- Terry Blount, ESPN Staff Writer
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AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Richard Petty Motorsports has signed driver A.J. Allmendinger to a contract that will keep him with the Sprint Cup team through the 2010 season.
"This was an easy decision for us," said Tom Reddin, the team's chief executive officer. "A.J. has done a superb job, both on and off the track in 2009. We want to let everyone know that he's going to be a vital part of Richard Petty Motorsports for what we believe will be a long-term, winning relationship."
Allmendinger has been one of the surprises of the season, ranking 20th in the standings in the No. 44 Dodge, which is a fourth car in the RPM operation.
"I'm thrilled about this," Allmendinger said. "Racers are no different than anyone else. We like to know we have a job. I'm very thankful to be where I am and I expect we will keep running better and better each weekend. I think I have found a long-term home at Richard Petty Motorsports."
Allmendinger, 27, came to RPM, known as Evernham Motorsports before merging with Petty Enterprises, at the end of last season after being released by Red Bull Racing. He started 2009 with a part-time ride in the fourth RPM car because of a lack of sponsorship.
But Allmendinger wowed everyone with a third-place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500. He has two top-10s and four finishes in the top 20 in the first seven events this year.
His success has helped RPM garner additional sponsorship for the No. 44 Dodge through the end of the regular season. The organization hopes to add sponsorship for the final 10 Chase races.
Allmendinger was racing without an actual contract at RPM, getting paid in what he described as "creative financing" based on sponsorship money as it came in.
Other teams had inquired about Allmendinger's availability, so RPM officials wanted to get Allmendinger signed to end the lobbying for his services.
The deal also ends all the speculation about Allmendinger being a candidate for the new American Formula One team, USF1, which is based in Charlotte and begins racing next season.
Allmendinger, a native of Los Gatos, Calif., raced successfully in the Champ Car series before coming to NASCAR two years ago.
Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com.