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Kelly Bires let go from JR Motorsports; Jamie McMurray to take over for 9 races

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By Lee Montgomery

Kelly Bires became the third NASCAR Nationwide Series driver to be fired by JR Motorsports since the team began running full time in 2006 when the team announced Tuesday that Bires has been released "from his contractual driving duties."

Sprint Cup driver Jamie McMurray will be in the No. 88 Chevrolet for nine races, the team said.

Mark McFarland was the original full-time driver of the No. 88, but he was let go two-thirds of the way through the 2006 season. Shane Huffman eventually took over but didn't last a full year, either. Brad Keselowski drove the car for more than two seasons before leaving for Penske Racing's Cup and Nationwide programs.

Bires joined the team late last year and has competed in only six races with JRM, one last year in the No. 5 and five this year in the No. 88. He was originally scheduled to race full time in the No. 88 for 2010 but was bumped for team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Daytona when Danica Patrick decided to race the team’s second car there.

Bires has a best finish of seventh this year and was 17th at Phoenix last weekend.

Co-owner and general manager Kelley Earnhardt indicated the chemistry wasn’t working in the No. 88 team. Tony Eury Sr. is the crew chief for the team.

"We are extremely appreciative of Kelly Bires and wish him the best," Kelley Earnhardt said in a statement. "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."

McMurray will drive the car at Texas this weekend, Talladega on April 24, Richmond on April 30, Darlington on May 7, Dover on May 15 and Charlotte on May 30, Chicagoland on July 9, Atlanta on Sept. 4 and Charlotte on Oct. 15.

The team said no decisions have been made as to the driver of the No. 88 beyond those nine races.