Almirola's removal from Gibbs car explained as business decision
SONOMA, Calif. -- The decision to take Aric Almirola out of the Joe Gibbs Racing Busch Series car on Saturday night at Milwaukee was purely a business decision.
Almirola was pulled while running third on lap 59 of the 250-lap race. He was replaced by Denny Hamlin, who was supposed to drive the car all along but ran into delays traveling from the Nextel Cup practice in Sonoma, Calif., that forced him to miss the start.
JGR president J.D. Gibbs said it then became a group decision to put Hamlin into the car.
"What I said to those guys as a group was, 'If you think Denny can get in the car and win the race let's go, let's do that. If you don't think he can do that, let Aric run it out,'" Gibbs said before Sunday's Cup race.
Hamlin, after falling a lap down, won the race that officially will go in the record books as a victory for Almirola.
Almirola wasn't around to enjoy it, having left the track without talking to reporters.
"He's upset,'' Gibbs said. "I left a message for him last night. I know he's upset. Hey, I understand that. I would be too if I were in his shoes."
Gibbs said long term the decision may benefit Almirola. He's hoping to put the young driver into a full-time Busch program next season with Rockwell as the primary sponsor.
Rockwell signed on with JGR this year hoping to get a full season out of Hamlin, but settled for a split schedule that included Almirola.
"What's really hard to sell in the Busch Series is a full sponsor for a young guy," Gibbs said. "If you can do that, that's an awesome deal. Rockwell is one of the companies that can do that.''
Gibbs said Almirola will receive his full share of winnings and possibly pick up one of Hamlin's Busch races later in the year.
"No one wants to see Aric Almirola succeed more than we do,'' Gibbs said. "We started four years ago with Reggie White, that whole program. We handpicked him. We invested in him, invested in his future."
David Newton covers motorsports for ESPN.com.
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