- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Suspended Sprint Cup driver AJ Allmendinger on Monday took the first step in trying to get his failed drug test reversed.
The Penske Racing driver, suspended prior to Saturday night's race at Daytona International Speedway for failing a drug test taken the previous weekend at Kentucky, issued a written request to have his "B" sample tested in hopes that it will give a different result than the initial "A" sample, which came back positive for a banned substance. Allmendinger had 72 hours from Saturday to ask for his "B" sample to be tested.
"I have informed NASCAR that I have requested that the 'B' sample be tested, following the steps according to NASCAR's 2012 rule book regarding this situation," Allmendinger said in a statement Tuesday. "I fully respect NASCAR's drug usage policy and the reasons they have it. I am hoping this can get resolved as quickly as possible so that I can get back to driving the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge. I am sorry that this has caused such a distraction for my Penske Racing team, our sponsors and fans. Obviously I would never do anything to jeopardize my opportunity here at Penske Racing or to my fellow drivers. I am very conscious about my training and health and would never knowingly take a prohibited drug."
It will take approximately five days for NASCAR to get results of the second test from the lab, Aegis Sciences Corporation in Nashville, Tenn., that conducted the original test.
If the "B" sample comes back positive, Allmendinger faces indefinite suspension until he completes NASCAR's recovery program, which includes counseling, therapy and more testing.
For now, Allmendinger is waiting on the results.
"No, the sample has not been tested,'' Allmendinger's business manager Tara Ragan said Tuesday. "We have requested the sample be tested. We faxed them a request, as we are required, after business hours [on Monday]. Now we are waiting on the lab to tell us when that will happen. They are supposed to get back to us when they test it. All we have gotten back is confirmation they got the request.''
Ragan said Monday that the suspended driver is working hard to determine what went wrong.
"He was a little dumbfounded and shell-shocked Saturday night, and yesterday; it just seemed a little surreal," Ragan told The Associated Press. "It's just so far from AJ's character, and he's trying to come to terms with what has just happened and figure out how this could [happen] and respect NASCAR's process."
Ragan said at that time that no legal counsel had been sought thus far "because I don't think there is any need at this point.''
Ragan said she spent much of the day with Allmendinger and at no point had he indicated he took a banned substance.
"I don't have any knowledge he's ever taken anything," she told ESPN.com on Monday. "He's super health conscious and always has been. That's never been a concern."
Sam Hornish Jr. will remain in the No. 22 Dodge at Penske Racing for Sunday's Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire while Allmendinger deals with the suspension. Hornish finished 33rd at Daytona after a blown tire on Lap 82 severely damaged the car.
Penske Racing president Tim Cindric tweeted Monday that the Hornish decision was made to ensure the team is properly prepared for Loudon, as it is more demanding to prepare for than Daytona -- "not 4 any other reason."
Team officials and NASCAR have declined to comment on the substance found in Allmendinger's initial "A" sample. They are waiting on results of the "B" sample to confirm results.
Allmendinger has not commented since being notified of the suspension Saturday afternoon.
He was clearly caught off guard by the test results; Allmendinger's Twitter feed showed he was appearing on behalf of sponsor Shell/Pennzoil less than two hours before the suspension was announced at 6 p.m. Saturday.
According to the timeline provided by NASCAR, its medical review officer first alerted Allmendinger of his positive test about six hours before the suspension was announced. Allmendinger then had the opportunity to explain the result, and the medical officer had the responsibility to investigate any offered explanation.
Under NASCAR's procedures, it's assumed Allmendinger was unable to provide a plausible reason for the failed drug test, because the second step -- alerting NASCAR to the positive result -- was done at 2:30 p.m. NASCAR then met with Allmendinger and a senior Penske official, and the suspension was announced roughly 90 minutes before the start of the race.
"Penske Racing is continuing to work with NASCAR to follow its process and procedures related to the positive drug test that AJ Allmendinger was notified of this past weekend," Penske Racing said Monday in a prepared statement.
Hornish is fourth in the Nationwide Series standings for Penske Racing and will continue in that series. He was on schedule to return full time to the Cup Series in 2013 after three failed seasons from 2008 to 2010 in which he finished no better than 29th in points.
Hornish told USA Today on Sunday that he wanted to stay in the 22 as long as Allmendinger's suspension continues.
"If that's the case, then I want to be back in the Cup Series," said the 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner, who began his move from IndyCar to NASCAR late in 2006. "I'm fully on board with it. I can't think of any reason I wouldn't want to drive that car. I'll do whatever it takes to get back there."
Team owner Roger Penske told reporters Sunday prior to the IndyCar race in Toronto that he would not draw any conclusions on Allmendinger until results of the second test are in.
"You know it's a disappointment at this particular time, but we're going to wait and see what the second test results are before we make any comment or decisions. I don't think it's fair to him," Penske said.
"I think if you look at sports, things like this happen. It's unfortunate, but I don't want to really make a statement pro or con right now. I'm counting on the test being proper for him within 72 hours, and at that point they'll make a decision."
Allmendinger, 31, was given a one-year deal to drive the 22 after Kurt Busch and Penske Racing reached a mutual separation after several public outbursts. Allmendinger is ranked 23rd in points with one top-5 and three top-10 finishes in 17 races.
Ragan would not confirm whether Allmendinger was in negotiations for an extension at Penske before the suspension.
"We've very much wanted to do right by Roger and Shell Pennzoil,'' she said. "They have been very supportive and very great. We'd never do anything to jeopardize anything.''
Shell has been pleased with Allmendinger's representation, and Penske officials likened his struggles this season to those of Brad Keselowski, who had a rough first season with the team in 2010 but last year produced three wins and a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Penske told Sirius XM on Tuesday the organization is waiting for the process to be completed before making any decisions on its first-year driver.
"We're standing behind him until we understand the results," Penske said. "I can't really say today what that's going to be. I'm hoping the second test will find him clean and we can move on from this situation."
Allmendinger signed a one-year contract in December to replace Kurt Busch at Penske and the organization said as recently as two weeks ago that a contract extension was likely.
"I think we'll have to assess the situation, it's not something you just do overnight," Penske said. "We'll look at the details and understand it and we'll make our moves accordingly. The whole world's got an eyeball on him. He's a very good guy and I hate to see this."
Allmendinger is the second Sprint Cup Series driver suspended since NASCAR implemented its drug policy in 2009. Jeremy Mayfield chose not to participate in NASCAR's rehabilitation program and instead contested his 2009 suspension in court. He eventually lost his fight after a lengthy battle and has not raced since.
Spanning NASCAR's three national series, Allmendinger is the fourth driver to be suspended for a failed drug test; none of the previous three has been reinstated.
Allmendinger also has had issues off the track. In 2009, while employed at Richard Petty Motorsports, Allmendinger pleaded no contest in North Carolina to a misdemeanor charge of driving while impaired.
He was given a 60-day suspended sentence, 18 months of unsupervised probation and 24 hours of community service.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.