By Joe Dunn
(Bristol, TN) Kelly Earnhardt took advantage of the new media center at Bristol Motor Speedway to officially announce the signing of Aric Almirola as the full time driver of the JRM #88 car in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
The announcement was not a surprise as the story became public earlier in the week, but this was an opportunity to address the media as a whole. Almirola who has spent time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driving part time with DEI, but later found himself without a ride. This season Almirola connected with Billy Ballew Racing, to replace Kyle Busch in the #51 truck in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Currently sitting comfortably in second place in the standings behind points leader Todd Bodine, Almirola emphasized that his primary focus remains on the #51 truck for 2010.
Speaking about this new contract, Almirola was very positive about moving up to the Nationwide Series and more importantly moving up with a team that has a proven track record and the equipment and personnel to be a legitimate championship contender. Almirola talked about his return to the NCWTS this year and the positive effect it has had on his attitude, and acting as a fresh ‘restart’ on his racing career. He attributes his success with Billy Ballew this year as a catalyst to open the door for more opportunities, with the #88 NNS being the best and easiest choice for him.
Kelly Earnhardt addressed the sponsor situation for 2011 by stating that they had some contracts in place and other’s that were very close to signing. She was clearly optimistic that JRM would have both the #88 and the #7 cars fully sponsored for 2011. On the #7 car, Earnhardt stated that Danica Patrick’s time so far in the car has not been very good, however, they are still committed to bring her back for 2011. No race schedule for Patrick is available yet, as they must wait for the IndyCar schedule to be released to work around. She anticipates that Patrick will be in the car for more races in 2011 than in 2010, and that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be in the car for 4-6 races in 2011.
Regarding the third driver in the #7 car for 2011, Earnhardt spoke positively about the success that Josh Wise has been having in the car, “ He has run seven races for us so far and has not put a single scratch on the car, while keeping it in the top 20 in points.” With that statement made, Kelly still fell short of committing to Wise being the third of record for the #7 car in 2011.