Bruce Martin, Special to Motorsport.com
MOORESVILLE, North Carolina – NASCAR officials have acted swiftly, suspending driver A.J. Allmendinger indefinitely Tuesday night after he had submitted his “B Sample” for testing earlier in the day. Results of that test turned up positive. Allmendinger failed a random drug test issued by NASCAR prior to the Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway on June 30. The results of that test were not known until later in the week and NASCAR announced it had suspended the driver just hours before the start of the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 7.
In a statement issued by NASCAR, “AJ Allmendinger, driver of the No. 22 car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, has been suspended indefinitely from NASCAR for violating the sanctioning body’s substance abuse policy.
“On July 24, Allmendinger was found to have violated Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing) and 19 (NASCAR’s substance abuse policy) of the 2012 NASCAR rule book.
“As outlined in the rule book, NASCAR next will provide Allmendinger a letter outlining a process for reinstatement. By agreeing to the letter, he will be allowed to participate in the Road to Recovery Program.”
Three-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion and 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner Sam Hornish, Jr., who competed in Sprint Cup for Penske Racing from 2008-2010 and is currently a full-time competitor in the Nationwide Series, has taken over Allmendinger’s ride at Daytona and in the July 15 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He will be the driver of the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge at this weekend’s Crown Royal at the Brickyard at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He is already scheduled to compete in the inaugural Nationwide Series Indy 250 next Saturday and will be in the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge for Sunday’s 400-mile Sprint Cup race.
Team owner Roger Penske and Team Penske President Tim Cindric had both said if Allmendinger passes the B Sample test he will immediately be reinstated to the No. 22 Dodge.
“Sam has proven to be a pretty good driver to drop into that car and we are very fortunate to have him,” Denker told Motorsport.com Saturday at the IZOD IndyCar Series Edmonton Indy. “If we have to we can use him in both series because there are only a few schedule conflicts where his Nationwide Series would interfere.”
Denker issued a statement on behalf of Penske Racing Tuesday night after NASCAR announced Allmendinger’s suspension.
“In accordance with NASCAR’s Substance Abuse Policy, Penske Racing was notified today of AJ Allmendinger’s positive B sample test. We respect NASCAR’s policy and the process they have taken with this matter.
“Penske Racing is very disappointed with the result of the B sample test and will evaluate its course of action as it pertains to AJ over the coming week.
“Sam Hornish Jr., will drive the No. 22 Dodge Charger this weekend at Indianapolis and next weekend at Pocono.”
Allmendinger’s future is now in limbo. After he replaced the tempestuous Kurt Busch, who was dismissed from the team last December, Allmendinger had the best Cup ride of his career. Although he had an inconsistent start to the 2012 Sprint Cup season, he was beginning to show the reason why Penske Racing officials chose him over drivers such as David Ragan when he finished ninth in back-to-back races at Sonoma and Kentucky.
Allmendinger’s business manager, Tara Ragan, Vice President, Walldinger Racing, Inc., issued a statement late Tuesday after Aegis Analytical Laboratories in Nashville delivered the results of the “B” sample test for Penske Racing driver AJ Allmendinger, which confirmed the results of the “A” test.
“This was not the news we wanted to hear and we will work to get to the source of what may have caused this,” Ragan’s statement said. “To that end, we have secured the services of an independent lab to conduct thorough testing on every product within AJ’s home and motor coach to find what might collaborate with his test, which created results that were within nanograms of accepted standards. We are working closely with NASCAR and Penske Racing to identify the next action steps in this process. We continue to be extremely grateful by the breadth and scope of support for AJ from his fans and partners. We would like to again thank NASCAR, Penske Racing and all our sponsor partners for the open communication, and for helping us at every step in this process. We expect to have further updates in the upcoming days.”
To complicate the issue is after getting so much negative attention from Busch’s outbursts last season that ultimately cost him his ride, team sponsor Shell has to deal with another public relations nightmare involving Allmendinger’s failed drug test.
Shell/Pennzoil issued a statement late Tuesday night.
“Shell and Pennzoil believe that the process and procedures that NASCAR has in place as part of their substance abuse policy are appropriate and serve to ensure that the sport and its participants are held to the highest standards.
“We share Penske Racing’s disappointment with the result of AJ’s (Allmendinger) B sample test and will work closely with them to determine plans moving forward. We hope for the best for AJ during this difficult time.”