Implementation Delays 'Fail' NASCAR Drug Program
by John Close
Charlotte, NC (July 9, 2012) - A.J. Allmendinger - driver of the No. 22 Penske Dodge - was temporarily suspended from NASCAR just 90 minutes prior to Saturday's Daytona Cup event after results from a random drug test administered at Kentucky a week ago came up positive.
Subsequently, 'The Dinger' got spun out and Sam Hornish strapped on the yellow and red Penske entry at Daytona driving it to a 33rd-place finish in the Coke Zero 400. Only time will tell if Allmendinger is 'clean.' He has 72 hours (Tuesday afternoon deadline) to submit a 'B' sample for comparison to his failed 'A' sample - the results expected to take up to five days to determine.
That's what we know. Here's where the rest of this 'specimen' gets a little cloudy.
According to reports, NASCAR was made aware of Allmendinger's failed drug test sometime mid-afternoon Saturday. That immediately raises the question why did it take so long to process a drug test - one that was administered a full week ago?
There's no way a simple urine test should take a week to decipher - or up to five days for a second test to be processed. It's this kind of questionable implementation that makes NASCAR's drug program look bad and severely damages the overall credibility and believability of the initiative.
Worse, if it turns out that Allmendinger was using an illegal substance of some kind, the delay in processing his initial test at Kentucky allowed him to get back in his car and practice at Daytona - possibly again under the influence of something.
This is completely unacceptable.
Any NASCAR driver tested at the previous week's race should be notified of the results prior to the next time they are scheduled to get into a racecar.
No exceptions, no delays.
If the questionable timeline in processing the actual test wasn't bad enough, NASCAR also looked suspect because of the delay in breaking the news to Allmendinger and the Penske team.
Reports indicate NASCAR knew about the test results approximately four hours before Allmendinger and the team were alerted to the problem - so why the two and a half hour delay in telling them?
NASCAR's short notice created a giant scramble for the Penske team to change a number of items in the car to allow Hornish to drive it - right down to installing a new seat. Meanwhile, Hornish had to drop everything and express jet from Charlotte to Daytona just making it in time to saddle up and race.
Remember, it's Allmendinger's behavior that is in question here. The Penske guys and Hornish didn't do anything wrong. The way NASCAR handled this 'punished' them unnecessarily.
Bottom line - NASCAR needs to immediately address why these delays occurred and what they are doing to make sure this never happens again.
First on the agenda needs to be a 'tune up' - or replacement - its drug testing lab to assure that future test results will be processed in a timely manner.
If a local high school football team can drug test its players on Tuesday and produce the results after the final pre-game practice Thursday afternoon, you'd like to think an organization that bills itself as one of the premiere motorsports organizations in the world can effect the same kind of timely process.
Additionally, NASCAR's Drug Policy needs to clearly state that all drivers randomly tested will not be able to participate in any future on-track race weekend activities until the results of their test are determined.
Unless these kinds of issues are addressed and corrected immediately, NASCAR will continue to 'fail' the implementation of it's own drug policy and all who are subjected to it.
What's In A Name Anyway? -
Without a doubt, nobody is getting more TV time in the Nationwide Series than Austin Dillon.
Aside from the never ending gushing from the announcers over Dillon - even when he's not running up front - ESPN and ESPN2 have all but worn out a couple dozen copies of their weekly race promos featuring the young driver.
You know the one - they show several video clips of Dillon racing through his Legends, Dirt Late Model, Truck and now, NNS days. Along the way, one announcer proclaims, "Austin Dillon - he's going to be a name someday."
Call me silly if you like, but doesn't he already have a name and isn't it Austin Dillon?
C'mon ESPN. If you're going to overwhelm us by showing the same commercial continually, at least make it something that is going to be fresh, witty and not insulting when we see it for the 500th time or so.
Last Call -
As long as we're on the TV soapbox, we'll give a call to TNT and it's 'Wide Open' coverage.
Leaving the race on your screen in full format and placing the commercials in a small box is easily the best way to allow fans to view the action from flag to flag while still receiving sponsor messages.
Now, someone has to convince NASCAR, TNT and the other networks that televise the sport that this needs to be a permanent feature of their broadcasts - not just for a couple races a year.
After all, it is still all about the fans, right?