Daytona Beach, Fl- Saturday evening, Steve O’ Donnell, Senior Vice President of Racing Operations for NASCAR, announced they suspended Penske Racing driver A.J. Allmendinger as a result failing a random drug test.
“NASCAR has a strict drug-testing program that Penske Racing fully supports. Penske Racing will work with NASCAR through this process and its next steps,” the team said in a statement.
Immediately after Allmendinger’s suspension, Penske Racing was forced to call Sam Hornish Jr to replace the driver just 90 minutes prior to race time.
“Right before I was about to do the last segment on my Speed TV show, I got a call from Mike Nelson while I was in the studio and all that I could think about was that he was calling to harass me about my tie,” Hornish said. “Obviously, that’s not the case. For me, it was a lot of waiting around. I’m sure for everyone else it was hectic. We sat there and had no idea what was going to happen from the time that I left Charlotte to when I got to Daytona. … I actually went and got a sandwich and tried to hydrate as much as I could. I think I drank 18 bottles of water knowing how hot it was down here.”
Aided by police escorts, Hornish Jr arrived eight minutes before the Coke Zero 400 was sent to begin in Daytona.
“It’s really been a whirlwind since we were notified, and we really just needed to get Sam back to Daytona. We spoke briefly with A.J. before he left, and we agreed we’d talk when we get back. Certainly there’s no closure, and it’s just not that simple of a situation,” Cindric said. “We need to let the process take care of itself. It’s a situation we’ve never been in before, and when we were notified he failed the test, the next step really became getting Sam to Daytona and agreeing to table everything else until we’re all back.”
Penske Racing hired A.J. Allmendinger in late December to fill in for Kurt Busch who had parted ways with the team. Prior to Penske, Allmendinger raced with Richard Petty Motorsports. Cindric stated that Penske remains behind their first-year driver.
“He’s our driver and that why it’s important to understand all the facts,” Cindric said. “It’s very difficult to speculate on how it should be handled. On one side, we have personal relationships, and on the other, well, it’s a business side. We’ve not been through this before, and we just really want to understand this some more.”