Wednesday, August 08, 2012

AJ: "It Was My Bad Judgment, And I’m Paying For It”

AJ Allmendinger said the last 30 days have been the most difficult time of his life. But in the end, he said he hopes to be better for the experience. 

“It’s been hell,” said the former Penske Racing driver, who was suspended by NASCAR July 7 after failing a random drug test and released by the team three weeks later. “It’s something you never expect to go through, but it happened."

Allmendinger said he believes a night out with friends prior to the Kentucky race weekend led to his failed drug test. 

“I got to Kentucky early in the week,” he recalled. “One of my good friends was there, and we went out. Throughout the season, I had been putting a lot of pressure on myself. It’s no secret that things were not going the way we wanted and the way I expected (on the race track), and I hadn’t been sleeping a lot. I was really struggling with that, and that night I was really tired. I had no energy, and a friend of (my friend) said, `Hey, I have a workout supplement, an energy supplement that you can take.' I have taken (supplements) in the past. My trainer has given me some, and I hadbeen tested while using them and passed with no problem.  

“I obviously wasn’t thinking,” he admitted. “I was thinking of the supplements I had taken in the past and said, `Yeah, I’ll take one.’ I took it and thought nothing of it.  

"I know people are thinking, `God, what an idiot' for taking something without knowing what it was, and I agree with them. It was stupid, but it’s something I’ve got to live with. It was my bad judgment and I’m paying for it,” said Allmendinger. “It’s crazy to think that one little pill could change my life the way it has. But in the end, it was my own judgement (that got me in trouble). I’d do anything to take it back, but I can’t. All I can do is learn from it, fix the things I need to fix in my life and make myself a better person.

“Some people think I’ve been hiding out, or lying about this,” he said. “The reason I didn’t say anything before now is because I didn’t have any good answers. I didn’t want to answer people's questions with a lot of `I don’t knows,’ and until the B Sample was tested and I found out it was a form of Adderall, I didn’t really have anything productive to say.  

“I am naïve to drugs,” he admitted. “I have never taken drugs in my life. I have never wanted to take them. I’ve never even been around them. I’m so naïve that if the guy had told me he was giving me Adderall that night, I wouldn’t have known what it was. 

"When (NASCAR) told me I had tested positive for drugs, I was thinking hardcore drugs. I was like, `No way, there has got to be something wrong (with the test). It’s not possible.’ I didn’t even know what amphetamine was. I took NyQuil the night before I was tested because I was coming down with a cold. I thought that might have caused it. I had everything in my house and motorhome tested, because I thought they might have caused it. I just didn’t know. It wasn’t until after the B Sample test that I knew what (the substance) was, and began to retrace my steps."

Outwardly one of the sport's most easygoing personalities, Allmendinger admitted he has often struggled with the demands of being a professional athlete.   

“It’s a tough sport, and it can tear you apart,” he said. “There have been times where I wanted to shut myself off from the world and not talk to anyone. Honestly, I have not been a happy person the last six years. But I’m trying to change that now. I have gotten closer to some people I have distanced myself from in recent years, including my parents. I’m learning what’s important in life. I love racing, but racing will not be there for me forever. I forgot who I was for a while, and being without racing (for the last month) has given me time to remember who I am, figure out what I really want and rediscover what makes me happy in life." 

Allmendinger gave NASCAR high marks for its handling of the situation, saying, “I’ve been treated very fairly by NASCAR, by Aegis (Laboratories) and by Dr. David Black. I know they have a zero-tolerance policy, and I’ve told them they can test me every day for the rest of my life. I know I’ll be fine. Dr. Black and NASCAR have been fantastic in this process, they’ve been amazing.” 

He said he has already begun his NASCAR-mandated “Road To Recovery” program, and hopes to complete it by the end of the month. 

