Redemption comes in different forms and A.J. Allmendinger would be the first to tell you his has been a rollercoaster of a ride. And Sunday (April 7) will mark another milestone in a potential comeback for a driver who seemed headed for glory … more than once.
The 31 year old Allmendinger will be making his debut in IndyCar, driving for Roger Penske and Penske Racing at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Alabama (see related articles). With spring in the air, Allmendinger appears to have landed on his feet in 2013 and likely has a new admiration for motorsports.
It was less than 10 months ago that A.J.’s world came crashing down, when he failed a NASCAR drug test that was taken at Kentucky. The drug was found to be amphetamine – probably from the prescription drug Adderall – which a friend had given him prior to the Kentucky race. Allmendinger made a long story short though by almost immediately admitting the mistake, entering drug rehab (source: Yahoo! Sports) and finally passing NASCAR’s re-entry program (“Road to Recovery”). Before the season was over, he was back in a racecar.
However, it wasn’t the Penske-prepared Dodge he started the season off with; having lost that dream job. Which brings us to 2013. Allmendinger has a part-time gig with Phoenix Racing driving their Sprint Cup Chevrolet. He has another part-time racing program with his prior employer Penske Racing, but now in an American open wheel racecar – similar to the kind in which he started his professional racing career. In other words, A.J. has returned to his roots.
A.J. Allmendinger began racing in the big leagues driving in ChampCar, which was a rival to IndyCar. He drove for RuSport and although he didn’t win any races for them in the two years plus that he was there, A.J. did garner eight podiums over 31 events. A sixth and fifth place in the final point standings wasn’t good enough to keep his job but Forsythe picked Allmendinger up immediately with incredible meteoric results ensuing. In nine races, A.J. would win five of them. However, Allmendinger had bigger ideas and left for NASCAR. The rest was history so to speak with Allmendinger never able to drive to Victory Lane in a stock car.
Although it’s been seven years since A.J. climbed into an open wheel cockpit, the Penske ride at Barber Motorsports Park offers A.J. a new start and second chance at redemption. Where he goes from here isn’t known but so far, the part-time Penske deal in IndyCar will involve the Indy 500 and perhaps Long Beach later this month. Whether Allmendinger can get up to speed to be competitive, remains to be seen.
But as they say, hope springs eternal. Certainly this spring, A.J. Allmendinger hopes so.
Additional source: Racing Reference