News & Media

Penske prez: 'It's really between NASCAR and AJ'

July 25, 2012, Joe Menzer,

LOUDON, N.H. -- Tim Cindric, team president of Penske Racing, said following Saturday's Nationwide Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway that what's happening now with suspended driver AJ Allmendinger "is really between NASCAR and AJ at this time."

Allmendinger, who had been the driver of the No. 22 Dodge in the Sprint Cup Series, was temporarily suspended by NASCAR following a failed random drug test that came to light hours before the July 7 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. He and the team are awaiting results of Allmendinger's B sample test, which is not expected to be completed and announced until sometime next week.

"Obviously he's our driver, but it's not something that we control," Cindric said just outside Victory Lane, where another Penske driver, Brad Keselowski, had just celebrated his win in Saturday's F.W. Webb 200 Nationwide race.

It was Keselowski who expressed candidly a day earlier his belief that Allmendinger's career as a stock-car driver is pretty much over no matter what is revealed by the testing of Allmendinger's B sample.

"Whether it comes back positive or negative, it doesn't make a difference. It's still a death sentence," Keselowski said.

Asked for Penske Racing's stance on Keselowski's comment, Cindric said: "Brad's always going to give you his opinion. You've got to love him for that. It's his opinion. And for us, we just have to see how it all plays out this week."

Asked to clarify whether he agreed with Keselowski's statement, Cindric added: "I think that's a bit harsh. From our end, if we felt like that was it, we wouldn't be talking about it."

Sam Hornish Jr., who finished fourth in Saturday's Nationwide race and remains fourth in the series point standings, will replace Allmendinger for the second consecutive race in Sunday's LENOX Industrial Tools 301. Cindric added the Penske organization already has had other drivers seeking full-time Cup rides for next season and beyond inquire about the long-term plan to fill the driver's seat of the No. 22 car.

"Without a doubt, starting last Saturday afternoon in Daytona, like [team owner] Roger [Penske] said, all of a sudden you're the prettiest girl in town as far as other drivers are concerned," Cindric said. "But for us, I think we've said that we have a solution. Luckily, we have Sam and we have the depth and we're going to give him the opportunity and play this thing week by week."

Cindric added that Hornish, who drove full-time in the Cup Series with very limited success for Penske from 2008 through 2010, will be given the chance to show what he can do in NASCAR's premier series for at least a limited time.

"It's an opportunity. I wouldn't call it a tryout," Cindric said. "After being thrown into the Cup Series [earlier], Roger has maybe taken a shot at himself and wondered if we put him in there too early. But I think people forget, really, that we had Exxon Mobil at that point in time saying they were ready to go [as primary sponsor] and that they believed in him. It's hard to pass up an opportunity like that and wait for a year, because it might not be there a year later.

"For [Hornish], he's had a chance to step back and I think he's really watched the way Brad's been able to battle through adversity. I think that's one of Brad's strongest suits. When things don't go very well, he makes hay out of it rather than making a hole in the ground."

Cindric said he has spoken with Allmendinger and cautioned that everyone needs to let the situation play out. Asked to assess how Allmendinger is handling it, Cindric added: "It's as you would expect. No one wants to sit out. No one wants to be in that situation. And right now, you get to the point after the initial shock where you're trying to figure out what strategy there is for going forward. And you want to make sure that whatever cards you play, you play them in the right order."

Cindric added he's not surprised it will take into next week before Allmendinger's B sample results are made available.

"From a competition side, obviously we all want closure one way or another," Cindric said. "From an overall standpoint, when you look at what's at stake, if you're in that position you're probably going to look at it and make sure all your ducks are in a row before you go through the entire process. If you take the emotion and the racing sides of it out, I'm not surprised at all.

"We'll evaluate it all next week. The good thing is that we've got next week off. It helps us going into Indy to let it all play out and figure out what's next."