Aric Almirola plans to return to action this weekend after missing two months of the NASCAR season with a fractured vertebra.

Richard Petty Motorsports announced Wednesday that Almirola would be back in the No. 43 car this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Almirola suffered an acute compression fracture to his T5 vertebra – just above the middle of his back – during a fiery multi-car wreck May 13 at Kansas Speedway.

The final step of his comeback involved a test Tuesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Almirola said in a statement that “when something gets taken away from you at a moment’s notice like that, it has certainly made me appreciate my passion for racing and my desire to compete at this level.”

Kyle Larson has lost his Cup series lead and his crew chief has been suspended after failing a postrace inspection at Kentucky.

Larson’s team was penalized 35 points, erasing what had been a one-point advantage over Martin Truex Jr. in the driver standings. Larson is still 66 points ahead of third-place Kyle Busch.

Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet was penalized for a rear brake cooling assembly that did not meet standards. Crew chief Chad Johnston was suspended three races and fined $75,000. He will miss Cup races starting this weekend at New Hampshire.

NASCAR has also fined Busch’s crew chief Adam Stevens $10,000 for an unsecured lug nut found in postrace inspection.

KENSETH OUT: Joe Gibbs Racing is replacing NASCAR’s oldest full-time driver with one of the youngest as the series undergoes a changing of the guard.

Erik Jones will drive the No. 20 Toyota for Gibbs next season. That has been Matt Kenseth’s seat since 2013, and he has won a lot of races for the organization.

But Kenseth is 45, and Jones is 21. Plus, Jones is on a one-year loaner contract to Gibbs’ sister team Furniture Row Racing, and Gibbs had to put Jones somewhere in 2018.

“This is a really exciting time in my career for me to make the move back to Joe Gibbs Racing full time in the Cup Series,” Jones said.

Kenseth, in a contract year, gets the boot. This is not a surprise in NASCAR, which has seen a quick shift in the last year toward the 20-something phenom at the expense of the middle-aged journeyman.