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Friday, March 8, 2013
AJ Allmendinger back with Penske

By David Newton
ESPN.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Team owner Roger Penske said he'd give AJ Allmendinger a second chance after releasing the driver from his Sprint Cup organization following last year's suspension for violating NASCAR's substance abuse policy.

On Friday, he did.

Team Penske announced that Allmendinger will compete in at least two IndyCar Series events this season, including the Indianapolis 500.

Allmendinger will drive the No. 2 Penske car in the April 7 race at Barber Motorsports Park road course in Birmingham, Ala., and the May 26 Indy 500.

"It is exciting to welcome AJ back to Penske Racing," Penske said in a statement. "He obviously went through a tough time last year. but he has done everything he needed to in order to get back to racing at the top level of the sport.

"We have always believed in AJ and his ability and he deserves this opportunity.''

Allmendinger was suspended by NASCAR on July 24 after failing a drug test. The drug initially was identified as amphetamines, with Allmendinger later identifying it as prescription Adderall he took once from the friend of a friend.

Allmendinger was released by Penske Racing on Aug. 1, but Penske never wavered in saying he would give the driver another shot.

"This is a speed bump in his career, but he's certainly an option for people on the NASCAR side and the Indy side,'' Penske said last season.

Allmendinger was reinstated by NASCAR in late September after completing the Road to Recovery Program. He drove in four late-season races for Phoenix Racing, earning a shot to share the No. 51 Cup car with Regan Smith this season.

He was 11th in Sunday's race at Phoenix International Raceway. "I'm really looking forward to getting back to my roots and racing in the Izod IndyCar Series," said Allmendinger, who tested the No. 2 at Sebring International Raceway on Feb. 19. "I have to thank Roger ... and everyone at Team Penske for this opportunity.

"It's every driver's dream to race for Team Penske at the Indy 500, and that experience is going to be incredible. I also have to thank Izod for their support and for giving me a chance to show what I can do. I definitely intend to make the most of it."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.