News & Media


Allmendinger looks forward to future in racing

September 19, 2012, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

For AJ Allmendinger, the plan now is to focus on the future while remembering the hard lessons of his recent past.

One day after being reinstated by NASCAR, which said Allmendinger had successfully completed its Road to Recovery rehabilitation program following an earlier positive test for a banned substance, the former Sprint Cup driver said he hopes to get behind the wheel in that elite series again.

"Option-wise, I don't know what's out there yet. ... I'll leave the door open to the possibility of anything."

--AJ ALLMENDINGER

He also said he knows that it won't happen overnight, or easily.

"I think, for me, I wouldn't say 'relief' is the right word because there are still a lot of steps ahead," Allmendinger told NASCAR.COM. "But this definitely was the first thing that I needed to have happen to move forward in my life and toward rebuilding my career and making my next decision.

"So over the last few weeks, I had been done with the classes that I needed to go through with Dr. [David] Black [of Aegis Sciences] and NASCAR -- and I basically was waiting for when they were comfortable and ready to have me back in the sport. It was totally up to them and I was willing to wait whatever period they wanted me to wait. To get it done sooner rather than later is certainly good for me, to see really what options are out there and what I want to do in life."

He admitted he isn't certain what those options might at this point.

"Option-wise, I don't know what's out there yet," he said. "I know, for me, I will leave all options open -- for whatever series. I want to see what people have to say to me and what people maybe want me to do for them in what series and what cars. ... I'll leave the door open to the possibility of anything."

He said that included all racing series, but that he hopes to get another chance in NASCAR.

* Race Hub: Allmendinger talks about his racing future

Allmendinger was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR on July 7 after failing a random drug test in June at Kentucky Speedway. His backup "B" urine sample also later tested positive.

Although NASCAR has not revealed the banned substance involved, he has said he tested positive for Adderall, a prescription drug typically used to treat attention deficit disorder. He does not have an ADD diagnosis or prescription, and said he took it a couple of days before the June 30 race at Kentucky because he was tired.

He had been driving the No. 22 Dodge for Penske Racing in NASCAR's top series, but was released by the organization after his "B" sample failed. Participating in NASCAR's program was his only hope at reinstatement after he declined to appeal the suspension.

"As I went through these last couple of months, I really felt like I started to change as a person," Allmendinger said. "I'm getting back to the priorities in life that make me happy away from the race track, so that when I did get back to the race track I would be in a lot better state of mind and a lot better person. ... I feel like over the last two months, I've been able to at least start getting back to that.

"I think all of us learn things and we improve as a person or learn to deal with things as we go on through life. Obviously this is just a day old now, and it seems like [prior to getting reinstated] people were afraid to talk to me about the future. The program is so open because it's tailored to each individual's needs -- so there was no timetable about when I was going to come back. Obviously I did everything I could to get back as quickly as possible, because I wanted to be back in the sport."

Even though he attended the IndyCar Series season finale at Auto Club Speedway in California last Saturday night as the guest of Roger Penske, his former NASCAR boss who also runs cars on the IndyCar side, Allmendinger stressed that he hopes he can eventually return to the premier stock-car circuit.

"When I came into the Sprint Cup Series, I came in with a lot of goals," said Allmendinger, who has never won a NASCAR race but once was an open-wheel star. "I said I wanted to win races and contend for championships -- and I've come nowhere close to reaching those yet. So I feel like there is a lot of unfinished business I have there, and I would love the opportunity to try to achieve those goals."

AJ Allmendinger

Career NASCAR Statistics
StartsCupNNSTruck
Wins000
Top-5s502
Top-10s2903
Lead-Lap Fin.9027
Poles100
Laps Led341817
Avg. Start19.819.120.6
Avg. Finish21.221.020.1
Starts40
Wins5
Podium14
Lead-Lap Fin.26
Poles2
Laps Led321
Avg. Start5.3
Avg. Finish7.3


_______________________

Allmendinger said he appreciated Penske reaching out to him last weekend.

"To have Roger's support is such a big deal to me because my biggest regret in all of this was disappointing Roger Penske," Allmendinger said. "He was and still is the pinnacle of who you want to drive for. I always had dreams when I was growing up, go-karting, of driving for Roger Penske. I had that opportunity, and through my own fault, I made that mistake and took that away from myself.

"Roger easily could have said, 'We tried, it didn't work out. Sorry.' And went on his way. But he told me when I first signed up with him that once you sign on as one of his drivers, you always stay part of the family. So it was amazing that he invited me out to the race track. He was making sure I was OK, keeping up to date with me and figuring out where I was in my state of mind."

Penske told The Associated Press at Auto Club Speedway that he might consider putting Allmendinger in one of his IndyCar Series machines.

"He could be an option for us, for sure," Penske told the AP. "He's someone we would consider. This is a speed bump in his career, but he's certainly an option for people on the NASCAR side and the Indy side."

Allmendinger had struggled badly at times during his first and only season for Penske Racing. At the time of his July suspension, he was 23rd in the standings heading into the next event at Daytona, where he won the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona sports-car race in January.

All of which appeared to make Penske's public comments strike close to Allmendinger's heart even more.

"I feel like we're closer now than when I was his driver, because then I didn't want to bother him with any problems I might have had. It's just meant a lot to me," Allmendinger said.

Allmendinger added that he also appreciated the support shown him by Michael Shank, owner of the Rolex team that won that race at Daytona.

"Mike is one of my best friends. He has always been just a great guy to talk to, and another guy I look to almost like a Roger Penske," Allmendinger said. "He's a racer's racer. He will take care of his guys throughout their lives, and he puts his heart and soul into this sport.

"Mike and I are always talking each week, just as friends in general. It's always an option for me to go drive for him; and hopefully in the 24 Hours, we can defend our title there. We'll do whatever it takes to help each other out."

Meanwhile, Allmendinger said he is happy to put the past behind him -- while remembering what it has taught him about facing the future.

"It's been tough," he said. "There have been many days and especially the weekends where, man, it was pretty brutal and I was struggling. But I've got a great support system around me. There were days when I would wake up and be OK, and there were other days when I'd feel like there was no light at the end of the tunnel and this was never going to work out.

"So for me, I know there is a lot of work ahead and nothing is going to be easy. Whatever series I race in, I'm going to have to regain the trust of the fans, the team owners, the drivers I'm racing against, the sponsors. But this was the first step and I'm willing to do whatever it takes."