“I won’t go into details out of respect for the program, but it’s tailored to each individual person and their needs. A lot of it for me has been stress management. I haven’t managed that part of my life very well for the last couple of years, and that’s something I need to learn how to do. I need to learn how to deal with the hardships in life, because there are always going to be hardships.  

“I also need to get `up to speed’ on substance abuse and not be so naive about some of the things that are out there,” he said. “I hope to finish that up by the end of August, then it’s up to Mr. Helton and Dr. Black to decide whether they want to reinstate me or not.”  

Allmendinger said he is been heartened by words of encouragement from fans and his fellow drivers. 

“Everyone in the media has had an opinion on this; some good and some bad. I haven’t really paid attention to that,” he said. “The fans have been great to me, though. Even though I’ve been quiet publically, I have read Twitter. I have seen their tweets and their support, and it has meant a lot to me. I thank them for that.  

“The people who meant the most to me through all this are the guys I race against; Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards… all the guys who said, `We want AJ back, we want him to fight.’ For them to come out and say that meant the world to me.  

“Those are the people I need to respect me,” he said. “If they feel comfortable racing against me... if they can trust me, side-by-side and inches apart, I can deal with the rest. 

“I’m sorry for NASCAR, for the fans, for my sponsors and for my fellow drivers who have had to answer questions about me that they should never have had to answer,” said Allmendinger. “They should have been able to focus on winning races, trying to make the Chase and working on their careers, instead of talking about me.  

“More than anything, I’m sorry for Roger Penske," he said. "My biggest regret in life will be disappointing him. That’s something I never wanted to do. My dream came true when I was chosen to drive for him, and he’s been amazing through this entire process. I completely understood him having to let me go. I would have made the same decision. Knowing that I disappointed him, that I failed him… that is my greatest regret. 

“I feel like I will be back in a race car,” said Allmedinger. “What type of race car and where that is, I can’t tell you yet. I would like to come back to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and honestly, that’s the whole point of going through the `Road To Recovery’ program. I want to get back in a competitive race car and have a chance to win races again. We’ll have to wait and see if I get that opportunity. 

"Right now, my main goal is to get through this and come out a better person. I’m figuring out what’s important in life. I’ll be a better friend, a better son and a better race car driver, both inside the car and out.

“All I can do is learn from my mistake,” he said. “If you make a mistake and don’t learn from it, you’ve gone through it for no reason. If I learn from this and get better, then it wasn’t all for naught.”

Photo Credits:


  1. Anonymous11:21 AM

    I really want to support AJ, and I will eventually. I am more mad about how Tara Ragan handled it all with her best "Baghdad Bob" impersonation. The drug was a mistake. I get that. The press releases from Ragan leadign up( no doubt approved by AJ ) were more damaging than good & they tried to play everyone for fools.

  2. I had just gone through Starbucks when this aired yesterday (re-aired I think) and saw some friends, paused my radio, then turned my car off to get out and see them. I was SO mad because I wanted to hear the interview - so thank for posting. I had a lot of respect for AJ before - and even more so now. I think it's a good lesson for all of us to get educated as it relates to medication. I wish AJ ALL the best and will definitely be cheering him on through this process, and when he's back on the track.

  3. Anonymous11:47 AM

    I hope some will change their minds and believe what AJ told us what happened and believe what he said. After A J does the road to recovery process I hope that someone with top equipment will give him another chance to prove that A J has seen what he done has corrected his problems. If no one gives him second chance and let's him prove himself what does this say to other drivers that may make the same mistake? If teams cannot believe in the road to recovery process how can our drivers trust in it as a due process to get back into NASCAR as soon as possible.

  4. Anonymous11:57 AM

    He has had a long time to come up with that story....I'd thought he could've came up with a better little pill won't fail a drug test..

    1. Actually, yes it will.

    2. Anonymous12:52 PM

      Thats where you are wrong!

    3. Schreib12:08 PM

      Amazing how everyone seems to know it all, isnt it Dave? Since this story broke, Dave Moody and the entire Sirius radio team has explained over and over NASCARS drug testing policy, and yet we get people like "Anonymous" who know it all.Give me a break!

