Saturday October 6, 2012

JENNA FRYER

AP Auto Racing Writer

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- AJ Allmendinger upped his effort to find a new job on Friday by making his first appearance at a NASCAR event since his suspension for failing a drug test.

The visit to Talladega Superspeedway is the first since Allmendinger’s July 7 suspension. He was reinstated by NASCAR last month and is looking for a job for 2013 after being dropped by Penske Racing three months ago.

"I’m looking, but from reading the Internet, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of jobs out there," Allmendinger said.

Allmendinger first returned to a track last month at Fontana, Calif., attending the IndyCar season finale as Roger Penske’s guest. He seemed nervous before arriving but said he felt at ease as soon as he entered the garage.

He experienced the same emotions at Talladega, where he said the reception was good.

"Nobody has told me to get out yet," joked Allmendinger, who stopped in the Penske Racing garage stalls and visited with his former crew. "It’s been a lot of fun to be back in the garage. It’s been a rough few months, and I’m just really glad to be back here."

He was greeted with hugs from some of his former crew members at Richard Petty Motorsports, where he spent three seasons before moving this year to Penske Racing. He was let go by Penske in July after his backup urine sample also failed a test.

NASCAR has not revealed the substance, but Allmendinger has said he tested positive for Adderall, a prescription drug typically used to treat attention deficit disorder. He does not have an ADD diagnosis or prescription, and said he took it a couple of days before the June 30 race at Kentucky Speedway because he was tired.

He spent two months completing NASCAR’s "Road to Recovery" program, which is the only way a driver can be reinstated.

Now back, he’s looking to see what opportunities exist for him.

James Finch, owner of the No. 51 car at Phoenix Racing, said he’ll likely use Regan Smith next week at Charlotte Motor Speedway but isn’t opposed to talking with Allmendinger. Kurt Busch is replacing Smith at Furniture Row beginning next week, and Finch has six races to fill this year.

"I like AJ, I’d be willing to do something with him, but I don’t know what sponsors would have to say about him," Finch said. "It’s something I just don’t have an answer for right now."

Allmendinger said he’d love to drive for Finch.

"If I was able to get back in that car, that’d be great," Allmendinger said. "I’d love to get in a seat, I’ve definitely missed it."

There’s also interest from IndyCar teams in Allmendinger, who won five races in Champ Car before moving to NASCAR in 2007. But the IndyCar season doesn’t open until March, and its free agency period doesn’t heat up until January.

He also could partner with longtime friend Michael Shank, who fields a team in the Grand-Am Series. Allmendinger drove Shank’s winning entry in the 24 Hours of Daytona, and the two formed an IndyCar team that never got on the track in 2012 because of Shank couldn’t secure an engine deal.