Smith replaces Marlin at Ginn; Nemechek released

Updated: July 17, 2007, 11:57 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- Ginn Racing replaced Sterling Marlin in its No. 14 Chevrolet with 23-year-old rookie Regan Smith on Tuesday, and released veteran Joe Nemechek.

Jay Frye, Ginn Racing's CEO and general manager, also said that Aric Almirola, another 23-year-old, signed with Ginn Racing from Joe Gibbs Racing and will become Mark Martin's co-driver in the No. 01 Chevrolet for the remainder of this season. Almirola will also share the ride with the veteran racer in 2008.

"A lot has been said about our program recently and this shows we've been working hard to solidify our future," Frye said. "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."

Beginning with the July 29 race at Indianapolis, Smith will replace two-time Daytona 500 winner Marlin, who turned 50 on June 30. He was 29th in the season points with no finish better than 13th.

Frye said a lack of sponsorship forced to the team release Nemechek and evaluate the future of the No. 13 car. The 43-year-old Nemechek had one top-10 finish this season -- ninth in the season-opening Daytona 500 -- and was 33rd in the standings.

Marlin, a 30-year veteran in NASCAR, joined Ginn Racing following the 2005 season. Nemechek joined the team, then called MB2 Motorsports, with four races remaining in the 2003 season. He drove the No. 01 car before taking over the No. 13 ride at the beginning of this season. While in the 01 car, he had one win and three poles.

Smith, who has competed in five Nextel Cup races this season while sharing the ride with Martin, was ranked fifth in Busch points before his No. 4 team scaled back after the 16th race.

"I am ready to go and take advantage of another Ginn Racing opportunity," Smith said. "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.

He will make his Ginn Racing debut Aug. 12 on the road course in Watkins Glen, N.Y. As part of his contractual obligations, Almirola will also compete in five more Busch races for JGR this season.

"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 Milwaukee Mile. "To share a ride with Mark Martin and have him as a driving coach is awesome.

"I can't thank Joe Gibbs Racing enough for what they've done for me. 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."

Team owner Bobby Ginn also is negotiating with Dale Earnhardt Inc. about some type of merger between the two teams, but nothing has been finalized. DEI tried to purchase the team last season, when it was MB2 Motorsports, before Ginn bought the operation.

Information from ESPN.com motorsports writer Terry Blount and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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