Penske releases suspended driver Allmendinger
Mooresville, NC (Sports Network) - Penske Racing revealed on Wednesday that driver A.J. Allmendinger has been released from the team following his indefinite suspension by NASCAR for violating its substance-abuse policy.
Allmendinger, 30, was placed on temporary suspension July 7, the date of the 400-mile Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway, for failing his initial test, which he took the prior weekend when the series competed at Kentucky Speedway.
Last week, Allmendinger's suspension was upgraded to indefinite when his "B" sample tested positive. After failing the second test, NASCAR provided Allmendinger with a letter outlining a process for reinstatement by participating in the sport's "Road to Recovery Program."
NASCAR has a policy of not revealing the actual substance, but Allmendinger's business manager, Tara Ragan, confirmed that he tested positive for an amphetamine. Ragan noted during an interview with Speed television one week ago that the tests ruled out cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamine.
It's not known how long Allmendinger's program will last and when, or if, he will return to NASCAR competition.
"Effective today, I have been released from Penske Racing as driver of the No. 22 Dodge Charger," Allmendinger said in a statement. "I wish to thank Mr. Penske, Penske Racing, their sponsors, and especially all the of the No. 22 team for the opportunity they provided me and for their support in this difficult time. I also, again, would like to thank all the fans that really have been awesome through this.
"I apologize for the distraction, embarrassment, and difficulties that my current suspension from NASCAR has provided. As I stated last week, I have begun NASCAR's 'Road to Recovery' program and look forward to using those resources and its completion to compete again in NASCAR in the near future."
Sam Hornish Jr. will drive the No. 22 car this weekend at Pocono Raceway and for the foreseeable future. Hornish has been driving the car since Daytona. He will continue his full-time driving duties for Penske in the Nationwide Series.
Penske said in its release that it will evaluate its options for a driver of the No. 22 car for the 2013 Sprint Cup season.
"Penske Racing fully supports NASCAR's substance-abuse policy, and we are disappointed with A.J.'s positive drug test results," team owner Roger Penske said. "A.J. is a terrific driver, a good person and it is very unfortunate that we have to separate at this time. We have invested greatly in A.J., and we were confident in his success with our team.
"The decision to dismiss him is consistent with how we would treat any other Penske Racing team member under similar circumstances. As A.J. begins NASCAR's 'Road to Recovery' program, we wish him the best and look forward to seeing him compete again in NASCAR."
In 2007, Allmendinger made his foray in NASCAR's premier series after competing in the Champ Car Series for the previous three years. He drove for the now-defunct Team Red Bull for two seasons and then joined Richard Petty's organization, where he drove from 2009-11.
Allmendinger won the Rolex 24 at Daytona Grand Am Series race the last weekend in January and then finished a Sprint Cup career-best second in the April 1 race at Martinsville Speedway.
At the start of this season, Allmendinger had high expectations of winning races and making the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Allmendinger is the second Sprint Cup driver to be suspended since NASCAR revised its drug policy prior to the start of the 2009 season. Jeremy Mayfield failed a drug test in May '09. Mayfield has not competed in a NASCAR race since then and has continuously lost his legal battle with NASCAR in court.
08/01 13:12:32 ET