NASCAR has announced that Sprint Cup driver A.J. Allmendinger has been suspended for a positive drug test, making him ineligible to compete in tonight's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Sam Hornish Jr. will drive the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge in his place.
Allmendinger's "A sample" tested positive for a banned substance. The driver can and has requested a test of his "B sample." If that sample likewise comes back positive, Allmendinger will become the first driver in NASCAR's top division to be indefinitely suspended by the sanctioning body for a drug violation since Jeremy Mayfield was banned at Darlington in 2009. That test, of course, has led to an ongoing debacle of lawsuits and he-said, he-said accusations that dragged both the sanctioning body and Mayfield - a five-time Sprint Cup race winner - through the mud.
Allmendinger entered tonight's race 23rd in the standings. His first season with legendary car owner Roger Penske has left much to be desired, with just three top-10 finishes in the first 17 races of 2012. He was widely expected to be the breakout driver of the season, winning his first race and then some and making his first Chase, but it has not panned out thus far. While teammate Brad Keselowski has won a series-high three races, Allmendinger has struggled to find anything resembling consistency at the front of the field, with mechanical gremlins spoiling several promising runs.
Hornish Jr., a former Indianapolis 500 champion, races for Penske full-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. He finished tenth in last night's 250-miler for that series.