TALLADEGA, Ala. — A.J. Allmendinger is doing his best to keep himself visible to any Cup owners who might have open rides in the near future. Wearing a bright blue polo shirt, Allmendinger was spotted Friday walking through the garage area at Talladega Superspeedway.
Allmendinger’s visit was his first to a NASCAR race weekend since he was reinstated by NASCAR last month after completing the league’s substance abuse program. He was suspended in July after testing positive in a random drug test.
He’s cleared to drive, but two questions remain: Where and when? When asked if he had any leads, Allmendinger said there are a “couple of things that could possibly happen” but declined to give details.
“More than anything, it’s just coming back to get back here,” Allmendinger said. “I’ve missed it. It’s tough, sitting at home and watching it. It’s tough standing here and watching it go by.
“This is how the sport is. You can be forgotten and if you’re not here, people are going to easily forget about you. I want to be here. I’m just working hard, trying to see what’s out there — and more importantly, seeing all the friends I’ve missed.”
With Kurt Busch planning on running the final six races of 2012 with Furniture Row Racing, which leaves the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet without a driver. Owner James Finch plans on putting Regan Smith in the car for Charlotte, but Allmendinger’s name has come up in conversations.
If he doesn’t get that ride, Allmendinger would still like to return to the series before the year ends.
“If there’s something that I could get in that’s worthwhile and competitive, I’d like to go and get back into the flow of it,” Allmendinger said. “You take a few months off, and you almost worry that you won’t remember how to do it any more, so you want to get back in a race car.
“Obviously, you’re always trying to work on next year. It all takes time. It’s not going to be easy. So I’m working my butt off to try and find whatever’s out there to show that I want to be back here.”
Allmendinger wouldn’t rule out returning to open-wheel or sports cars if that’s where the next opportunity presents itself. But he’d prefer staying in NASCAR.
“[I’d] like to stay here if it’s the right situation,” Allmendinger said. “I’m open to all options, but my first option is to be back here in something competitive. I know that’s not going to be easy to do. [It’ll take a lot] to get the respect and trust back, but all I can do is go out there and work hard to do that.”
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