Rehabilitated Allmendinger gets second chance

Some may question Roger Penske and Tim Cendric on giving AJ Allmendinger a chance to prove he is ready to return to the team while others may praise their decision of putting him into an IndyCar.

It is a seventeen page document outlining the procedures for determining if a competitor is in violation of the rules of competition regarding substance use and abuse. It dictates who collects the sample, which is sent to a lab for testing any illegal drug or substance, prescription medication or nutritional supplement the athlete may have consumed or is consuming prior to or during competition.

And it leaves one person, the program administrator Dr. David L. Black, the discretion to outline in consultation with IndyCar the means by which a driver may return to the sport of open-wheel racing in America.

It is the 2013 IndyCar Substance Abuse policy and signing it is a mandatory pre-requisite to obtaining a license to drive, even participate as an official, in the series.

A.J. Allmendinger, Penske Racing
A.J. Allmendinger, Penske Racing

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

This is how Roger Penske and Tim Cendric of Team Penske plan to assure themselves and their rivals that Allmendinger isn't back on the same slippery slope that forced him out of the No. 22 Penske Racing Cup car in July of 2012.

This is how A.J. Allmendinger is going to make a return to the racing roots that led him into motorsport in the first place.

Today's announcement at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that Allmendinger will compete in two IndyCar races this spring—the first at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama on April 7 th and the other at the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day—puts the weight of the No. 2 car and its crew solidly on the back of its driver.

Some might question AJ's suitability after his drug suspension to carry on at the buttoned-down corporate monolith that is Team Penske, but the people who count there have never wavered in their support of the 31-year old driver.

Penske supported Allmendinger throughout his rehabilitation and vowed to help the driver resurrect his career.

Team manager Cendric proclaimed no alarm at the prospect of directing his new driver in the least.

"We are in the racing business," he said, "and AJ has gone through the process required for him. As far as we are concerned the slate is wiped clean."

Among the reasons Allmendinger cited for his previous drug use was "stress". He described the disappointing results he produced for Penske Racing in NASCAR's Cup series as distressing and the cause of sleepless nights that robbed him of the energy to compete and be effective behind the wheel.

According to Allmendinger, he sampled a friend's Adderall (a prescription stimulant used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder) to get a boost of energy. It was a one-time reaction to a period of unsettling results on-track, insomnia and fatigue.

To his credit, Allmendinger entered NASCAR's Road to Recovery substance abuse treatment program and was reinstated to drive in that series in September of last year. He went on to compete for Phoenix Racing as a sub for Regan Smith when the latter moved into Dale Earnhardt Jr's seat following his injury at Talladega.

The stock car program is not a rigid prescriptive 12-step routine. The circumstances of the rules violation are taken into consideration, as well as the physical and mental condition of the violator. A tailored program is created for the individual with the aid of a specialty counselor in addiction treatment.

Unlike the NASCAR program, drug and alcohol rehabilitation in IndyCar is not administered by the series. Rather the violator must pay for his own private treatment program and be reinstated at his own expense, including the expense of testing and medical review of the test results.

Both series' rules also provide for both periodic and random testing for further substance abuse, as well as reason-to-suspect testing geared to finding individual violators.

IndyCar rules require that a driver be tested prior to taking part in racing so presumably Allmendinger has undergone that testing already in the run-up to his so far uneventful participation in practice sessions earlier this year at Sebring.

There's no doubt of Allmendinger's ability in the open-wheel cockpit. He was a five-time winner in Champ Car prior to going to stock cars, and visited the podium no less than fourteen times before departing the series in October, 2006.

If he can keep a lid on his emotions this time, and avoid an embarrassing relapse borrowing controlled substance medication from acquaintances, Allmendinger's future in open-wheel promises to be as bright as any newcomer to IndyCar in years.

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About this article
Series IndyCar , NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , A.J. Allmendinger , Regan Smith , Roger Penske
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske
Article type Commentary
Tags adderall, allmendinger, cindric, drugs, featured, indycar, nascar-cup, penske, rehab