LOUDON, N.H. — Now that AJ Allmendinger has been cleared to return to NASCAR, his fellow drivers still wonder if he can ever convince a car owner or sponsor to give him a second chance after failing a drug test.
“I mean it’s still a tough road,” Brad Keselowski said. “It’s great to see Roger (Penske) support him like he has been and really the whole NASCAR community has reached out in their own ways. I’m happy that the Road to Recovery process has worked for him and I think we’ll all be watching to see what happens.”
Allmendinger was suspended in June after he tested positive for amphetamines. He completed NASCAR’s drug treatment program and was reinstated last Monday.
Most said they’d welcome Allmendinger back into the sport, and all said they were happy with Allmendinger’s determination, as well as the sport’s treatment process.
“I think that a quick reinstatement like that speaks volumes of what his commitment is,” Jeff Gordon said. “I think that NASCAR wouldn’t do that unless they saw a lot out of A.J. and what his intentions and commitment are moving forward. I would think that would build confidence in the garage area as well.”
Tony Stewart, who’s a co-owner at Stewart-Haas Racing, said Allmendinger would be a good driver for a team that needs someone who will push hard. At the same time, Stewart didn’t talk about the challenges of finding sponsorship.
“I think obviously in NASCAR has reinstated him for a reason,” he said. “I don’t see any problem. … I think somebody that is looking for somebody that is hungry and can get the job done; I think he is a good pick right now.”
MAKING UP GROUND: Gordon needs to defy history if he’s going to win his fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
He’s last in the Chase standings, 47 points behind, after crashing in the first race of the playoffs last week at Chicagoland Speedway.
Six of the eight champions since the Chase began in 2004 started the playoffs by finishing no worse than sixth in the first race. At the same time, Jimmie Johnson proved in 2006 it’s possible by starting the Chase with a 39t h-place finish in the first playoff race and coming back to win the championship.
Gordon finished 35th a week ago. He knows he needs a lot of things to happen in his favor in the next nine races to get back into contention.
“If we come out of here, and I’m sitting here on Sunday as a winner, and those guys have a bad run and give us a chance, I might be saying something different,” Gordon said. “But, at this point, we have a lot of work to do, and it’s not going to happen all in one race. It’s going to happen over nine races.
“We’re certainly not going to quit. We’re going to go out and fight, and we’re going be aggressive. We’re going to do everything we’ve got to do to try to win races, and we’ll see where we end up.”
Gordon will start on the pole for today’s Sylvania 300 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He was 15th-fastest in the final practice Saturday, nearly 2 mph behind the fastest lap by Denny Hamlin.