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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Don't cry for A.J. Allmendinger; He was fired just like any of us would have been fired after a failed drug test

The inevitable has happened.

A.J. Allmendinger, fresh off a failed drug test, has been let go from his ride at Penske Racing.

"Penske Racing fully supports NASCAR's substance abuse policy and we are disappointed with A.J.'s positive drug test results," said Roger Penske. "A.J. is a terrific driver, a good person and it is very unfortunate that we have to separate at this time. We have invested greatly in A.J. and we were confident in his success with our team. The decision to dismiss him is consistent with how we would treat any other Penske Racing team member under similar circumstances. As A.J. begins NASCAR's 'Road to Recovery' program, we wish him the best and look forward to seeing him compete again in NASCAR."

In other words, you screwed up buddy. Don't let the door hit you on the way out. And that line about him competing again in NASCAR, I wouldn't bet on it, at least not in a decent ride anytime soon. As soon as the test result came out, I knew he would get fired. Kyle Petty said the same thing and many people attacked him over it, but he was just telling the truth. No top team -- Roush, Gibbs, etc. -- would hire a guy who has failed a drug test. Not at this level of the game, where so many good drivers are battling for a few quality rides.

Many people have rushed to A.J.'s defense, saying a supplement or energy drink could have caused the positive test. And I suppose that is a possibility.

But to really judge this situation, let's bring it to the real world. When I got my job, I had to pass a drug test before I started working. Same goes for many of you. If any of us had failed that test, we would not be in the jobs we have now.
Other workers in various jobs are in a similar boat to NASCAR drivers and crew members, and are subject to random drug testing. If any of those workers -- whether they are truck drivers or cashiers at a grocery store -- fail a random drug test, they are most likely going to be fired.

Whether they were an amphetamine addict or just took the wrong supplement, their boss wouldn't care. They would be gone.

And that's what Roger Penske said in his statement. You fail a drug test, you are gone. That goes from Cup series driver or crew chief all the way down to low-level shop worker checking tire pressures. In a sport as high-risk as NASCAR, that has to be the policy on every team.

I do feel bad for Allmendinger, whose career is likely shot at this point -- I'd recommend he goes back to open wheel racing if possible, as his stock car career likely won't bloom again anytime soon in the wake of this mess.

But what happened to him is what would have happened to any us, so none of us need to cry for him.

Here is A.J.'s statement after being released:
Effective today, I have been released from Penske Racing as driver of the #22 Dodge Charger. I wish to thank Mr. Penske, Penske Racing, their sponsors, and especially all the of the #22 team for the opportunity they provided me and for their support in this difficult time. I also, again, would like to thank all the fans that really have been awesome through this. I apologize for the distraction, embarrassment, and difficulties that my current suspension from NASCAR has provided. As I stated last week, I have begun NASCAR's Road to Recovery program and look forward to using those resources and its completion to compete again in NASCAR in the near future."

And here is the statement from Shell and Pennzoil, sponsors of the 22 car:
"Shell and Pennzoil fully support NASCAR's substance abuse policy and Penske Racing's decision to release A.J. Allmendinger as driver of the #22 Dodge Charger following his indefinite suspension by NASCAR. We wish A.J. the best as he participates in NASCAR's Road to Recovery program. Shell and Pennzoil will continue to work closely with Penske Racing to determine plans for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season."

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