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KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — In a cutthroat sport where sponsors come and go, and somebody is always trying to take your ride, A.J. Allmendinger has found a long-term home with JTG Daugherty Racing.
The driver signed a five-year contract extension to remain with the single-car team in NASCAR's Sprint Cup series. The deal through the 2020 season comes just over a week after Kroger announced it would increase its primary sponsorship for the No. 47 car.
"The sport isn't easy. It's so competitive. It's so hard to find sponsors, keep sponsors," Allmendinger said before Saturday night's race at Kansas Speedway. "This is a home, and I know it's the right place for me."
Allmendinger moved quickly through the open-wheel ranks early in his career, transitioning to NASCAR with Red Bull Racing for the 2007 season. He spent time with a pair of larger teams, Richard Petty Motorsports and Penske Racing, before joining JTG Daugherty a couple years ago.
In his first full season with the team last year, Allmendinger drove to victory at Watkins Glenn, not only giving JTG Daughtery its first victory but also earning a spot in the Chase.
"A.J. has done a tremendous job for our team and for our sponsors," team co-owner Tad Geschickter said. "More importantly, he is family. We have all decided that he is our guy and that we are going to work to build this racing organization to deliver results."
Despite modest resources, the team has been successful in unearthing sponsors. Kroger has been with the organization at the Daytona 500 for the past six years, and recently increased its support to 18 events this year. Kingsford/Clorox make up the bulk of the other races.
"Inside the race car it's great to have a job and be here for a long time, but outside the car, it's a family," Allmendinger said, "people I consider my best friends."
Of course, that friendship comes at a price.
"In the contract it was written I have to call Tad, 'The Man,' and I have to give him unlimited mulligans in golf," Allmendinger said. "The unlimited mulligans isn't a big deal. I can still beat him pretty consistently. But calling him 'The Man' is getting old."
Allmendinger, who has two top-10 finishes this season, said that he is often asked about someday returning to a multicar team. The argument is that Penske, Hendrick Motorsports and other teams have more resources, giving their drivers a better shot at a championship.
That never factored into Allmendinger's decision to sign his contract extension.
"When people said, 'Hopefully you get back to a big team and show the things you're capable of doing' it made me mad," Allmendinger said. "Iwant this to be the team. I don't want this to be a steppingstone to a big team. There's benefits of being on a big team like Penske, but there's benefits to being on a small team and building this thing up, too."