In a move that comes as no surprise, Penske Racing on Wednesday officially released AJ Allmendinger as driver of the No. 22 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Dodge Charger. Allmendinger was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR last week after testing positive for amphetamines during the Kentucky Speedway race weekend.
Allmendinger’s final stats with Penkse are 17 starts, one pole, one top five and three top 10s. He was 23rd in points at the time of his suspension.
Where this leaves Allmendinger’s future is uncertain.
While he is participating in NASCAR’s Road To Recovery program, Allmendinger now has a positive drug test on his record, as well as a no contest plea to a charge of driving while impaired in Mooresville, N.C., in October 2009.
It’s likely that Allmendinger will successfully complete NASCAR’s rehab program, but whether any sponsor will support him is very much an open question, especially with a number of qualified drivers available and looking for work.
Allmendinger could return to open-wheel racing, where he won five races and had 14 podiums in 40 starts in the now-defunct Champ Car World Series. Sports-car racing is another possibility, given that Allmendinger won the Rolex 24 at Daytona earlier this year.
But his stint with Penske is over and the future is cloudy.
“Penske Racing fully supports NASCAR's substance abuse policy and we are disappointed with AJ's positive drug test results," said team owner Roger Penske in a statement released by the team Wednesday morning. "AJ is a terrific driver, a good person and it is very unfortunate that we have to separate at this time. We have invested greatly in AJ and we were confident in his success with our team. The decision to dismiss him is consistent with how we would treat any other Penske Racing team member under similar circumstances. As AJ begins NASCAR's ‘Road to Recovery’ program, we wish him the best and look forward to seeing him compete again in NASCAR.:
Sam Hornish Jr. will drive the No. 22 Dodge at Pocono this weekend and “for the foreseeable future,” the team said, adding, “Penske Racing will evaluate its options for a driver of the No. 22 car for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.”
Allmendinger released a statement of his own after the firing.
“Effective today, I have been released from Penske Racing as driver of the No. 22 Dodge Charger,” Allmendinger said in his statement. “I wish to thank Mr. Penske, Penske Racing, their sponsors, and especially all the of the No. 22 team for the opportunity they provided me and for their support in this difficult time. I also, again, would like to thank all the fans that really have been awesome through this.
“I apologize for the distraction, embarrassment, and difficulties that my current suspension from NASCAR has provided. As I stated last week, I have begun NASCAR's Road to Recovery program and look forward to using those resources and its completion to compete again in NASCAR in the near future.”
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100.