- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 18, 2010

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - JR Motorsports signed Aric Almirola on Wednesday to drive its flagship No. 88 Chevrolet in the Nationwide Series starting next season.

The team said Almirola could get some starts in the car before the end of this season.

“If there is a quintessential JR Motorsports driver, we feel it’s Aric Almirola,” said team co-owner Kelley Earnhardt. “The way he drives, the ambition he carries, the way he represents himself on and off the track, it all fits within our company’s dynamics, our core objectives, and the values of our sponsorship partners.”

Almirola has raced sporadically in NASCAR’s top three series the past several seasons.

He had a full-time Nationwide ride with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2007, and is credited with a victory that season at the Milwaukee Mile, when Denny Hamlin arrived late and replaced Almirola in the car midway through the race.

Almirola landed a Sprint Cup deal the next season with Dale Earnhardt Inc, splitting seat time with Mark Martin. He lost the ride when the team folded due to lack of sponsorship in 2008.

This season, Almirola has been the standby driver in the Sprint Cup Series for both Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon while their wives were awaiting the births of their babies. He’s also been driving for Billy Ballew Motorsports in the Truck Series, and has two wins in 15 starts.

He is currently second in the championship point standings.

JR Motorsports has used several different drivers in the No. 88 this season since firing Kelly Bires in the spring. Danica Patrick drives the team’s second car on a limited basis.

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