Friday, 10 August 2012

The Downfall Of 'Dinger

'Dinger was successful in Champ Car
Back in 2006, AJ Allmendinger was a successful single seater racer. That season he achieved a 3rd placed finish in the Champ Car World Series standings racing for Forsythe. In his 3 seasons (2004-06) in Champ Car, he notched up 5 wins, 14 podium finishes and2 pole positions whilst racing for both Forsythe and and RuSport (2004-05). Sadly for him, his successful time in Champ Car coincided with Sebastien Bourdais' domination of the series, making a championship win for 'dinger unlikely.
His time at Red Bull didn't meet expectations
At the end of the 2006
 Season, Allmendinger left single seater racing all together to join the new Red Bull NASCAR team. The season didn't get off to a great start with Allmendinger failing to qualify for the season opening Daytona 500 due to a crash in his Gatorade Duel. He competed in a hand full of races in the 2007 season, but didn't manage a full season.

2008 started in similar fashion, and after missing out on the first 3 races of the season, he was temporarily replaced by Mike Skinner. In a rare high point, 'dinger won the Sprint Showdown at during NASCAR's  All-Star weekend. The win allowed him to compete in the All Star race for the first time, where he finished 17th. Promise was shown with an 11th place finish at Watkins Glen then a 9th at Kansas but it could not save his Red Bull contract, which was terminated two days later. He was replaced for the rest of the season by F1 convert and Red Bull Junior Scott Speed and again, Skinner.

A move to Richard Petty's team led to improvements
After being released by Red Bull, Allmendinger moved to Richard Petty Motorsports. A move that saw him take his career best finish in 2009 in his first Daytona 500, a 3rd place finish. However, whist his racing was improving, off the track a negative aspect had emerged. in the October of that year, Allmendinger was arrested for drunk driving in Mooresville, North Carolina. He registered a .08 blood alcohol level according to a police report, leading NASCAR to place him on probation for the rest of the 2009 season.

He took over the legendary #43 in 2010 (seen here in '11)
With that episode behind him, 2010 and 2011 showed further improvement for AJ Allmendinger. 2011 especially showed Allmendinger's class with 10 top 10 finishes, an average finish of 16 and only just missing out on a spot in the chase for the Cup.

For 2012 Allmendinger got the dream bre
ak he had wished for. the #22 car at Roger Penske's legendary team was vacant and he leapted at the opportunity to drive one of the best cars in the series. Despite a 2nd place finish at Martinsville, 2012 was a disappointment for Allmendinger, with many expecting wins and chase contention, none of that materialized. Then came the July Daytona Race.

Allmendinger (#22) got his best finish of his career in 2012
Before the race at the Florida track, Allmendinger was called into the NASCAR hauler where he was to discover that he had failed a random drugs test. He was suspended, pending results from a second sample test, the 'B' sample. Meanwhile, Penske's Nationwide Series driver Sam Hornish Jr. was flown from North Carolina where he was working on a TV show. Upon landing, Hornish received  a police escort from the airport, arriving at the track  8 minutes before the start of the race. Using his own seat and hastily installed components from teammate Brad Keselowki's car (the use the same pedals and mirrors as each other in the Nationwide Series), Hornish achieved a respectable 33rd place finish. His race started with the first 15 laps getting comfortable in the car, and finished with a cut tire.

Allmendinger's stint at Penske ended in disaster
Hornish kept the seat for subsequent races whilst AJ Allmendinger was suspended. Allmendinger's 'B' sample also tested positive, he was then not only suspended from NASCAR competition, but sacked by Penske, in what was a very amicable split.

The tests revealed that Allmendinger had tested positive for amphetamine, later revealed to be prescription drug Adderall. Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant

used to treat narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It was revealed that the drug was taken without 'dinger knowing what it really was, believing it to be an energy pill similar to what he had previously taken without the dire consequences. It was given to him by a friend after Allmendinger said he was tired and had a lack of sleep due to the pressure facing him in 2012.

Adamant that he has never taken drugs at all, AJ Allmendinger admits a 'bad judgment call' in taking the alien substance. he has now entered the NASCAR Road To Recovery drug rehabilitation program and will be allowed to compete again following completion of the program. He has received support from NASCAR champions Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart and they believe he has what it takes to return and be competitive if he can find the right car.

What next for Allmendinger?

What was once a promising and constantly improving career now lies broken, with the world not knowing what will be next for Allmendinger. He's lost his dream ride with Penske, so when he returns to NASCAR, will he find a competitive seat? will he return to NASCAR? Will we see him in Indycar? Unfortunately we don't yet know the answer to these questions but one thing is for sure, AJ Allmendinger is a driver with bags of talent, he's doing what needs to be done to repair his reputation and return to top level motorsports and when he does, provided his car is up to it, he'll certainly have a point to prove.

DISCLAIMER - All the above context is my personal interpretation of the information known about the situation. Not intended to offend, judge or be incorrect in any way.

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