Give AJ Allmendinger a second chance

September, 19, 2012
Give him a chance. Whether it's in NASCAR or IndyCar, AJ Allmendinger deserves another chance to show he can, and will, do the right thing.

We all trip and fall at some point in our life. We all make mistakes. But can you overcome and move forward? Can you get up again?

Allmendinger has done what he was required to do. He completed NASCAR's Road to Recovery program. He apologized for a positive drug test.

What actually happened to cause it, no one really knows except AJ. It doesn't matter now. What matters is how he responds to this difficult detour in his life and career.

In a Sirius radio interview Tuesday, Allmendinger said he realizes he has to regain everyone's trust, and he will do everything in his power to do so. I believe him.

This incident has shaken him to his core. AJ is a bright young man and talented race car driver. He struggled this year in what he saw as his golden opportunity -- a Sprint Cup ride driving for Roger Penske, one of his heroes. Those struggles on the track led him to question himself.

But he went through NASCAR's rehab program and now needs someone to give him a ride. And someone should.

Also, NASCAR officials should be applauded for reinstating Allmendinger so quickly after he completed the program. It's important for the sport to show that the system works -- a driver at the highest level can come back and race again if he does what is asked after a failed drug test.

This can be a shining example that NASCAR's recovery program works, that a failed drug test is not a death knell for a driver's career.

Penske said he might have a spot for Allmendinger in IndyCar. If so, great. But Penske has three cars now and doesn't have full sponsorship for all three, so running a fourth car might be a stretch. Or maybe something is happening with one of his three drivers -- Will Power, Helio Castroneves or Ryan Briscoe -- that we don't yet know.

If the IndyCar ride doesn't happen, maybe Dinger can get a quality ride in Nationwide or the Camping World Truck Series for 2013. I would rather see him do that than take a start-and-park type ride in Cup.

But some team owner, along with some sponsor, should give Allmendinger a shot. I'm convinced they would be happy they did.

An old friend of mine named John Hollis, a former sports editor and columnist for the now-defunct Houston Post, wrote a farewell column when he retired about his love for boxing, something he did a little himself as a kid.

John passed away in 2007, but he described the sweet science as a metaphor for his life. "I remember getting knocked down," he wrote. "But I heard the count, and I got up."

Allmendinger got knocked down. We all do, but he heard the count and he got up.

Now someone needs to give him a chance to step back in the ring and fight another day.

Terry Blount

ESPN Staff Writer



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