Allmendinger: I wouldn't 'knowingly' take prohibited drug; is this setting up a Barry Bonds defense?; Also, what other drivers could get the 22 ride?
A couple of developments came on the A.J. Allmendinger front Tuesday, the first of which was an official statement from A.J. himself.
He said: “"I have informed NASCAR that I have requested that the "B" sample be tested, following the steps according to NASCAR's 2012 rule book regarding this situation. I fully respect NASCAR's drug usage policy and the reasons they have it. I am hoping this can get resolved as quickly as possible so that I can get back to driving the #22 Penske Racing Dodge. I am sorry that this has caused such a distraction for my Penske Racing team, our sponsors and fans. Obviously I would never do anything to jeopardize my opportunity here at Penske Racing or to my fellow drivers. I am very conscious about my training and health and would never knowingly take a prohibited drug."
The keyword I note in that statement: “knowingly”; this is setting up a defense that if he comes back as failing again, he could play the Barry Bonds-type card and say he didn’t know that he was taking a banned substance. It won’t help him either way; if he’s failed the test, NASCAR won’t let him drive until he completes a treatment program, and at that point his chances of having a ride are slim to none. But at least we can see a little strategy on his side in that statement.
The second development: Other names beside Sam Hornish Jr. are popping up as possible Allmendinger replacements at Penske – from Trevor Bayne to Joey Logano.
1. Trevor Bayne deserves a good ride, and he would be a great fit. You can be he wouldn’t have any failed drug tests or run ins with reporters. He’s talented, and his Ford affiliation via Roush makes him a strong candidate. Talentwise, he is at least on the same level as Hornish in my view.
2. Joey Logano is being mentioned too, as many people believe he will be out of a ride with Gibbs after this season. I’m not in this camp. I think he’ll work something out to stay with Gibbs. They have too much time invested in him and he is starting to perform. And he’s so young the upside to keeping him is huge.
Army leaving NASCAR as sponsor
The U.S. Army will not sponsor the #39 team next year, or any NASCAR team. This is bad news for Stewart-Haas Racing, which already is struggling to find sponsors for Newman. Could this be the latest bump in the road that pushes Ryan Newman out of SHR and into another ride?
We’ll have to wait and see.
As far as the Army not sponsoring a car, that’s fine by me. I always thought it was kind of strange to essentially recruit soldiers through a NASCAR race.
Stewart penalized; team says infraction was mistake
The #14 team has lost six points in the standings due to an equipment violation at Daytona after qualifying (Stewart went on to win the race despite starting in the back of the pack).
Greg Zipadelli, competition director at Stewart-Haas Racing, addressed the penalty by saying: "While we respect and accept NASCAR's decision, we want to be clear that there was no malicious intent. In a rush to replace a cracked rear windshield that happened during tech inspection prior to qualifying, we jostled a cooling hose that was behind the seat. We understand NASCAR's position and will abide by its decision."
Drivers sound off on New Hampshire race
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 – 2nd IN STANDINGS:
“I really like New Hampshire, and it’s a lot of fun to race. There’s lots of ways to get around a corner. It is really hard to pass, but it is a fun racetrack, and I look forward to coming here every time we get the opportunity.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 – 4th IN STANDINGS:
“It’s (New Hampshire Motor Speedway) a tricky track with the lack of banking and the tight fast corners. I was able to sweep it there one year and since we’ve been okay. It’s a tough track. I think for a good day its good fuel mileage and good track position.”
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 – 5th IN STANDINGS:
“It’s a big motor deal. With the corners being so tight, you’ve got to put a lot of gear in the car to get it up off the corner. Forward bite is always an issue there too, so it’s hard to get up off the corners. Then you’ve got long straight-a-ways where you can kind of relax a little bit. Coming into the corners, you use a lot of brake, and it’s hard to not only get the car stopped, but to get it to turn. Then you go through that challenge all over again.”
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 – 6th IN STANDINGS:
“New Hampshire (Motor Speedway) is a track that I enjoy. It’s a track where you have to have a good handling car, you have to have track position, and you have to have everything go right. If you get yourself stuck in the middle of the pack you’re not going to have a very good day, unless you have a really good car. Overall New Hampshire (Motor Speedway) is a track that I enjoy and hopefully we will run well.”
PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 – 13th IN STANDINGS:
"New Hampshire Motor Speedway is tricky because you have to turn the center and then need a lot of drive off, much like the short tracks we visit, like Martinsville (Speedway) or Richmond (International Raceway). It seems like with all the horsepower these cars pack, it's really easy to burn off the rear tires. It's also easy to worry about that too much and then you can turn in the center (of the turns). Loudon (New Hampshire Motor Speedway) is a big mix of both."
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 – 15th IN STANDINGS:
“I think this track (New Hampshire Motor Speedway) is the key place when it comes to being aggressive and patient all at the same time. There is a different style of driving that you have to have there. You can’t really be overaggressive at this racetrack. It’s kind of a combination of patience and aggressiveness. You want to take what the car will give you because the track is flat. With banking, the faster you go, the more it pushes the car down into the racetrack. We don’t have that there, so it’s just a matter of feeling that razor-blade-edge of grip and getting everything you can and I’ve been successful at it there. It’s kind of clicked with me since the beginning. I really like the racetrack and obviously know how to drive it, which is a big part of it. It’s a good place to start up front because it’s a short race, and it’s not the easiest place to pass.”
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 – 16th IN STANDINGS:
“We had a lot of speed at New Hampshire last fall and led some laps before it turned into a fuel-mileage race. I think with the power we get from Hendrick engines, we can have a good weekend. We need another win, if not two more, to make the Chase. The competition for the wild card spot is really strong right now. It would be great to get it this weekend and have that momentum when we come back to Loudon in September.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 – 17th IN STANDINGS:
"I feel like (crew chief) Alan (Gustafson) and our engineers do an excellent job on flat race tracks - especially tracks like Loudon. I can't wait [for this weekend's race]. [New Hampshire Motor Speedway] is high on my list of tracks that I feel we can capitalize on. I think Loudon is a great opportunity for us. We've been very competitive here recently, and I feel we can be competitive here again this weekend with hopefully a shot at winning. It's a track that I really enjoy, but it's not an easy one to get around because of the long straightaways, flat corners and hard braking. I think the variable banking has made it a little bit easier to run side-by-side and make passes, though."
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 – 18th IN STANDINGS:
“New Hampshire Motor Speedway is a very challenging track. It’s one of those places if you are off a little bit, it shows a lot on the leaderboard. There is a fine line between being really good and not very good. It’s definitely a tough race track. The car must turn in the middle of the corners at New Hampshire. Rear grip has become less of an issue since we first started racing there. When we first started going there, rear grip was everything. If you could accelerate off the corner before your competitor, you were in good shape. Throughout the years, that has really changed. You must rotate in the middle of the corners. If it doesn’t rotate, your lap times will suffer. To me, rotation in the middle of the corners is the most important key to being strong.”
JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 – 20th IN STANDINGS:
“New Hampshire is a track that I really enjoy racing at. I like the close-quarters racing on a flat track. I just feel like I adapt well to that style of racing. It has been a busy week since Daytona last weekend. We went to Indianapolis to test the Grand-Am car on Monday and then off to a two-day test in Nashville. It will be nice to be in one place for more than two days. “
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 – 21st IN STANDINGS:
“New Hampshire is one of those tracks where if you qualify well, you are going to run well. It’s always been a pretty good track for me so I’m pretty excited to go back there with the Target team. The biggest challenge there is learning to use the grooves. It seems like you never get to the yellow line, the yellow line is a groove off of where you normally run. You have to use a lot of braking. It can be quite challenging but I really enjoy racing there.”
KURT BUSCH, NO. 51– 25th IN STANDINGS:
“New Hampshire is a track that has been pretty good to me since I started racing in the top series of this sport. I raced there for the first time in the Truck Series and won that race. Then it’s a track where I have three wins in the Cup cars and, when you’re able to go to a track where you’ve had that kind of success, it just gives you that confidence. Because of the wins and everything, it’s a place we go to where I feel like I especially know what it takes from the car and the driver to be successful.”
REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 – 26th IN STANDINGS:
"Considering how things have gone recently (four accidents in last six races), I will happily take our 10th-place finish that we had in New Hampshire last fall. We've had some solid runs goings recently but can't seem to avoid getting collected in multicar wrecks. New Hampshire Motor Speedway is the type of track that we grew up on and I feel that this is a venue that we can start turning things around in our Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet. This weekend's race begins the second half of the season and we need to keep our heads up and not look back at the disappointments during the first half of the season.”