News & Media

Allmendinger to participate in recovery program

July 25, 2012, David Caraviello,

Suspended driver's camp reveals substance in question as amphetamine

One day after AJ Allmendinger was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR for failing a random drug test, his business manager said the driver would immediately begin participation in the program required for reinstatement.

Allmendinger's suspension was changed from temporary to indefinite on Tuesday, after the driver's "B" sample from a random drug screening earlier this month turned up positive for a prohibited substance. Tara Ragan, Allmendinger's business manager, told several news outlets Wednesday that the substance in question was amphetamine. The Penske Racing driver was initially suspended on the day of the July 7 race at Daytona International Speedway after his "A" sample from a test the week before showed positive.

The "B" sample was tested Tuesday at Aegis Sciences Corp. in Nashville, Tenn., which administers NASCAR's drug-testing program. Allmendinger had a toxicologist of his own present for the test. After the second half of the sample proved positive, NASCAR sent Allmendinger a letter outlining the path to reinstatement under its Road to Recovery program, a process that can include counseling and rehabilitation in addition to further testing.

Ragan also said Wednesday in a statement the driver had notified NASCAR that he would participate in the program, "starting immediately."

"As we have stated earlier, we respect NASCAR's drug testing policies," Ragan said. "They are first and foremost in place to protect drivers, and AJ being among those. We fully support the program, and as more details become available, we will share them. We would like to personally thank [NASCAR president Mike] Helton and [NASCAR director of substance abuse] John Bobo for helping work through this in an expeditious manner."

Late Tuesday night, Allmendinger released a statement through a series of posts on his Twitter feed. "I just want to say thank you first and foremost for all [of you] sticking by me. ... It means more than [you will] ever know," he wrote. "I'm sorry we even have to have this going on. But I promise ... I will do whatever it takes to get to the bottom of this and get back [out] there no matter what."

NASCAR has not revealed the substance for which Allmendinger tested positive, citing the privacy of the individual involved. On July 11, Ragan released a statement saying the driver had tested positive for a "stimulant." She added that Allmendinger was uncertain as to what could have led to the positive test, and that he was attempting to determine if it could have been inadvertently triggered by his consumption of an over-the-counter product. Tuesday night, Ragan released a statement saying Allmendinger's camp had secured the services of an independent lab to test products in the driver's home and motor coach in the hopes of discovering what triggered the positive test.

Sam Hornish Jr. will continue to drive the No. 22 while Allmendinger is suspended. A regular competitor for Penske in the Nationwide Series, Hornish was flown back from Charlotte to race at Daytona after Allmendinger was suspended initially, and also competed last week at New Hampshire in a No. 22 car that featured his name above the driver's side window opening.

"We respect NASCAR's policy and the process they have taken with this matter," the Penske team said in a statement. "Penske Racing is very disappointed with the result of the 'B' sample test and will evaluate its course of action as it pertains to AJ over the coming week. Sam Hornish Jr., will drive the No. 22 Dodge Charger this weekend at Indianapolis and next weekend at Pocono."

Allmendinger's primary car sponsor also released a statement: "Shell and Pennzoil believe that the process and procedures that NASCAR has in place as part of their substance abuse policy are appropriate and serve to ensure that the sport and its participants are held to the highest standards," the company said. "We share Penske Racing's disappointment with the result of AJ's 'B' sample test and will work closely with them to determine plans moving forward. We hope for the best for AJ during this difficult time."

The terms and conditions of Allmendinger's reinstatement were outlined in a letter the driver received from NASCAR under section 19-11-F of the Sprint Cup rule book. A program administrator in the Road to Recovery program will work with Allmendinger to coordinate a plan that can include substance abuse counseling, treatment, or rehabilitation. There is no set timeline for the length of the program, which is tailored to the individual involved.

Allmendinger will also have to undergo additional drug testing. His program administrator will determine how often he will be tested, and for what substances, and under what conditions. The additional testing will be at Allmendinger's expense. If Allmendinger successfully completes the plan, the program administrator will send a letter to NASCAR recommending reinstatement.

"We're very pleased that AJ Allmendinger has chosen to participate in the NASCAR Road to Recovery program," NASCAR spokesman David Higdon said. "It's designed, as proven, to provide a roadmap leading to a return to competition, and we wish him the best of luck. As we have with other competitors, we look forward to the day when the program administrator recommends him for reinstatement."