AJ Allmendinger to race at Charlotte
AJ Allmendinger, who recently was reinstated by NASCAR after completing a rehabilitation program for substance abuse, will drive the No. 51 Chevrolet this weekend for Phoenix Racing in the Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Allmendinger, 30, was suspended by NASCAR on July 7 following a positive drug test. It caused him to lose his job as the driver of the No. 22 Dodge for Penske Racing.
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He confirmed Thursday morning that he was called by Phoenix Racing officials to replace Regan Smith in the No. 51 car for team owner James Finch in the next two races.
"I talked to Finch for about three minutes this morning," Allmendinger said. "He started to tell me what the deal was and I was like, 'Man, it's all good. I'll come drive this weekend, and if you like me, you like me. And if not, it's OK.' It's all about taking it as it comes right now."
Smith was scheduled to replace Kurt Busch in that car this week, but Smith will drive the No. 88 Chevy for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is sitting out the next two Cup races after suffering his second concussion in the last six weeks.
"I just want to do these guys proud and run as good as we can this weekend with this car," Smith said. "They're the same goals this team has every weekend: We want to go out there and try win the pole and try to win the race and try to be the fastest car in every practice. That's not going to change this weekend."
Allmendinger was reinstated by NASCAR on Sept. 19 after completing its Road to Recovery program. He reportedly had a positive urine test for an amphetamine after the race at Kentucky Speedway on June 30.
"I think he has unfinished business over here," said Phoenix Racing GM Steve Barkdoll. "And we know he's fast, and he's fast here. When he sat on the pole for the (All-Star) Showdown and finished second after a flat tire, he was a pretty easy pick for here and hopefully Kansas, too.''
Still looking for work for 2013, Allmendinger wasn't sure if anyone would take another chance on him.
"I've just got to get comfortable," Allmendinger said. "This is the longest I haven't driven a race car in at least six years. In the offseason, I'm always driving a Rolex car and our (NASCAR) offseason is only two months anyway. So I'm a little nervous, trying to get back into the flow of things.
"I don't expect to set the world on fire. I'm just trying to get used to it again, progress through the weekend, limit my mistakes, finish all 500 miles, and wherever that puts us, it puts us."
Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com senior motorsports writer David Newton was used in this report.