AJ Allmendinger has completed Step One. Step Two might be more difficult.
NASCAR announced Tuesday that it has reinstated Allmendinger to competition status after his successful completion of a recovery program following his summer suspension for failing a drug test.
Allmendinger completed the NASCAR recovery program in eight weeks. He was suspended temporarily July 7 and then placed on indefinite suspension July 24. Two urine samples proved positive for a drug that violates NASCAR’s substance-abuse policy. Allmendinger identified the drug as prescription Adderall and said he took it after being given a pill by an acquaintance.
Although Allmendinger has been cleared to return to NASCAR competition, he currently has no seat to claim. He was driving for Penske Racing’s Sprint Cup operation – in its No. 22 cars – when he was suspended. Sam Hornish Jr. replaced Allmendinger in the Penske cars, and Joey Logano has been named as the driver for that part of the Penske operation next season.
Penske supported Allmendinger during the suspension and invited him to attend last week’s IndyCar race as a spectator. It is not known, however, if Penske will consider providing a ride for Allmendinger in either his NASCAR or open-wheel operations.
“I want to thank everyone for their support through this entire process,” Allmendinger said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. “I appreciate that NASCAR created the Road to Recovery program, and am grateful for the opportunity to return to competition.
"The Road to Recovery program was really helpful to me in getting my priorities reset away from the race track. And, honestly, that helped find my love of racing again and why I began racing in the first place. I’m looking forward to taking this experience and be better for it moving forward.”
Allmendinger had been racing under a one-year contract with Penske.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.