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Posted July 11, 2012 | comments Leave a comment

Murto: Driver's failed test difficult to fathom

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By Craig Murto - sports@nvdaily.com

Less than two hours before the start of Saturday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Daytona, NASCAR announced publicly that A.J. Allmendinger failed the random drug test he was given before the Kentucky race the week before.

Allmendinger is the highest profile driver since Jeremy Mayfield to be suspended due to a failed drug test. As of this writing he is on "temporary" suspension after his "A" sample proved positive for prohibited substances. His "B" sample was tested earlier this week, and should that test also prove positive he will be on "indefinite" suspension pending his successful graduation from a NASCAR-approved rehabilitation program.

People who know Allmendinger are shocked. Many have expressed the opinion that this must be a mistake, that the "B" sample will exonerate the Penske driver. And maybe that will happen. It would be welcome news if it does happen, though it won't give Allmendinger the points back that he lost by not driving at Daytona.

But what if Allmendinger's "B" sample comes back positive?

It'll probably be up to the sponsors to decide if he keeps his job. Surely Roger Penske doesn't approve of his drivers taking unapproved substances. But if he's allowed to keep his job and go through some form of rehab successfully, it may be a positive for the sponsors.

Chances are, however, that if the "B" sample comes back positive, Allmendinger may be looking at the end of his career, unless he wants to spend the rest of his days in low-budget start-and-park operations for a fraction of what he's been making at Penske. Perhaps he could go through rehab and land another ride in IndyCar. Maybe he can drive for James Finch after Kurt Busch moves on.

Although we can't convict A.J. Allmendinger until the facts are known, it's still a very disappointing situation. It's sad to think there's even the remote possibility that somebody lucky enough to race cars for a living would chance throwing that career away. To be honest, it's mind-boggling. It's true that Allmendinger won't be the first to throw a career away for drugs if it's the case, but it doesn't make it any less sad.

And it's nothing less than very stupid, if true. Crew members, spotters, other drivers -- many have been suspended by NASCAR under its drug-testing policy. Why would A.J. Allmendinger -- or anybody, for that matter -- think he could get away with it?

Hopefully we'll discover -- as soon as today, maybe -- that the "B" sample is negative and A.J. is reinstated. If it's positive, well, that'll be very disappointing.

Nothing about motorcycles at Winchester was disappointing. Flat track motorcycle racing hadn't been at Winchester Speedway for 58 years, but last Friday it returned with the AMA All-Star National Flat Track Series.

It was a hot evening (nearly 100 degrees), but it was still surprising that there weren't any more than 500 people in the grandstands. Maybe the $20 front gate ticket price was a bit steep, or perhaps the fact that the track had a Late Model show on Saturday kept many fans away. The racing was absolutely fantastic, and hopefully if the series returns in 2013 more promotion and consideration for the event will take place to ensure a good crowd. The fans that did go to Winchester Speedway on Friday night were not disappointed.

AMA Grand National rider Sammy Halbert won the Expert Twins class, and Grand National rider Jared Mees won the Expert singles division. The two pro riders battled for both feature wins. The pro AMA Grand National series ran at Hagerstown the following night for the annual Hub City Classic, which was won by Mees. Fitting, as Mees dons the leathers and No. 9 of the late Maryland Grand national rider Gary Nixon. Halbert could do no better than fifth at Hagerstown.

The next couple of Saturday nights, the best bet locally is Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas. This Saturday the Super Cup Stock Car Series will be in competition, featuring many former Pro Cup and nationwide drivers. Then on July 21 it's time for the annual Joe Gibbs Youth for Tomorrow 150, featuring guest NASCAR stars competing against local racers and visiting Late Model drivers in the annual charity fundraiser. Gates for the July 21 event open at 4 p.m., and all proceeds benefit the Youth for Tomorrow foundation.

-- Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.


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