UPDATE (2:27 pm ET) : According to an Associated Press report from Jenna Fryer, Allmendinger’s Business Manager issued a statement saying the driver tested positive for an unnamed stimulant.
“I can play. Give me a chance. Come on guys, I can do it” he says in almost a sing-song voice. “Just let me try, I won’t screw up, I promise.” It’s the battle cry of little brothers everywhere when they see an opportunity to run with the big boys.
If you outfit him with Vans, cargo shorts and a skater tee shirt, A.J. Allmendinger would still fit well the image the kid down the street, trying hard to earn some “man points.” While one part of him drives you berserk with his false bravado, another part of you is watching his back, to try to keep him out of a fight he can’t finish. That’s what makes waiting out this mess with the #22 Penske Dodge driver all the more difficult for a fan like yours truly, who has a soft spot for the kid.
The problem with little brothers is their penchant for trouble. If given a chance to play, they often either try too hard or their ambition sometimes exceeds their talent. That, or immaturity rears its head, a bad choice is made and they squander a golden opportunity to acquire a little street cred. Sometimes, the infraction is egregious enough you have to banish them to the bench
This wasn’t the way A.J. Allmendinger’s season was supposed to go down. After struggling to help get a start-up team in Red Bull off the ground, and then after laboring with an organization like RPM mired in uncertainty, he was finally getting his chance with Penske, one of the top outfits in NASCAR. He had finally landed a top flight ride.
The season got off to a rough start, but he seemed to be finally shaking off some of the bad luck with a pair of top tens. Then NASCAR lowers the boom with word of a failed drug test and temporary suspension. Now we wait for the other shoe to drop. There’s no desire to be a doomsayer, but this movie has been seen many times before. I truly hope I’m wrong, and like many of you, I hope its some screw up with a prescription; but frankly, that may be wishful thinking.
Like that prodigal that had gone astray, one can only hope that somehow, some way this story has a good ending. It may not involve on-track redemption, but something much greater; the kid shaking loose the grip of something that could take much more than your job.
Perhaps this lament is premature. One can only hope. In our heart of hearts, we really wouldn’t wish this on the drivers we revile. Perhaps what we have here is a fan bracing for bad news concerning someone with enviable skill, and someone who is after all, human like the rest of us and sometimes grabs that tiger by the tail, thinking he can be the one to beat the system.
Sometimes the little brother never gets back into the game, but wiser, finds his place somewhere else, a place where the slate is clean, where he can forge a new beginning that leads to a better end.
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