JGR extends Matt Kenseth

Updated: June 28, 2014, 7:37 PM ET
By Mark Ashenfelter | ESPN.com

SPARTA, Ky. -- Joe Gibbs Racing announced contract extensions with driver Matt Kenseth and sponsor Dollar General on Saturday, but the real work for the team involves returning Kenseth to Victory Lane.

The multiyear agreements, described as for 2015 "and beyond," will see Dollar General backing the team in 30 races next year, up from 27 this season and 17 a year ago. Home Depot, which sponsored the team in the non-Dollar General races the last two years, isn't expected to return as a sponsor next year, but Joe Gibbs says sponsorship is in place for those races.

Efforts are also running at a fevered pitch to get Kenseth a win. His victory in Sparta last June was his fourth of seven in his first year with JGR, but he's yet to win in 2014. Kenseth has five top-5s and 10 top-10 finishes in 16 races and sits fourth in points, but a win would virtually lock him into the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

While teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin have won this year, the team lacks the raw speed it had in 2013.

"We ran pretty good last year," Gibbs said. "We started the offseason and felt like we were working hard. But the year started and I really feel like we're behind. It's been a rapid, hard progress for us to catch up. That's what can happen in sports. We don't like being behind, but it can happen to you.

"We've got a bunch of initiatives right now. We have guys staying up all night doing wind-tunnel stuff. We're going as hard as we can go. The key thing for us is to get a win with Matt, stay up there in the points and then position ourselves for [the Chase]."

JGR is also working to extend its contract with Mars Inc., which sponsors Busch's team via M&M's and other brands. Gibbs said there's nothing to announce yet, but he expects to get the deal done.

Dollar General's increased involvement comes at a time when sponsors are cutting down and doing more 12- to 16-race deals. Company chairman Rick Dreiling said Saturday that Kenseth's success with JGR and his appeal made it easy to expand the company's involvement.

"Bottom line, expanding this partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing and Matt Kenseth is great for our business," Dreiling said, "and more importantly, it's great for our brand."

Both announcements pleased the 2003 champion, who said his relationships with the team and sponsor "has been a great fit for me."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

• Ashenfelter is an Event News Editor at ESPN.
• Worked at NASCAR Scene for eight years.
• Has covered NASCAR since 1999.

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