By admin | October 27, 2012
By Richard Allen
A.J. Allmendinger is qualified in the 26th position for Sunday’s Sprint Cup race in Martinsville. The fact that he is there at all is somewhat of a minor miracle.
As has been well documented, Allmendinger was declared ineligible to race just a few short hours prior to start of the July 4th weekend event at the Daytona International Speedway. NASCAR officials revealed that the driver had tested positive for a banned substance under the sanctioning body’s drug testing policy and would not be permitted to race until he had completed the necessary treatment steps required for reinstatement.
After denials and posturing by Allmendinger and his representatives in the days immediately following the announcement, the driver eventually submitted to treatment and completed those necessary steps. On September 18th, NASCAR declared that the driver had finished the ‘Road to Recovery’ program and would be allowed to return to the sport.
In the meantime, however, Allmendinger had been released by Penske Racing as the driver of the #22 Dodge as that organization had to move on.
Many had thought Allmendinger’s career was effectively ended, at least in NASCAR, after his initial failing and the dismissal by Penske. It was thought that few, if any, car owners and sponsors would be willing to give the former open wheel competitor a second chance.
But with the late season shuffling brought about by Kurt Busch’s hiring at Furniture Row Racing and Dale Earnhardt, Jr’s concussion related off time, Allmendinger found himself back behind the wheel of a Sprint Cup car when Phoenix Racing team owner James Finch gave him a call.
Phoenix had initially planned to bring in Regan Smith as a replacement for Busch but that driver was offered the #88 Hendrick Motorsports car when Earnhardt was forced to take time off. That opened the door for Allmendinger to take the #51 Chevrolet.
Back on April 1st of this year, Allmendinger recorded his best ever Sprint Cup finish when he came home 2nd behind winner Ryan Newman at Martinsville. A late race caution and ensuing chaotic green/white/checkered restart had eliminated a number of the competition and put the #22 Dodge in contention for the win.
Allmendinger and Newman had taken the white flag side by side before Newman had been able to edge out in front of Allmendinger for the lead.
Most drivers would probably be very excited to be returning to a track that provided them with their best ever finish. A.J. Allmendinger is no doubt excited about that too, but more likely, he is probably just excited to be returning to any NASCAR track after the tumultuous season he has been through.
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