Roger Penske: Decision is mine
LOUDON, N.H. -- The owner of Penske Racing says he won't hesitate to put AJ Allmendinger back in the No. 22 Sprint Cup car at Indianapolis if the second urine sample of the suspended driver comes back negative.
"He's in the car," Roger Penske said before Sunday's race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "Absolutely."
If Allmendinger's "B" sample supports the "A" sample that, according to the driver was positive for a stimulant, Penske said Sam Hornish Jr. would replace him again at Indianapolis.
"With what we saw from Sam today he'll definitely be in in the 22 at Indy if AJ isn't available," Penske said Sunday after Hornish finished a lap down in 22nd.
I'm more concerned about him as an individual than the circumstances. We have to realize that. We'll deal with the circumstances in a business way and support him one way or another.'” -- Roger Penske on AJ Allmendinger
Hornish won the 2006 Indianapolis 500 before beginning his move to NASCAR. He also replaced Allmendinger in last Saturday's race at Daytona.
Hornish, fourth in the Nationwide Series standings for Penske, has made it clear he wants to be considered for the No. 22 Cup car the rest of this year and in 2013 if it becomes available.
"This is a great chance for him to show us what he has," Penske said. "He would be someone we would consider if the 22 seat was open. He obviously would have consideration for next year."
Penske said his phone has been buzzing with calls from other drivers that would like a shot at the No. 22. He left open the option of auditioning some of those drivers, specifically at tracks where Hornish has conflicts with the Nationwide schedule.
Penske said the decision is his alone on whether Allmendinger returns to the No. 22 if the "B" sample is positive and the driver has to go through NASCAR's Road to Recovery program that takes about five months in most cases.
"We have to look at what those circumstances are and what are the issues and talk with the sponsors, and we've got to make that decision," Penske said. "Ultimately, that'll be my decision on whether he would come back or not. I don't want to make that call right now."
Penske reminded he stood behind IndyCar star Helio Castroneves a few years ago when the driver faced possible jail time for tax evasion. He said Shell Pennzoil, the primary sponsor for the 22, is comfortable with him making the call.
"We didn't expect this," Penske said. "They 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.' "
"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," Penske said. "So we want to deal with it on that basis.
"I'm more concerned about him as an individual than the circumstances. We have to realize that. We'll deal with the circumstances in a business way and support him one way or another."
Penske's support was in direct conflict with Brad Keselowski's comment that the situation is a "death sentence" for his teammate regardless of the second test result.
Penske agree with team president Tim Cindric that Keselowski's comment was "harsh."
Penske and Cindric said they are leaving the next step in NASCAR's hands. Results of Allmendinger's "B" sample aren't expected to be known until sometime this week.
The test will be conducted by the same lab, Aegis Sciences Corporation in Nashville, Tenn., that conducted the first test. Allmendinger has requested, as allowed in the rulebook, to have his experts at the test.
"They don't know when the test will be taken," Penske said of NASCAR president Mike Helton and vice president of competition Robin Pemberton after a brief meeting following the driver's meeting. "Then they've got to study it. I just talked to Mike and said, 'Look, we're waiting. Keep me posted on when it's the proper process.' "