Roger Penske has already shown that he will stick by a driver through trying times, giving them every opportunity to extricate themselves from any tough position they find themselves in – until final judgment is passed.
Therefore it should come as no surprise that the man the stood by Indy Car star Helio Castroneves through his federal tax evasion trial is ready to back NASCAR driver A.J. Allmendinger through his recent suspension.
Penske told ESPN.com today that he wouldn’t hesitate for a second to put Allmendinger back in the team’s #22 Dodge if his ‘B’ drug testing sample comes back negative and he is cleared of the stigma of last week’s positive test.
However, if the ‘B’ sample comes back negative for a banned stimulant and NASCAR upholds the suspension that Allmendinger is currently serving, expect to see former Indianapolis 500 champion Sam Hornish Jr. in the car for the foreseeable future.
"He's in the car," Roger Penske told ESPN.com about Allmendinger’s return if the suspension is lifted. "Absolutely. If you remember Helio had an issue, we stayed with him, the issue was resolved, and he's now second or third in points on the IndyCar side. So we want to deal with it on that basis.”
There is still no timetable on when the ‘B’ sample will be tested according to the team, NASCAR and Penske Racing, which leaves the door open for Hornish to continue his impromptu audition in the Sprint Cup car. He finished 22nd in Sunday’s event at Loudon.
"This is a great chance for him to show us what he has," Penske said of Hornish. "He would be someone we would consider if the 22 seat was open. He obviously would have consideration for next year."
The conundrum with Hornish is that he is currently fourth in the NASCAR Nationwide standings, and is contracted for a full-season run there. That leaves Penske the option of plugging in some of the drivers that have been blowing up his phone lines when Hornish has a conflict with Nationwide events.
"We didn't expect this," Penske said. "The (sponsors) didn't expect it. We've sat down with them. We've talked about the options. They were very supportive of us putting Sam in the car for this weekend. We said, 'Let's look at this, because this can give us a chance to potentially look at drivers that are out there that might be wanting a ride in the 22, and with that, we have lots of options.' "