The pressure hasn't lifted completely from AJ Allmendinger's shoulders - he still must qualify on speed for the first five events of the Sprint Cup season - but after a third-place finish in last Sunday's Daytona 500, you can sense the relief in his voice.

Allmendinger is set to drive the first eight races of the season in the #44 Richard Petty Motorsports Dodge. Beyond that, he will compete in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in July. The key element to expanding Allmendinger's schedule is finding additional sponsorship for his car and the finish at Daytona certainly helped, but Allmendinger hopes to build on that success.

"I think we showed, as an organisation, that we'd be a great team to have a sponsor come on board and help us out," Allmendinger said Friday at Auto Club Speedway, "As of right now, we still only have the eight races, plus the Daytona race, so basically we have the nine races.

"The deals are out there, and I think that there's pressure every week. You've got to go out there and show that it's not a one-week fluke and go out and perform. I told them I'd do anything. I'd even cook them dinner. Well, maybe my wife would... I can't cook."

by Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service