The highs and lows for NASCAR’s Mopar fans continued as the tour rolled into Daytona for the second time this year on Saturday evening.
By Geoff Stunkard
That was because NASCAR announced to Team Penske six hours before the Coke Zero 500 began that driver AJ Allmendinger had tested positive in a random drug test following the race at Kentucky Speedway last weekend. The official temporary suspension statement was made shortly before the race began.
As a result, Sam Hornish Jr was quickly flown into Daytona from Charlotte to replace him at the last minute, but the #22 Shell/Pennzoil car had problems and finished 33rd. Brad Keselowski, who won last weekend, ended up a respectable eighth during a final round lap that included a pile-up of cars. Keselowski credited an early spin-out in the #2 Miller Lite entry with allowing him to avoid the chaos.
“We were just logging laps with a wounded right-rear quarter panel trying to stay with the leaders,” he recounted, as the car had previously been impacted during an early race pit stop. “ The aero on the car was really messed up. I spun. I came in for tires and then a few laps later the big wreck happens and we’re so far back I was able to check up and miss it. Just crazy.”
Roger Penske was very diplomatic regarding Allmendinger’s situation, not wanting to infer anything one way or the other. Allmendinger is allowed a B test sample, which was taken at the same time as the first one; this will either confirm or contest the first result. If the B sample also is positive, the sport’s zero tolerance policy will mean he is suspended indefinitely, which in turn will likely end the 30-year-old’s career in the top echelons of circle-track racing.
Other interesting news during the week was a report that Dodge has just asked for a full inventory listing of Penske Racing’s 80-man Dodge engine building operation, apparently with an eye on buying the entire thing and taking their engine building services in-house. This is something that Toyota is already doing. With no teams named for 2013 yet and testing on the new body program getting underway, the company may find itself in a difficult situation if it doesn’t begin to contract some teams in the near future so they can get their own programs up to speed. Meanwhile, there is also no word yet on racers in the other series, either – Nationwide and the Camping World Truck.