NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger was required to take a breath test before Friday’s practice at Talladega Superspeedway following his arrest on a drunken driving charge.
Allmendinger was arrested by Mooresville (N.C.) police early Thursday morning. He was placed on probation by NASCAR through the end of the season and said he had no problem when series officials asked him to take the test.
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“I know what I’ve done,” Allmendinger said. “I respect the punishment and everything that I have to do to gain the trust back of NASCAR and everybody that’s out there racing with me. It’s not the best feeling in the world, but at the same point I respect that I have to go do it.”
Mooresville police said Allmendinger, who drives the No. 44 Dodge for Richard Petty Motorsports, failed a field sobriety test after being pulled over shortly after leaving a bar.
Allmendinger registered 0.08 on the breath test, the police report said. Under North Carolina law, that means his license will be automatically suspended for 30 days.
On Friday, RPM fined Allmendinger $10,000, which will be donated to charity. The team also put him on probation through the end of next season.
Allmendinger said he hasn’t spoken to Petty since the incident. The seven-time NASCAR champion – who shunned alcohol sponsorship during his career – released a statement on Thursday saying he was “disappointed” in Allmendinger’s actions.
Allmendinger enters Sunday’s race 25th in points and is considered part of RPM’s long-term plans. Team officials told The Associated Press that Allmendinger was going to be moved into Petty’s famed No. 43 next season. Best Buy is expected to sponsor the car. Allmendinger said he’s optimistic the incident won’t mar his future prospects.
“Hopefully, I can go out there and show people that I can learn from it and people do get second chances,” he said.
His teammates aren’t particularly concerned about Allmendinger’s mistake costing RPM. Neither is Budweiser, who is the primary sponsor for RPM star Kasey Kahne.
“Richard Petty Motorsports is a great partner in our efforts to promote responsible drinking, and they have communicated to us their own disappointment regarding this matter,” said Kathy Casso, vice president of corporate social responsibility for Anheuser-Busch, Inc. “We are adamantly opposed to drunk driving and any incident of it is a serious issue. We hope this will serve as a reminder of the importance of making responsible choices.”
A couple of Allmendinger’s fellow drivers don’t believe NASCAR needs to set stricter sanctions for drivers who are charged with driving under the influence.
“This sport is dictated by our fan base and our sponsors, and if you’re actions off the track impact that enough, you’re going to get penalized and to me, that penalty is far going to outweigh anything the league or the series can do,” said four-time champion Jeff Gordon.
Brian Vickers added he as “no problem” with the current standards.
“It’s almost a self-policing system,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s not going to be team owner or NASCAR that’s going to be the harshest on the driver or the crew member, it’s going to be the sponsor. In this kind of corporate environment, it’s going to come down to the sponsor.”