Sports

Defending race winner AJ Allmendinger falls way back in 1st hour of Rolex 24 at Daytona

  • AJ Allmendinger signs autographs for fans before the Grand-Am Series Rolex 24 hour auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

    AJ Allmendinger signs autographs for fans before the Grand-Am Series Rolex 24 hour auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)  (The Associated Press)

  • Ganassi Racing team drivers from left, Jamie McMurray, Joey Hand and Scott Dixon, of New Zealand, sign autographs for fans prior to the start of the Grand-Am Series Rolex 24 hour auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

    Ganassi Racing team drivers from left, Jamie McMurray, Joey Hand and Scott Dixon, of New Zealand, sign autographs for fans prior to the start of the Grand-Am Series Rolex 24 hour auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)  (The Associated Press)

  • Dario Franchitti, of Scotland, hands a signed poster to a race fan in the garage area prior to the start of the Grand-Am Series Rolex 24 hour auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

    Dario Franchitti, of Scotland, hands a signed poster to a race fan in the garage area prior to the start of the Grand-Am Series Rolex 24 hour auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)  (The Associated Press)

Defending race winner AJ Allmendinger is way behind in the early stages of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Allmendinger is seven laps down after breaking a piece of suspension Saturday on his Ford Riley.

Allmendinger was suspended by NASCAR last season for failing a random drug test and sent home hours before the July race at Daytona. He was hoping to make a triumphant return while defending his Rolex title.

Instead, Allmendinger and his Michael Shank Racing teammates — Oswaldo Negri, Justin Wilson, John Pew and Marcos Ambrose — could have a tough time catching up. Then again, anything can and often does happen in the 24-hour endurance test that kicks off the racing season.

Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Pruett and Scott Dixon were running first and second after the race's first hour.