A.J. Allmendinger: Game Over, Penske Needs to Dump Him

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IJuly 9, 2012

AVONDALE, AZ - MARCH 03:  A.J. Allmendinger, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Dodge, looks on from the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 3, 2012 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo by Tyler Barrick/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Tyler Barrick/Getty Images

The temporary suspension of A.J. Allmendinger for violating NASCAR's substance-abuse policy may have been due to that extra cup of nighttime sleep medicine, but it appears to be much more serious with the swift action taken by the sanctioning body.

Allmendinger has until Tuesday to have the "B" sample of urine tested. It was taken in conjunction with the "A" sample at Kentucky.

Silence from the driver, who secured the ride of his life in the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge, is deafening. He has not made a comment, nor was he insistent that the second sample be tested.

 It seems obvious what the results will be.

Allmendinger cannot be presumed innocent until proven guilty in an incident such as this. Whatever the chemicals were, they apparently were serious enough that NASCAR did not want him racing.

The suspension, that is temporary at this point, is because Allmendinger could have become a danger to himself and others behind the wheel of the No. 22.

Penske Racing signed Allmendinger for one year to drive the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge after the departure of Kurt Busch.

Currently he is ranked 23rd in the point standings with one top-five and three top-10 finishes. Certainly, he has faced problems with the car that were not of his making.


His performance is lackluster at best, overall. His finishes have been inconsistent, though he had two ninth-place finishes at Sonoma and Kentucky.

Sam Hornish Jr. drives the Nationwide car for Penske Racing where he is ranked fourth in the point standings.

It is no secret that Hornish wants to be back in a Cup car. He had an opportunity to do that for Penske after switching to NASCAR in 2007 and it didn't work out too well.

Hornish won the 2006 Indianapolis 500 for Penske, so the boss at Penske Racing has a definite soft spot for the driver.

Penske is also a businessman and took him out of the Cup car when sponsorship crumbled. Hornish was out of a racecar for a while, then brought back to Penske's Nationwide car part-time in 2011.

He has only won one race in the Nationwide series.

Hornish will be in the No. 22 for the race in New Hampshire. His commitment is to the Nationwide series and to going for the title. There are conflicting locations for races in the two series coming up.

Perhaps Penske will jet his driver back and forth between the two series as needed and keep him in the No. 22 Dodge for the remainder of the season.

It would be an opportunity for Hornish to show how much he has developed as a Cup driver and just how well he can perform.

On the flip side, it may prove he is not suitable to drive such a high profile car with a sponsor that expects wins and strong finishes.

Regardless of the outcome with Allmendinger's drug testing results, he should be out at Penske.

There is always the substance abuse program that could possibly get him reinstated if he is suspended from NASCAR. It would seem a waste of time, though, because he is damaged goods.

Allmendinger was arrested for drunk driving in October 2009. He pleaded no contest and was put on probation by NASCAR for the remainder of the season.

Allmendinger, 30, has driven for a variety of teams in NASCAR, but his performance does not produce wins. He runs well in spurts, but lacks consistency.

Substance abuse is perhaps one of the most egregious activities that a driver can become connected with. They know, as drivers, that they can't take much more than an aspirin without letting NASCAR know.

Zero tolerance must be the rule, being that they drive 3400 pound cars at high speeds within inches of one another.

If it turns out the test was wrong and Allmendinger is totally clean in the matter, then Penske may allow him to drive in what will be left of the season after all the issues are resolved.

Should that be the case, Allmendinger will likely be cut from Penske Racing at the end of the season anyway because now it is the driver who has let down the team and the boss.

There are several free agents that could produce considerably better results than Allmendinger or Hornish in the No.22. Should a third team be considered, Hornish would be the lead candidate.

It is sad to see circumstances like this even become an issue because it is bad for Allmendinger and for NASCAR.

Some people garner a level of success and think they are above the rules. For Allmendinger, his opportunity to drive the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge was a dream ride with an elite team.

It appears Allmendinger totally blew his opportunity and it may well be game over for his career in NASCAR.