NOT: AJ Allmendinger announced Tuesday that he was banned from NASCAR and later fired from his last, best chance at NASCAR stardom for taking a single Adderall. But what he really announced was that the consequences of failing to be forthcoming are damning for a NASCAR driver's career.
There it was, days after Allmendinger was shut out from Daytona when the sample he gave at Kentucky was revealed to contain readings of a positive test, a release from his company's vice president offering Allmendinger's second statement on the matter. The machine churning out the charm of innocence was running full blast.
"(Allmendinger) has no idea why the first test was positive, and he has never knowingly taken any prohibited substance. AJ is collecting his medicines and supplements for testing to determine whether an over-the-counter product caused his positive test," wrote Tara Ragan in the July 11 press release.
It seemed like the perfect alibi. Allmendinger, by golly, must've ingested a product intended to be a benefit to his health that produced a strange false reading.
But it really couldn't have been further from the truth.
Instead, as Allmendinger admitted Tuesday, he'd been out on the town in Louisville on the Wednesday night before the Kentucky race just up the road. A friend of a friend, the story goes, offered a tired and weary Allmendinger an "energy pill" to keep him awake. Allmendinger took it and apparently thought nothing of it until two weeks ago when his 'B' sample confirmed the initial sample's reading.
That's when Allmendinger started to remember, he says, and recalled the moment out in Louisville two days before he was randomly tested by NASCAR. He soon found out the pill he had taken was Adderall - a brand-name substance prescribed to treat attention deficit disorders and commonly used illegally otherwise as a stimulant. It's on NASCAR's illegal substance list if used without a prescription and shows up on a drug test as an amphetamine.
I, of course, have no idea when Allmendinger actually figured out that the pill he took was the illicit one. But the story that he just suddenly remembered taking it following the confirmation of his failed test is just a bit too easy. The facts, as they say, just don't add up.
Allmendinger said he's been tested under NASCAR's drug screening system 15 to 20 times in his career. He's seen crewmen and drivers in the garage get swiftly pulled from their on-track duties thanks to the expansive no-tolerance policy. Why, then, was he taking an unknown pill from an acquaintance? It's hard to fathom a high-profile athlete having such little regard for caution.
Beyond that, it's remarkable that Allmendinger's nerves weren't rattled when he was called for the test at Kentucky. Wouldn't you at least alert NASCAR and your team that you had taken something you weren't quite sure the origin of? In NASCAR's eyes, it probably wouldn't have changed a thing thanks to that zero tolerance stance. But what about with Penske Racing? Could Allmendinger have saved his job by being more forthcoming?
It's just unimaginable that Allmendinger, fully abreast on NASCAR's rules, would so casually forget he took an unknown pill.
Allmendinger doesn't deserve to be labeled a substance abuser thanks to his otherwise clean history of drug tests with NASCAR. He really deserves no more punishment than the harsh hand he's been dealt. Instead, he'll just have to live with the fact that a dumb mistake on a night out - and a level of unwillingness to admit it - has stamped his future far away from NASCAR's top teams.
NOT: There has been plenty written since the end of the race at Pocono about the fatal lightning strike. To me, it's pretty simple: NASCAR and Pocono Raceway need a much tighter plan to alert fans of impending severe weather, while also having the willingness to stop a race even before rain drops fall in the interest of fan and competitor safety.
People don't deserve to die at race tracks, especially when it comes to dangers that can be predicted.
HOT: Is anyone going to step up and actually battle Hendrick Motorsports as we head to the Chase? Even if Jeff Gordon got lucky, Jimmie Johnson was on his way to a dominating rout. That's three straight wins for HMS.
NOT: Since hopping in Allmendinger's old car, Sam Hornish Jr. has finished 33rd, 22nd, 16th and 19th. He'll have to shake those uninspiring numbers if he wants to keep the No. 22 full-time in 2013.
HOT: After basically getting robbed at Indianapolis, it was nice to see Elliott Sadler punch out a win at Iowa Saturday night in retribution. If anything, he's at least re-opened the door for the possibility of a Sprint Cup ride in 2013.
NOT: Kyle Busch's luck has been pretty miserable almost all summer, hasn't it? That said, I wouldn't want to be tied with him in wins for the final spot in Chase wildcard at Richmond. That race, and the necessary time to shine, just seems targeted for him after the tough-luck season he's experienced.
HOT: Oppositely, Kasey Kahne has finished 14th or better (three top-5s) since his unlucky wreck at Michigan in June. And Sunday? He only managed a second-place run on a tire that went flat during the final caution laps before the rain.
NEUTRAL: Don't look now, but Kevin Harvick has backslid three spots in the standings to ninth since Michigan in June, tied for the most among drivers in the point standings' top-20. He's basically a lock for the Chase, but all is obviously not well with his car.
Enjoy Watkins Glen.