    4. Anonymous3:12 PM

      One pill WILL fail a drug test. I'm in the business I know.

    5. Anonymous6:08 PM

      He tested positive ... He manned-up took responceabilty So if it was one pill or 10 what is the difference ?

  5. Anonymous12:03 PM

    It's on Youtube, the interview! I have watched it more than once. I give him all my support!

  6. Anonymous12:04 PM

    is there an AJ Almendinger page for people to voice support?
    I applaud him for taking correct steps and responseability for his actions. anyone in any kind of recovery (physical, mental or emotional) knows first hand it aint EZ if ya been in the same life changing circumstances.

  7. NASCAR wil give him another chance if he earns it. If he continues to earn it, he can get where he dreams of being; however, if he slips just once, it will be 'So long AJ'. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me... Good luck AJ, earn it!

  8. Anonymous8:40 PM

    He seems sincere... I wish him luck in the future..

  9. He finally sacked up and spoke for himself. I know this may have been his first chance, but it seems a bit late. It did clear up some things but still leaves so many questions.

    We may see him back in NASCAR, never with a high caliber team. I think DP is where he's going to get his chance to start earning his way back.

    The best question of the entire interview... "What were you thinking?" Thank you for asking that Moody. His response was honest. "I wasn't." It was probably the best answer he could give, but its still frustrating to hear. I bet he's kicking himself everytime he thinks about it. I just want to grab him and shake him and ask WHY?

    Here's to speedy return. To what? I don't know...

  10. Anonymous10:59 AM

    if i were a truck team owner and could get a sponser i would put him in and watch him go to the front and he would be gone the next year to cup!!!!!!

  11. Anonymous1:45 PM

    dont let his sob story and puppy dog eyes fool u, this is jermey mayfeild round 2- i call it like i see it. no more bs

  12. Max gaxiola4:22 PM

    Where proud of aj and hs parents are to.
    He's a good dude with honest intentions.
    We will always have his back.
    Gaxiola family.

  13. I am so very glad to see that AJ come forward and say his piece. I truly believe it will allow everyone in NASCAR Nation to put this to rest once and for all and allow all of us to get behind AJ and support him throughout his "Road To Recovery".

    I know there will always be those who claim "I've been a police officer for 28 years and I could tell just by watching him on TV that he was on drugs" or the anonymous posters here who claim that one pill won't cause you to fail a drug test.

    Although this has been a terrible time for AJ, I think he has a unique opportunity here to make a real contribution to society whether or not he gets back on track as he can use his story to show the rest of the world how one bad decision can affect the rest of your life. I hope he does utilize this opportunity.

  14. Anonymous8:20 PM

    AJ is still spinning the story if he sticks to the "It wasn't until the "B" sample..." story. What did he learn from the B Sample that wasn't disclosed to him on Day 1?

    This is a truly sad story and I wish AJ well, but claiming to be naive to the point that at 30 you don't even know what an amphetamine is, is ridiculous. Hopefully you'll learn something on the road to recovery.

    1. Geosez10:04 AM

      Again (and again and again and again . . .), the "A" test just says something is wrong. The "B" test gets specific about what the substance is. Personally, I'd feel better if the "friend" manned up and came forward but I'm not holding my breath on that.

  15. Anonymous9:57 PM

    I tried to keep an open mind about all this stuff,but after finally hearing him speak on your show, I think he knew that he was taking something he shouldn't have been. When he said that nascar and the road to recovery people have been great, but the fans and media not so much,well he needs nascar and the recovery people to help him,so trash the media and fans for there comments! Bottom line is that AJ did this all to himself and he was living a life many wish they could.If you don't like whats being said about you, then go work construction somewhere and stay away from the spot light......Hope you get your life together and look in the mirror next time you want get upset with someone.