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Abundance of sponsors led to JTG Daugherty Racing expanding to two teams

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The need for JTG Daugherty Racing to expand its NASCAR Cup Series program to two teams came from having too much of a good thing.

“In general, we had too many sponsors,” A.J. Allmendinger said last week at the NASCAR Media Tour.

Allmendinger has driven for JTG Daugherty since 2013 and his No. 47 Chevrolet has been easily recognizable with the many company logos covering its red, white and blue surface. That will change this season as Kroger becomes the lone primary sponsor for Allmendinger.

“It was the right time to go to a second car,” Allmendinger said. “It shows the effort they put into their race team. There aren’t a lot of teams out there saying they have to expand because there are too many sponsors in the organization.”

The decision to expand came late last year as Allmendinger wrapped up a season where he finished 19th in the standings.

“It was a late start, for sure,” Allmendinger said. “Just the transformation I’ve seen from late November to now in the shop and all the growth … we’ve added over 30 people.”

Those added employees will help field the No. 37 car driven by Chris Buescher.

Buescher, who is still under contract with Roush Fenway Racing, enters his second full Cup Series season. The 2015 Xfinity Series champion spent 2016 on loan to Front Row Motorsports. While there, Buescher won his first Cup race, the fog-shortened race at Pocono Raceway.

MORE: Allmendinger had a lot of fun with Charlotte road-course test

Buescher will be the first teammate Allmendinger has had since 2012 when he drove the No. 22 for Team Penske. How has the 35-year-old driver from California grown in a way that will benefit his relationship with Buescher?

“If you ask my team owner (Tad Geschickter), I haven’t matured yet,” Allmendinger joked. “Obviously with the talent (Buescher) has, winning the Xfinity Championship and getting his first career win last year, there’s a lot I can learn from him.”

While Allmendinger praised the benefits provided by the technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing, he said nothing beats having a second driver in your team’s stable.

“When you have a second car inside your organization that is running the exact same stuff, I can bounce ideas off Chris and vice versa,” Allmendinger said. “It will make us better in the long run.”

Buescher, a native of Prosper, Texas, said he knew Allmendinger “a little bit more” than the other drivers in the Cup Series.

“There are a lot of good things that I think are going to work to help us work together,” Buescher said. “For our team going from one team to two, I think it’s going to be beneficial. The alliance with RCR is already like having a bunch of teammates. It’s just a little bit different when it’s all under the same roof 24-7 and everything is openly talked about all the time.”

Buescher enters the season after making the playoffs in his rookie season. His new team is still getting its operation into place and is doing so with some familiar faces to Buescher.

“The people we have hired on at JTG we are just going over the basics of getting seats mounted, everything set inside the car to where we’re comfortable and are able to go to the racetrack as safe as possible,” he said. “A handful of them I know from Roush and a lot of new guys coming over from other race teams that I’m just getting to know.”

The team’s new dynamic will get its first test in the Feb. 26 Daytona 500.

Ryan Preece is fastest in final Xfinity practice Friday at Kentucky

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Ryan Preece soared to the top of the speed chart in the final Xfinity practice Friday night at Kentucky Speedway.

Preece covered the 1.5-mile oval with a top speed of 181.629 mph. He hit that speed on his first of 38 laps run during the session.

Justin Allgaier was second (180.777 mph), followed by Spencer Gallagher Jr. (180.114), Tyler Reddick (179.832) and Daniel Hemric (179.712).

Sixth through 10th: Matt Tifft (179.665), who was fastest in the first practice session earlier in the afternoon, William Byron (179.605), Brennan Poole (179.581), Sam Hornish Jr. (179.521) and Brandon Jones (179.521).

Five of the 12 Xfinity playoff contenders ended up in the top 10: Allgaier, Hemric, Tifft, Byron and Poole.

Others playoff contenders on the speed chart were Elliott Sadler (12th, 179.194), Ryan Reed (16th, 178.944), Cole Custer (17th, 178.838), Brendan Gaughan (19th, 178.453), Blake Koch (20th, 178.159), Michael Annett (21st, 178.124) and Jeremy Clements (25th, 176. 286).

Qualifying for Saturday night’s VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 takes place at 5:30 p.m. ET, with the race set to take the green flag at 8 p.m. ET.

Click here for the full speed chart from the final Xfinity practice.

Starting lineup for Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 NASCAR Cup race at Loudon

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Up until this season, Kyle Busch wasn’t necessarily looked upon as a prolific qualifier.

