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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.

Erik Jones fastest in 1st of 2 Cup practices at Fontana; Harvick, Ragan hit wall

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NASCAR Cup rookie Erik Jones was fastest in the first of two practice sessions Saturday at Auto Club Speedway in preparation for Sunday’s Auto Club 400.

Jones drove his No. 77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota to the top of the speed charts at the Fontana, California track with a best lap of 187.251, the only driver to exceed 187 mph.

Jones was followed by Chase Elliott (186.843), Ryan Newman (186.732), Jimmie Johnson (186.384) and Brad Keselowski (186.292).

There were two incidents of note during the session:

* With just over nine minutes remaining in the practice session, Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet hit hard into the outside retaining wall, sustaining damage on the right side.

However, the team chose to repair the damage rather than go to a backup car.

Prior to the incident, Harvick’s car was sixth-fastest (186.128 mph).

* In the final two minutes, David Ragan spun and impacted the Turn 3 wall. It appeared something came loose from under Ragan’s car before impact.

Given the amount of damage, Ragan will likely have to go to a backup car.

Click here for how Saturday’s first of two practice sessions played out:

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Danica Patrick: ‘NASCAR makes a really big mistake of fining for some stuff’

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Danica Patrick wants her money back. Or she at least wants to know what it bought.

Fined $70,000 over the past 17 months for intentionally wrecking a rival driver under caution and tossing and walking onto the track to gesture at another, Patrick was asked Friday at Auto Club Speedway how she felt about Austin Dillon avoiding a fine for crashing Cole Custer under caution at Phoenix.

Give me my money back,” the Stewart-Haas Racing driver said. “I think NASCAR makes a really big mistake of fining for some stuff, especially something that happens in the car because it makes for good TV, just like fights and all that stuff.  We can handle it.

“I think it’s a mistake.  I might be speaking too much, but I’ve been fined a few times, and I think that it makes for good TV, and I think that we handle it out on the track ourselves.”

NASCAR has said it funnels the fine payments to the NASCAR Foundation, which supports several charitable organizations.

Patrick would prefer NASCAR avoid fining everyone but is curious about how the money gets earmarked.

“I would actually rather know what it did,” she said. “I would actually love to see like the playground that got built for it, or homeless people that got food.  I would like to see actually what the money does for fines because it’s supposed to go to charity, right?  So what does it really do?  I would like to see that.”

Today’s Xfinity race at Auto Club Speedway: Start time, weather, TV/radio info

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After four races, Xfinity Series regulars have won twice (Ryan Reed at Daytona and Justin Allgaier at Phoenix) and Cup drivers have won twice (Kyle Busch at Atlanta and Joey Logano at Las Vegas). The Xfinity Series regulars will look to take the lead in that category at Auto Club Speedway.

Here are the particulars for today’s race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: Stu Crum, COO of Service King, will give the command for drivers to start engines at 4:07 p.m. ET. The green flag is scheduled for 4:16 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 150 laps (300 miles) around the 2-mile oval.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: The Xfinity garage opens at 10 a.m. The drivers meeting is at 2:15 p.m. Driver introductions are at 3:35 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Karen Waldrup will perform the Anthem at 4:01 p.m.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Its coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network will broadcast the race on radio and at mrn.com. MRN’s coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts 63 degrees at race time with a 7 percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST YEAR: Austin Dillon took the lead on a wild final lap and went on to win. Kyle Busch led and cut a tire. Daniel Suarez took the lead but ran out of fuel. Busch managed to retake the lead. Dillon got by Busch for the lead in Turn 4 after hitting the wall. Busch finished second and Darrell Wallace Jr. was third.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying at 12:30 p.m.

NASCAR’s Saturday schedule at Auto Club Speedway

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The Xfinity Series ends its part of the “West Coast swing” today with the Service King 300.

But the day is filled with Cup Series practice and Xfinity qualifying prior to the race.

Here is the full schedule for the day with TV and radio info.

All times are Eastern.

Saturday, March 25

10 a.m. – Xfinity garage opens

10 a.m. – 6 p.m. – Cup garage open

11:30 a.m. – 12:25 p.m. – Cup practice (FS1, MRN)

12:30 p.m. – Xfinity qualifying; single vehicle/two rounds (FS1)

2:15 p.m. – Xfinity driver-crew chief meeting

2:30 – 3:20 p.m. – Final Cup practice (FS1, MRN)

3:30 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

4 p.m. – Service King 300 Xfinity race; 150 laps/300 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)