By admin | August 2, 2012
By Richard Allen
On Wednesday, Penske Racing announced they were releasing A.J. Allmendinger as the driver of the #22 Shell/Pennzoil car. After the driver failed a NASCAR drug test and then was suspended indefinitely after a second positive result came back, no one should have been surprised by the news.
Penske really had no other option. They handled the unexpected initial result as well as possible. They immediately voiced support for their driver and patiently waited for the â€˜Bâ€™ sample to be tested before making any sort of permanent move. But when the second result came in, they did what they had to do.
For proof that releasing Allmendinger was Penskeâ€™s only option, take a look at the calendar. The 2012 season is more than half over and preparations are already being made for 2013. By this time in every season, sponsors, owners, drivers and crew members are making plans for what they will be doing during the next season. The driver is often times the key piece of the puzzle in those arrangements, especially as far as sponsors are concerned.
In the case of the Penske situation, there is no way of knowing for sure just exactly when Allmendinger could return. The driver must enter and complete NASCARâ€™s Road to Recovery program and there is no set time frame for that completion.
And to add a bit more of a dose of reality to the situation, it isn’t like Allmendinger had put up dazzling numbers this season. In seventeen starts in his first year with Penske, the driver had posted only one top-5 and three top-10 finishes while teammate Brad Keselowski has scored three wins and looks to be a Chase for the Championship lock.
Corporations spending millions of dollars on sponsorship of a Sprint Cup team and crew members planning to work on that team need more certainty than that. Also, by going ahead and letting it be known that Allmendinger had been released, the message has been sent to any would be drivers that the seat is definitely open.
Waiting any longer and adding further uncertainty could have jeopardized negotiations among primary and associate sponsors. And more, waiting could have cost Penske a shot at whatever driver they choose to go after, provided they look for someone other than current replacement pilot Sam Hornish, Jr.
Roger Penske is often known as â€˜The Captainâ€™ and few in the racing and business worlds have been more adept at charting courses through rough seas. In this case, he and his company only had one clear course to take, and they took it.
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