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Penske Racing Releases Allmendinger

AJ Allmendinger during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 400 at Kansas Speedway on April 21, 2012 in Kansas City, Kansas. [1]Penske Racing has announced that driver of the team’s No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Dodge AJ Allmendinger has been released from the team effective immediately due to his indefinite suspension from NASCAR racing [2] after failing a random drug test [3].

Team owner Roger Penske said in a statement:

Penske Racing fully supports NASCAR’s substance abuse policy and we are disappointed with AJ’s positive drug test results. AJ is a terrific driver, a good person and it is very unfortunate that we have to separate at this time. We have invested greatly in AJ and we were confident in his success with our team. The decision to dismiss him is consistent with how we would treat any other Penske Racing team member under similar circumstances. As AJ begins NASCAR’s ‘Road to Recovery’ program, we wish him the best and look forward to seeing him compete again in NASCAR.

Allmendinger left Richard Petty Motorsports to join Penske Racing [4] after Kurt Busch left the team [5] following several off-track incidents with reporters, and several tirades over his radio during races. Penske hoped that they would avoid the high-profile trouble that Kurt Busch brought the team with the much lower profile Allmendinger. Unfortunately, they were weren’t that lucky.

Allmendinger was randomly selected for a drug screening following the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.  Following the results of that test, he was temporarily suspended. An announcement came minutes before the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

He requested that his “B” sample be tested, as he had the right to do under NASCAR rules. The “B” test came back positive and Allmendinger was indefinitely suspended.

Penske Racing has its own drug testing policy, but indicated that Allmendinger was considered an independent contractor, and therefore wasn’t subjected to testing. Still, Penske said that he would have to treat Allemdinger as if he were one of his employees.

Allmendinger is the first big-name driver to fail a random NASCAR drug test since Jeremy Mayfield failed a test [6] that resulted in a long court battle that recently ended [7] between Mayfield and NASCAR. Aegis also conducted that test.

This is not Allmendinger’s first brush with trouble. In 2009, Allmendinger was arrested for driving while intoxicated [8]. He pleaded no contest [9] and received probation and community service. Richard Petty Motorsports, his then-team, also placed him on probation and fined him $10,000. Allmendinger did, however, take full responsibility for the incident.

Sam Hornish Jr will drive the No. 22 car in the Sprint Cup series for the foreseeable future. The team will evaluate its driver options at a later date.

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