Former driver and current TV personality Kyle Petty spoke with Sports Observer to answer a few questions on AJ Allmendinger’s suspension.
Q: Allmendinger has said Adderall was the substance found in his drug test. Are you surprised a driver would risk a top ride by taking a substance from a friend without knowing what it is or what ingredients it contained?
Petty: “If you had asked me this question two months ago, I’d have said ‘Yes, I can understand how anyone could make that mistake.’ How many times have any of us been to dinner with someone and said, ‘I’ve got a headache,’ and they say, ‘I’ve got something for that,’ and they reach into their purse and hand you a pill and you assume it’s a Tylenol or Advil and take it without asking questions. So, two months ago, the answer to that question would have been ‘yes.’ Now after talking to Mike Helton and Robin Pemberton and all the NASCAR executives and understanding their policy and the extent to which Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and those top guys go before they take any supplement period, almost before they even eat dinner, just to check in and make sure what they ingest is okay, then I probably don’t understand how A.J. would take something without knowing what it is first. I’m baffled anyone would put themselves in that position nowadays.”
Q: If the substance for which he tested positive indeed was Adderall, how, if at all, does that affect his chances of making a comeback in NASCAR in a middle-to-top-tier ride?
Petty: “That’s going to be the career question for AJ. It’s more than the million-dollar question – it’s the career question. Owner-wise and sponsor-wise, who will say it was an honest mistake and he deserves another shot, or who will say he should have known better and they can’t risk their company on that type of recklessness? That is the big question and I do think AJ’s explanation of what happened will have an effect. He has put himself in a position to be suspended. Since NASCAR implemented the substance abuse policy, no driver has really, truly made it back. People have gone through the program, but a driver hasn’t really made it back. However, a driver of his caliber hasn’t been put in that situation yet, and I think he probably has as good a chance as anyone and probably a better chance than most to make it back. But I think it’s out of his hands. All he can do is go through the process and hope somebody out there gives him a shot at some point in time. But with each passing year, he gets older and the opportunities and amount of really good cars available lessen. The odds definitely are against him.
“After everything that has happened over the last couple of months to AJ and the sport, I hope drivers in the future would look at this and learn from it and understand not only do they put themselves in a bad place, they also put their teams, sponsors and the sport in a bad situation – in a place this sport never thought it would be. We are not a stick-and-ball sport that usually has these issues. I hope they’d learn from this. On a more cautionary note, I hope that every PR rep in the country who has anything to do with a major athlete looks at how this situation was handled by AJ’s camp and does exactly the opposite the next time this happens.”
Q: Do you think statements made by AJ’s camp throughout this process have made it more difficult for him to rebound and return to the driver’s seat in NASCAR down the road?
Petty: “This is only the perspective of one guy who sits at a desk on SPEED on the weekends and runs his mouth, but from what I’ve been told and from what I know of this situation, the bridges may be mended in the garage area, but media-wise, it could be a while before those bridges are mended. A lot of things were told to the media to the degree the media almost felt used. You cannot put the media in that position. They may not be your friend as a driver, but they’re not your enemy, either. When you start treating them that way and with that disregard, then you end up in situations such as this one.”