From a suspension to victory lane, the last 12 months have been a long and winding road for A.J. Allmendinger. This story is a movie script right here. Team owner Roger Penske welcomes back the once-fallen driver like a prodigal son, and Allmendinger rewards his gesture with a win at Road America in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
When word got out of the reasons behind NASCAR’s suspension, that Allmendinger tested positive for use of Adderall- a banned substance- many thought AJ was finished. It’s an all too common tale, just when a struggling upstart seems ready to turn the corner and deliver on his potential, his opportunity is derailed by a bad choice.
“No top team will take a chance on this guy,” doubters opined. “Sponsors will avoid a driver with a drug offense like the plague,” others reasoned. After initially dragging his feet on an admission, to his credit the former open wheel ace owned up to his error, and submitted himself to NASCAR’s Road To Recovery. After following the prescribed steps, he was re-instated; but would anyone take a chance?
Enter “The Captain,” Roger Penske. The same owner who employed AJ at the time of his failed drug test gave Allmendinger another chance. To many, it would seem like a gamble. After all, how many times has someone in Allmendinger’s position blown a goodwill gesture? And this is Roger Penske, we’re talking about here. While not regarded as a harsh man, The Captain has a reputation for running a tight ship.
As a result, two notable headlines have come out of this restored pairing. Allmendinger ran a strong race at the Indianapolis 500 in his first start ever in America’s premier racing event. Then there’s this weekend’s victory at one of NASCAR’s most challenging courses.
For this fan, who loves the underdog, it was a nail-biting conclusion conclusion to the Johnsonville Sausage 200. Historically, Allmendinger’s tendency under pressure has been to overdrive the car, get too aggressive with a fellow competitor, or have a fellow competitor get to aggressive with him. Brilliant moves and discretion delivered the victory for the 22 car.
I don’t care who you are, everybody likes a feel good story. The win by Anthony James Allmendinger from Los Gatos, California gives us one of the top comeback stories of 2013 to date.