No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge - NASCAR photoEnlarge Photo
The biggest story coming from NASCAR's Coke Zero 400 Sprint Cup race on Saturday evening wasn't the number of "big one" accidents, nor was it Tony Stewart's fourth win in the July Daytona International Speedway race, Dale Earnhardt's dissatisfaction with the rules or anything else that occurred on the race track.
The big story continues to be AJ Allmendinger's temporary suspension from NASCAR competition following a positive random drug test for an as-yet-undisclosed substance.
The driver of the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger fielded by Penske Racing has been silent since the word went down, about two hours before the green flags flew at Daytona. Penske Racing rushed to secure the services of its current Nationwide Series driver Sam Hornish Jr for the evening, flying the former three-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion and 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner from Charlotte, where he was taping a show for Speed TV.
Hornish arrived and was belted in with maybe a hiccup to spare before the green flags flew. He had to become comfortable in the car, which was slightly amended for his seating position and driving preferences as he flew down the coast. Hornish brought his seat insert (which must have been in the Nationwide truck or in his No. 12 Dodge race car) and made it onto the track before the race began.
It wasn't the greatest race as Hornish cut a tire, spun the car and caused the first caution of the event in the process. Hornish continued to drive for the sake of acquiring points, ending the 160-lap contest in 33rd position.
AJ Allmendinger - NASCAR photoEnlarge Photo
When team owner Roger Penske arrived in Toronto for the Honda Indy Toronto IZOD IndyCar Series race the following morning, he did express his disappointment with NASCAR's findings. "You know it's a disappointment at this particular time, but we're going to wait and see what the second test results are before we make any comments or decisions. I don't think it's fair to him," Penske said.
"I think if you look at sports, things like this happen. It's unfortunate, but I don't want to really make a statement pro or con right now. I'm counting on the test being proper for him within 72 hours and at that point they'll make a decision."
The silence from Allmendinger's camp continued through Sunday but his business manager, Tara Ragan - who has been with the driver since his early Champ Car days - did say, on Monday morning that he was shocked by his suspension for the failed drug test.
Ragan also contends that he is a health-conscious person. "It was shocking to us," Ragan told the Sporting News. "We're all a little bit shell-shocked and getting our heads around what happened. We are working closely with the folks from Penske to work through the procedure with NASCAR."
Because the process could be lengthy as Allmendinger submits his B sample - which has not yet been authorized - Penske Racing announced on Monday morning that "Penske Racing is continuing to work with NASCAR to follow its process and procedures related to the positive drug test that AJ Allmendinger was notified of this past weekend. While this process continues, Sam Hornish Jr. will drive the No. 22 car in this week's Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway."
Penske Racing president Tim Cindric allowed via Twitter: "Penske Racing does not know when/if B sample test will occur for AJ. If it does happen, it could take days for results. (We) announced Sam today to ensure we are properly prepared for Loudon as it is more demanding to prepare for than Daytona, not for any other reason,” Cindric said.