Allmendinger making most of second chance
Back in driver’s seat
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — AJ Allmendinger will get another start with Phoenix Racing this weekend at Kansas Speedway.
Phoenix general manager Steve Barkdoll said Monday the team was pleased with Allmendinger's performance at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he finished 24th in his first race since his July suspension for failing a random drug test.
"We were extremely happy with the job he did in our car," Barkdoll said.
Allmendinger had 3 days' notice he was going to race last Saturday night. The team had planned to use Regan Smith in the No. 51 Chevrolet, but Hendrick Motorsports asked for Smith when Dale Earnhardt Jr. was sidelined with a concussion. Earnhardt is also out for Sunday's race at Kansas.
Allmendinger was at the track when the garage opened Thursday, and the Phoenix crew had to hustle to get the cockpit adjusted to his size. It had been fitted that week to Smith.
He qualified the car 38th at Charlotte, and Barkdoll said Allmendinger got up to speed quickly.
"The first lap in the car, his first in 3 months, he was seventh out of 31," Barkdoll said. "We had him too loose for qualifying, but in all the practices we were around 20th. He drove it to 19th under all the green flag runs. Our pits let a tire get away, or I think we would have easily had a top-20 finish."
Allmendinger was grateful for the second chance.
He had last raced June 30 at Kentucky. He was suspended hours before the July race at Daytona for failing a random drug test for what he's said was Adderall. NASCAR does not reveal the substance involved.
Allmendinger was released by Penske Racing when his backup "B'' urine sample also tested positive, and he entered NASCAR's recovery program. He was reinstated by NASCAR in September, and Phoenix gave him his first chance last weekend.
"It was great to get back into a Cup car, and I just want to thank James Finch and everyone at Phoenix Racing for giving me this opportunity," Allmendinger said. "I was hoping I could have repaid that favor with a little bit stronger finish. But it was great to get back in the car and compete again. It was a solid weekend all around despite everything coming together so quickly."
Now he gets to go to Kansas, where Allmendinger won the pole in April and led the first 44 laps with Penske before a mechanical failure.
Allmendinger has two career top-10 finishes at Kansas, which was repaved this summer and is open 2 days this week to testing for teams to adapt to the new surface. Barkdoll said that will give the team additional time to get used to Allmendinger.
"His attitude is outstanding, he is here at the shop today laughing and meeting the guys," Barkdoll said. "With two days of testing at Kansas, were pretty excited to have him in the car."