A.J. Allmendinger will get a second chance to compete in the Sprint Cup Series full-time more than one year after he was placed on suspension by NASCAR for violating its substance abuse policy.
JTG Daugherty Racing announced on Saturday that Allmendinger will drive the No. 47 Toyota for the team during the 2014 Sprint Cup season. The announcement was made at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the site of this weekend's 500-mile race. Allmendinger is substituting for Bobby Labonte in the car at Atlanta. Labonte, who was scheduled to compete here, suffered three broken ribs in a bike riding accident near his North Carolina home earlier this week.
In July 2012, Allmendinger was suspended from NASCAR competition when he failed his drug test. He also lost his ride with Penske Racing seven months after he signed with the team to drive the No. 22 car. NASCAR reinstated Allmendinger later in the '12 season when he successfully completed its "Road to Recovery" program.
"I feel like it's going to be a lot of hard work, a lot of building, but we can make this race team into something strong, and it's just been a great year for me," Allmendinger said. "All the opportunities that I've had to lead to this to be able to be back in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series full-time next year is something that at this point last year I never thought would happen. Just thoroughly excited and really ready to finish this season off strong and really looking forward to getting to Daytona next year."
Labonte, the 2000 Cup Series champion, has been the driver of the No. 47 since the start of the 2011 season, but earlier this season, JTG Daugherty hired Allmendinger to drive the car for at least five races to help with the team's development of the new Sprint Cup race car, the Gen-6.
Allmendinger has driven the No. 47 in three races this season. He delivered the team's best finish of the season, 10th, earlier this month in Watkins Glen, N.Y.
"He's a phenomenal person," team co-owner Tad Geschickter said. "I was very impressed with his talent, enthusiasm, the way he interacted with the sponsors and everyone, and the relationship I guess kind of evolved over the three races we've done. I'd say halfway through these two months that we've been working together we started talking more and more about. Hey, maybe it's time."
Allmendinger is scheduled to drive the car at Kansas and the season-finale at Homestead, but he could have additional races if Labonte continues to be sidelined with his injuries.
"Bobby is pretty banged up right now," Geschickter said. "He has another doctor's appointment on Monday, so I guess as a football head coach says, 'It may be a game-time decision.' Bobby still has a burning passion to drive the race car and see his contract through the end, but having said that, we obviously don't want to him to risk further injury or push the issue, so more to come."
Allmendinger has been running a partial Sprint Cup schedule for Phoenix Racing this year. He drove for Penske in the Nationwide races at Road America and Mid-Ohio, winning both of those events. Penske also gave Allmendinger a ride in the Indianapolis 500. He finished seventh in that event after leading 23 laps.