NASCAR suspends AJ Allmendinger
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Sprint Cup driver AJ Allmendinger went from temporarily to indefinitely suspended on Tuesday when results of his "B" sample urine test supported the original that violated NASCAR's substance-abuse policy.
Sam Hornish Jr., who has driven the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge the past two Sprint Cup races, will again be in the car this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and for the next race at Pocono.
Allmendinger was frustrated with the test results and undecided on what his next step will be, his business manager Tara Ragan told SiriusXM NASCAR radio Tuesday night.
"Everybody who knows AJ (knows) this is his life. This is all that he's done is race cars and racing," Ragan said. "Everything he does just about every single day is geared toward that. The answer is not well. I think all of us have had these moments of anger, frustration, sad over and over the last couple of weeks trying to get to the bottom of this, trying to figure what we do, what we do next and that's kind of what we're working on tonight and tomorrow and working through that with our race team and with NASCAR to figure out the next steps.''
Allmendinger has three options: He can enter NASCAR's Road to Recovery program that must be completed to be eligible for reinstatement, seek legal action in hopes of discrediting the test to gain reinstatement, or appeal.
If Allmendinger chooses to appeal, he has 10 days from the date that he is suspended to file a written appeal with the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel. If the appeals panel upholds the penalty, he has 10 days from that announcement to request a final hearing before the chief appellate officer.
Allmendinger, through Ragan, said he didn't knowingly take a banned substance that was described as a stimulant that could have come from a supplement or over-the-counter drug.
A stimulant is defined in NASCAR's drug policy as "amphetamine, methamphetamine, Ecstasy (MDMA), Eve (MDEA), MDA, PMA, Phentermine, and other amphetamine derivatives and related compounds."
Penske Racing is very disappointed with the result of the B sample test and will evaluate its course of action as it pertains to AJ over the coming week. Sam Hornish Jr., will drive the No. 22 Dodge Charger this weekend at Indianapolis and next weekend at Pocono.” -- Penske Racing in a statement on AJ Allmendinger being suspended indefinitely
Regardless of which path Allmendinger takes, his 2012 season and perhaps career at Penske Racing could be over. The Road to Recovery program includes counseling, treatment or rehabilitation, as well as additional drug testing. Those who have completed the program say it typically takes up to five months.
A legal battle, as was seen with Jeremy Mayfield when he tested positive for methamphetamines in 2009, could drag out for years.
Allmendinger signed only a one-year deal with Penske Racing when he joined the organization before this season. Penske Racing likely won't be able to wait for the completion of the recovery program before committing to a driver for 2013.
"In accordance with NASCAR's Substance Abuse Policy, Penske Racing was notified today of AJ Allmendinger's positive B sample test," Penske Racing said in a statement. "We respect NASCAR's policy and the process they have taken with this matter. "Penske Racing is very disappointed with the result of the B sample test and will evaluate its course of action as it pertains to AJ over the coming week. "Sam Hornish Jr., will drive the No. 22 Dodge Charger this weekend at Indianapolis and next weekend at Pocono."
Team owner Roger Penske recently said at New Hampshire that the final decision on Allmendinger's future as a driver rests in his hands after consulting with primary sponsor Shell Pennzoil and reviewing all the facts.
"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.''
Allmendinger was notified he was temporarily suspended a few hours before the July 7 Cup race at Daytona International Speedway. The sample was gathered the previous weekend at Kentucky Speedway.
Allmendinger, as allowed in the NASCAR rulebook, requested that his "B" sample be tested with an independent toxicologist hired by him present. That test took place on Tuesday at Aegis Laboratories in Nashville, Tenn., which handles all of the sport's testing.
Results typically take four to five days to complete. But because the "B" sample test focused on the substance found positive in the original test and not all potential violations, the process was much quicker.
NASCAR's policy is not to identify the substance. Unless Allmendinger reveals results of the test or takes the governing body to court, where the result could become part of public record, it likely will remain unknown.
Ragan said Allmendinger has secured an independent lab to conduct tests of substances in his own home to find out which substance caused him to fail the drug tests.
"Aegis Analytical Laboratories in Nashville has delivered the results of the 'B' sample test for Penske Racing driver AJ Allmendinger, which confirmed the results of the 'A" test," Ragan said in a statement.
"This was not the news we wanted to hear and we will work to get to the source of what may have caused this. To that end, we have secured the services of an independent lab to conduct thorough testing on every product within AJ's home and motor coach to find what might collaborate with his test, which created results that were within nanograms of accepted standards. We are working closely with NASCAR and Penske Racing to identify the next action steps in this process.
"We continue to be extremely grateful by the breadth and scope of support for AJ from his fans and partners. We would like to again thank NASCAR, Penske Racing and all our sponsor partners for the open communication, and for helping us at every step in this process. We expect to have further updates in the upcoming days."
NASCAR's policy does not differentiate between "nanograms of accepted standards." It is like a speeding penalty on pit road. It doesn't matter if a driver is .0005 mph over the allowed limit or 50 mph over.
And with drug testing the level of substance found in the system is relative to when it was last taken.
"If someone tests positive, it's a violation," NASCAR spokesman David Higdon said. "We don't disclose the level as it doesn't factor into the decision. If you're positive, you're positive.''