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McMurray In, Bires Out At JRM

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Tuesday, April 13 2010

Jamie McMurray, winner of this year's Daytona 500, has replaced Kelly Bires as the driver of the JR Motorsports' No. 88 Nationwide car. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

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Kelly Bires is out and Jamie McMurray is in as driver of the No. 88 Nationwide car at JR Motorsports the team revealed today.

The move is effective immediately and McMurray will be in the car this coming weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, general manager and co-owner Kelley Earnhardt said.

Also officially announced Tuesday was news that Johnny Sauter will take Mike Bliss’s seat in the No. 35 Tommy Baldwin Racing Sprint Cup car beginning this weekend tat Texas.

Sprint Cup Series regular McMurray, driver of the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/McDonalds Chevrolet for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, has agreed to a deal that puts him in the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevy for nine races. Those races include the six upcoming Nationwide Series events – Texas (April 17), Talladega (April 24), Richmond (April 30), Darlington (May 7), Dover (May 15) and Charlotte (May 30) – plus Chicagoland (July 9), Atlanta (Sept. 4) and the return trip to Charlotte (Oct. 15). Hellmann’s will be the primary sponsor in all but two of those races, and the Suave Men brand will be featured on the No. 88 at Chicagoland Speedway.

A native of Joplin, Mo., McMurray is the reigning Daytona 500 champion. He is a seven-time winner in the Nationwide Series with 27 top-fives, 59 top-10s, and three pole awards. No driver decisions for the No. 88 have been determined beyond McMurray’s nine races.

“We are extremely appreciative of Kelly Bires and wish him the best,” Kelley Earnhardt said. “Internally, it was evident the chemistry that is imperative for us to succeed in this highly competitive industry was simply not there. That is the fault of no one person. We owe it to our fans and sponsors to make necessary adjustments in an effort to put our best product on the track, and we’ll continue evaluating our progress until we are confident that our full potential is being reached.”

Under the direction of crew chief Tony Eury Sr., the No. 88 team has finished third in the Nationwide Series point standings each of the past two seasons, accumulating six total victories. In six races this season, the team has one top-10 finish (seventh at Auto Club Speedway). Bires competed in six races for JRM dating back to last November at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He raced the No. 88 in five of the six Nationwide Series events this year, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. driving the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

The alteration to the No. 88 team does not change plans for the No. 7 team, which presently is to run the full Nationwide Series schedule with multiple drivers. Landon Cassill began a part-time stint last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, becoming the third driver this season to get behind the wheel of the No. 7 Chevrolets prepared by crew chief and co-owner Tony Eury Jr. He will race the car this weekend at Texas. Danica Patrick has 10 of her scheduled 13 races remaining on the 2010 slate. Scott Wimmer recently completed a two-race commitment and posted season-best finishes of 10th at Bristol Motor Speedway and seventh at Nashville Superspeedway. Driving vacancies left on the No. 7 schedule are still to be determined.

Tommy Baldwin Racing has tapped veteran Sauter to drive the No. 36 Wave Energy Drink Chevrolet for this weekend’s Samsung 500. The race will mark Sauter’s first time behind the wheel of the No. 36, which was driven by Mike Bliss for the season’s first seven NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.

Sauter has driven the No. 35 TBR Chevy in three races in 2010, including last week at Phoenix International Raceway, where he finished 41st after qualifying in the 37th position. Sauter will also take control of the No. 36 for next week’s race at Talladega Superspeedway.

“I’m excited about having Johnny in the No. 36 for the next couple of races and look forward to seeing what he can do,” said team owner Tommy Baldwin. “He has been strong at Texas, especially in the Truck series, and I’m confident he can give us a solid performance in the Sprint Cup car. We will have him for a couple of races here before he will need to focus on his Truck Series team, and we hope to have a full-time driver for the No. 36 named here in the near future,” he added.

Sauter, a 31-year old native of Necedah, Wisconsin, has over 300 starts across the top three NASCAR Series with a career record of four wins and 68 top-ten finishes. In 2009, Sauter finished sixth in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and recorded one win, seven top-5s and 13 top-ten finishes on the season.

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Tuesday, April 13 2010
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