Ginn Racing outlines plan for the future
Emphasizing an eye on the future along with solidifying the foundation of its NASCAR Nextel Cup program, Ginn Racing announced the following transactions.
* Aric Almirola, the 23-year-old Busch stalwart and a member of the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) program the past four years, has signed with Ginn Racing. He will become Mark Martin’s co-driver in the 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet for the remainder of the 2007 season and will also share the ride with Martin in 2008. His first race in the 01 will be Aug. 12 at the road course in Watkins Glen, N.Y. As part of his contractual obligations, Almirola will compete in five remaining Busch races for JGR this season.
* Regan Smith, 23, who was Martin’s co-driver in the 01, will assume full-time driving duties in the team’s No. 14 Chevrolet, beginning with the Nextel Cup race July 29 in Indianapolis. Smith replaces Sterling Marlin.
* Due to a lack of sponsorship, the No. 13 Ginn Racing team is currently being evaluated. Joe Nemechek, who drove the No. 13, has been released and is free to explore other opportunities.
“We are starting our future now,” said Jay Frye, Ginn Racing’s CEO and general manager. “A lot has been said about our program recently and this shows we’ve been working hard to solidify our future. We are very excited about Aric joining our U.S. Army team to co-drive with Mark. He is a talented young driver as is Regan, who has proved this season that he is ready to take full control of a Nextel Cup ride. These two 23-year-old drivers are the groundwork for future success.”
“We appreciate everything that Joe and Sterling have done for us,” added Frye. “They have been a class act.”
Nemechek joined the team with four races remaining in the 2003 season. He drove the 01 car before taking over the No. 13 ride at the beginning of the 2007 season. While in the 01 car he had one win and three poles.
Marlin, a 30-year veteran in NASCAR, joined Ginn Racing following the 2005 season.
Smith, who has competed in five Cup races this season and was ranked fifth in Busch points before his No. 4 team scaled back after the 16th race, is looking forward to the new challenge.
“I am ready to go and take advantage of another Ginn Racing opportunity,” said Smith. “This is a quality organization with great equipment. I have learned so much this year driving with Mark and you can bet that I will continue to seek his advice. I am also excited about having Aric as a new teammate.”
Almirola, a Tampa, Fla. native of Cuban descent, was one of Joe Gibbs Racing’s first prospects in the company’s diversity program founded by Gibbs and the late Reggie White, an initiative that traces its roots back to 2003.
“I am so excited about this opportunity,” said Almirola, who has three Busch Series poles and a victory, as he co-drove with Denny Hamlin to win the June 23rd race at The Milwaukee Mile. “To share a ride with Mark Martin and have him as a driving coach is awesome. I want to thank everyone at Ginn Racing for believing in me and also to all of the people who have supported me along the way. I just can’t wait to get on with this ride. It’s going to be such an honor to represent the U.S. Army and all of our soldiers. Wearing the Army uniform will mean so much to me.”
“I can’t thank Joe Gibbs Racing enough for what they’ve done for me,” added Almirola. “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. They saw what this opportunity with Ginn Racing meant to me, and they didn’t stand in the way. Joe Gibbs Racing will always have a special place in my heart.”
Almirola, who has competed in 13 Busch races and one Cup event this season, was introduced to racing by his mother’s father – Sam Rodriguez, a Florida native. Almirola’s father, Ralph, came to the United States from Cuba at age four during the Freedom Flights of the mid-1960s.
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.