Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Second Chance for AJ Allmendinger

Credit: Debbie Ross. For Skirts and Scuffs
When it comes to second chances, AJ Allmendinger is thankful for the opportunities Roger Penske has given him.

Last season, Allmendinger lost his Cup ride with Penske, due to failing a drug test. Against his better judgment, he took a pill from someone he trusted. The pill turned out to contain amphetamines. Allmendinger was pulled from the Daytona race and was quickly replaced by Sam Hornish Jr. soon after he was let go by Penske. The promising season he was looking forward to was gone within seconds.

Even though people said Allmendinger’s career was over, he didn’t let that stop him. After completing the Road to Recovery program, he returned to NASCAR and raced for Phoenix Racing. The outlook for his career was unknown. Where would he end up? Would he get a ride?

Luck was on his side, for Penske still wanted to give him a shot but not in NASCAR, in IndyCar. In addition to IndyCar, he’d also be racing part-time for Phoenix Racing in the 2013 season.

In IndyCar, Allmendinger had the chance to run one of the biggest races: the Indianapolis 500. Allmendinger would race in his first 500. Drivers dream of racing this race for it’s truly an honor to be a part of this history. For someone like Allmendinger who wanted to get his career back on track, getting this opportunity was just the ticket he needed.

At the start of the race, Allmendinger was having issues; he wasn’t going forward. But with “The Captain” in his ear coaching him, the panic and worry seemed to fade from Allmendinger. He would go on to lead for 14 laps and had a shot to win the 500.

However, he had to settle for seventh, which in my book was a win for Allmendinger. In the end he showed he still has passion and talent for racing in any form.

After that, Allmendinger raced mostly for Phoenix Racing; he’s run a total of five races for the team. His finishes are mostly inside the top 15; his worst finish was 33rd at Pocono. His best finish was 11th at Phoenix. Allmendinger also had his first Nationwide race since 2007 coming up at Road America. He would be racing for Roger Penske, driving the No. 22.

It seemed like luck was starting to follow Allmendinger. He would be racing at Michigan for JTG Daugherty, and it was announced that he would share the ride with veteran driver Bobby Labonte. Allmendinger would go on to finish 19th in Michigan.

After Michigan, Allmendinger was gearing up for his Nationwide race at Road America. On the day of qualifying he went out and got the pole. It was looking to be a great weekend for him, but that was only the start for Allmendinger. He went on to lead a total of 29 laps, he had the best car all day as well as the fastest.

In the end though, it wasn't about being the best car, it was about winning. That’s what he did - he went out there and won. Emotions were very high to see how far this young driver has come since 2012.

This weekend marks the one-year anniversary of Allmendinger’s failed drug test. So much has happened to him in just a period of a year. In fact, seeing him today brings a smile to my face knowing he took the steps needed to be back doing what he loves, and that’s racing.

Yes, a mistake cost him his Cup ride with Penske; yes, he had a setback last season. But all that is in the past. By getting these second chances, Allmendinger is showing his true potential and showing that sometimes all you need is a second chance. That all you need is for someone to give you that chance, to repent for your mistakes.

Because, in the end if we didn’t make mistakes, we wouldn't learn from them to better ourselves.

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