By Mike Mulhern
The strange AJ Allmendinger saga that broke July 7th at Daytona, just a few hours before the Daytona 400, ended just as abruptly Tuesday afternoon 73 days later, with NASCAR executives 'reinstating' the veteran racer "effective immediately."
Allmendinger was pulled out of Roger Penske's Dodge that Saturday afternoon after NASCAR officials said, without much further explanation, that he had failed a routine drug test.
NASCAR says Allmendinger, a five-year Sprint Cup tour driver who lost one of the most prestigious rides in the sport with the accusation, had successfully completed what the sanctioning body calls its 'road to recovery' program, a program which neither NASCAR nor its drug testing firm has very clearly defined
Allmendinger professed innocence for several weeks in July, insisting he had never knowingly taken any banned substances. He indicated the test was possibly a 'false positive' from his use of vitamin supplements.
However eventually Allmendinger conceded he had taken some type of 'speed' pill Wednesday July 4th when he was tired and a friend offered him the drug.
Allmendinger has been all but in hiding ever since the initial test reports in July. Penske invited Allmendinger, a winner on the Indy-car tour before moving into NASCAR, to last weekend's Indy-car race at California Speedway.
What might happen next for Allmendinger is unclear. Penske has said all along he would be willing to rehire him. But Penske already has three Cup drivers lined up for 2013, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Sam Hornish. Penske of course does have an opening on his Indy-car team.
Allmendinger offered a brief statement: "I want to thank everyone for their support through this entire process.
"I appreciate that NASCAR created the Road to Recovery program and am grateful for the opportunity to return to competition.
"The Road to Recovery program was really helpful to me in getting my priorities reset away from the race track. And honestly that helped find my love of racing again and why I began racing in the first place.
"I'm looking forward to taking this experience and be better for it moving forward."