He earned a career-best three poles in 2013 and 2014.

But that’s nothing compared to 2017, as Busch earned a career-best eighth pole Friday for Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

It’s also his second consecutive pole, having won the pole for last weekend’s playoff-opening race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Kyle Larson was next and will join Busch on the front row Sunday.

As for the other 14 NASCAR Cup playoff contenders: Denny Hamlin (134.763) was third, followed by Ryan Blaney (134.720), Chicagoland winner Martin Truex Jr. (134.188), Kevin Harvick (134.108), Kurt Busch (133.985), Kasey Kahne (133.966), Matt Kenseth (133.589), Jamie McMurray (133.680) and Jimmie Johnson (131.989).

Of the top 12 qualifiers, 11 are playoff drivers. The only non-playoff driver was Erik Jones (eighth, 133.971).

As for the other five playoff contenders, Brad Keselowski was 13th (133.422), Chase Elliott (133.357) was 14th, Austin Dillon was 17th (133.133), Ryan Newman was 18th (133.007) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. qualified 24th (131.628).

Click here for the starting lineup.

 

Kyle Busch gets past Kyle Larson to take Cup pole at Loudon

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In a battle between Kyle and Kyle, it was Kyle Busch who emerged with the pole for Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 Friday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The younger Busch brother was the only driver over 135 mph, taking his 27th career Cup pole with a speed of 135.049 mph.

“Just went out there and gave it what she had,” Busch told NBCSN. “It certainly would be great to finish this out in victory lane on Sunday.

“We knew we were going to have a shot for the pole, just didn’t know if we were going to get it. For as ugly as that session looked or felt from my vantage point, it certainly worked out.”

Busch has now won the pole for the first two playoff races, having won the pole last week at Chicagoland.

What’s more, this is the most prolific season of qualifying for Busch in his career: this is his eighth pole in 2017, most of all drivers in the Cup series and his most in a single season. His previous mark for most poles in a single season was three in both 2013 and 2014.

As for the other Kyle, Kyle Larson, he qualified on the outside of the front row with an effort of 134.911 mph.

“I feel overall that my lap was pretty good,” said Larson, who finished second in the July race at New Hampshire. “The 18 has been real fast, especially in qualifying all year. For us to be second to him is not bad.”

Denny Hamlin (134.763) was third, followed by Ryan Blaney (134.720), Martin Truex Jr. (134.188), Kevin Harvick (134.108), Kurt Busch (133.985), Erik Jones (133.971), Kasey Kahne (133.966), Matt Kenseth (133.589), Jamie McMurray (133.680) and Jimmie Johnson (131.989).

Of the top 12, 11 are in the NASCAR Cup playoffs. The only non-playoff driver was Jones.

As for the other five playoff contenders, Brad Keselowski was 13th (133.422), Chase Elliott (133.357) was 14th, Austin Dillon was 17th (133.133), Ryan Newman was 18th (133.007) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. qualified 24th (131.628).

Elliott and Johnson both wrecked their primary cars in the Cup practice session earlier in the day.

While Johnson was able to get back on-track for that practice session with his back-up car, Elliott qualified cold with his back-up, unable to get back on-track during the morning practice.

Joey Logano did not take a qualifying lap after failing pre-qualifying inspection four times. Logano will start last (40th position) in Sunday’s race at NHMS, which he considers his “home track.”

Click here for the full qualifying grid.

Matt Tifft fastest in first of 2 Xfinity practices at Kentucky Speedway

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Matt Tifft ran 25 laps during Friday afternoon’s first of two NASCAR Xfinity Series practice sessions at Kentucky Speedway.

But it was just one lap that mattered the most, as Tifft (180.427 mph) emerged from the 55-minute practice as the fastest in the 36 cars that took to the track.

Brian Scott was second (179.253 mph), followed by Ryan Preece (178.465), Brandon Jones (178.288), Justin Allgaier (178.271), Ben Kennedy (178.136), Elliott Sadler (177.573), Tyler Reddick (177.544), Spencer Gallagher Jr. (177.503) and Brennan Poole (177.381).

Interestingly enough, only four of the top-10 were playoff contenders. The seven-race Xfinity playoffs begin with Saturday night’s VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300.

There will be one more practice session today from 6:30-7:25 p.m. ET.

Qualifying and the race are Saturday.

Click here for the full practice speed grid.