BUSCH: JGR grants Almirola his release

JOE GIBBS RACING GRANTS ARIC ALMIROLA RELEASE Development Driver to Split Remainder of 2007 Season Between JGR and Ginn Racing, Will Drive Full-Time for Ginn in 2008 HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (July 18, 2007) -- Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) has granted...

Development Driver to Split Remainder of 2007 Season Between JGR and Ginn Racing, Will Drive Full-Time for Ginn in 2008

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (July 18, 2007) -- Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) has granted Aric Almirola his release, allowing the 23-year-old development driver to compete for Ginn Racing in select NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series races this year. Almirola will still compete for JGR in the five remaining Busch Series races that were a part of his original 2007 racing schedule. In 2008, Almirola's entire racing slate will come via Ginn Racing.

"This is a bittersweet moment for us," said J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing. "Aric is a tremendous talent, and he had the opportunity to do more races in a shorter period of time than we could provide to him. Jay Frye (Ginn Racing CEO and general manager) and everyone at Ginn Racing were extremely professional in the way they expressed their desire to put Aric in their race cars. The fact that Aric will be mentored by Mark Martin made our decision much easier."

Almirola, a Tampa, Fla.-native of Cuban descent, came to JGR via the diversity program founded by JGR owner Joe Gibbs and the late Reggie White. It's an initiative that traces its roots back to May 2003.

In partnership with White, a Hall of Fame defensive end who played in the National Football League, JGR formed the diversity program to create a grassroots stock car team that would identify and assist minorities with the desire and talent to make a career in motorsports. And in January 2004, the diversity program became reality, thanks in large part to the support of JGR's sponsors.

Almirola was one of JGR's first prospects.

"What Aric's been able to do is a testament to all the work Reggie and everyone at JGR did to build our diversity program," J.D. said. "He's come up through late models, moved to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, the Busch Series and Nextel Cup. Now he has the opportunity to race every weekend, with the majority of those races being in Nextel Cup. That makes everyone at JGR extremely proud. We will always consider Aric to be a part of the JGR family, and we wish him the best in his new opportunity with Ginn Racing."

Almirola began his JGR career driving a late model in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series at the .4-mile Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, N.C., in 2004. After scoring two wins, six top-fives and 15 top-10s, Almirola traversed the Southeast competing in regional late model races. By the end of 2005, Almirola was running a limited schedule in the Craftsman Truck Series, which led to a full-time Truck Series ride and a nine-race Busch Series schedule in 2006.

Three years after racing late model stock cars, Almirola had a slate of 18 Busch Series races and a handful of Nextel Cup races on tap for 2007.

"I can't thank Joe Gibbs Racing enough for what they've done for me," said Almirola, who has three Busch Series poles and a win with JGR, as he co-drove with Denny Hamlin to win the June 23 race at The Milwaukee Mile. "They allowed me to get to this position by giving me a chance at a time when I had a lot of desire but little money. The equipment they gave me and the people they surrounded me with made me a better race car driver and a better person.

"Their support continues to this day. They saw what this opportunity with Ginn Racing meant to me, and they didn't stand in the way. It's a great organization filled with great people, and it's why they've been so successful. Joe Gibbs Racing will always have a special place in my heart."

Almirola began racing go-karts when he was eight. After winning many races and local titles in and around his home state of Florida, he took his talent to the national karting scene in 1998. He quickly made his presence known, qualifying on the pole for the World Karting Association Grand Nationals at Daytona Beach (Fla.) Municipal Stadium before finishing fourth in the season-ending point standings.

At 16, Almirola graduated to open-wheel modifieds -- 2,750-pound race cars that put out over 700 horsepower. In 2000 he won the rookie of the year title in two separate modified divisions -- Florida Modified and SARA (Southern Automobile Racing Association) Modified, while garnering his first career win in the Joslin Memorial 100 at Orlando (Fla.) Speedworld, beating the top drivers in Florida.

In March 2002, Almirola advanced from open-wheel modifieds to the Sunbelt Super Late Model Division, where he finished runner-up in the rookie of year standings. Almirola continued in that division in 2003, winning three poles at USA Speedway in Lakeland, Fla., two poles at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway and one pole at Bronson (Fla.) Speedway.

-credit: -JGR-

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Drivers Denny Hamlin , Aric Almirola , Mark Martin
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing