By admin | July 8, 2012
By Richard Allen
During the 2011-2012 NASCAR off season, A.J. Allmendinger got the break of his racing lifetime when he was selected to replace Kurt Busch in the #22 Dodge for Penske Racing. The organization had reached the end of its patience with their often controversial driver and severed ties with him. Then, they turned to Allmendinger to assume the driving chores.
Up to that point, Allmendinger’s career record was not necessarily one that would have warranted such an elite ride. But the oddity of the situation provided a golden opportunity.
But just prior to the running of Saturday’s Sprint Cup race in Daytona, the sanctioning body announced that Allmendinger had tested positive for a banned substance. The violation calls for a temporary suspension until a second sample can be tested. Immediately, the driver was removed from the Penske Racing driver roster and, for the time being, replaced by Sam Hornish, Jr.
Obviously, I do not know what Allmendinger tested positive for as NASCAR has not released that information. But what I do know is that the driver’s career hangs in the balance as the results of that second test are awaited.
I know this because there is a well documented example of what can happen to a driver who tests positive a second time. Jeremy Mayfield failed one drug test back in 2009 and then again tested positive with his “B” sample days later. Despite exhausting a number of legal avenues, Mayfield has essentially disappeared from the NASCAR scene.
If indeed Allmendinger’s second test offers the same result as Mayfield’s, there is little reason to believe his fate will be any different.
There have been instances of people within NASCAR failing drug tests and then returning to the sport. But those examples come from crew members and other people associated with teams. Sponsors don’t make the jack man or front tire carrier the face of their product. They associate themselves with the driver. And a driver who has failed a drug test can be poison to potential sponsors.
It really won’t matter very much whether Allmendinger tested positive for excessive use of a cold remedy, marijuana, a performance enhancer or an illegal narcotic. If the “B” sample to be tested on either Monday or Tuesday returns positive, he will be branded as a guy who failed a drug test. The courts of public opinion, garage area opinion and sponsor opinion can be very harsh on such a label.
One positive test is not necessarily a death warrant for one‘s career. Milwaukee Brewers baseball star Ryan Braun had his imposed suspension overturned earlier this year when it was revealed that his sample was mishandled. But needless to say, A.J. Allmendinger’s racing career hangs in the balance and this week will go a long way toward deciding which way it falls.
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