Several leading NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have expressed their confidence that AJ Allmendinger will be able to return to top-line racing once he completes his 'Road to Recovery' programme.
Allmendinger hopes to be reinstated by NASCAR following his indefinite suspension after testing positive for a stimulant. The 30-year-old is now out of a drive after Penske Racing announced earlier this week that it was releasing him with immediate effect, drafting Sam Hornish Jr as his replacement for the rest of the season.
Fellow Californian Jeff Gordon expects Allmendinger to fight his way back from his current situation, and is curious to learn more about the circumstances.
"AJ is a friend of mine," said Gordon. "I've always been a fan of his ever since his open-wheel runs in the CART [Champ Car] Series. You hate to see it because it was a great opportunity for him to be at Penske in that car. It's disappointing to see.
"I'm as anxious as anybody else to know all the details as to what happened, what went wrong. He's a fighter. I don't see him just turning away. I see him doing what he can to come back."
Reigning Cup champion Tony Stewart believes Allmendinger deserves another chance in NASCAR.
"He's a talented driver," said Stewart. "He's a good guy and he deserves to be in this series. So, whatever he has to do to make those steps happen, he's got the talent and the skill to do it and he deserves another chance."
Five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson says that if Allmendinger is really committed to the Road To Recovery process, there could be new opportunities for him once he is ready to return.
"I think people like a comeback story and if AJ is committed to the process and getting back, I'm sure there will be some opportunities," said Johnson.
"I don't think it's going to be the one that he wants to start, but over time I would assume he could get back to a good spot. Everybody makes mistakes. We learn and grow from it and move on. People are usually, or mostly, responsive to that."
Michael Shank, who has run Allmendinger in the 24 Hours of Daytona, winning the event together in January, told SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio that he would be ready to put him in a Grand-Am car once NASCAR gives him the green light.
"He has to go through the Road to Recovery — which we all accept and we all agree with," Shank said. "That process, I'm told, can take anywhere from a month to three months.
"We'll be testing in Daytona in October and November with the Daytona prototype and some new stuff we have from Ford Racing coming. If that's the case, as soon as NASCAR says it's been satisfied, we'll get him back in."