CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — AJ Allmendinger left Detroit looking for a place to hide.
Instead, he’s received an outpouring of support and kind words from the man who has stood by him all along.
”Just a tough weekend after his success at Indy,” Roger Penske said Monday, shrugging off Allmendinger’s crash-filled weekend of IndyCar racing at Belle Isle.
Penske took Allmendinger to the doubleheader event at Belle Isle, the last announced races right now on his IndyCar schedule. Allmendinger wrecked on the first lap Saturday, then did the same thing on Sunday, failing to complete even a single lap over two days.
Allmendinger was devastated after Sunday’s accident and apologized profusely.
”I don’t know what to say,” he said. ”I apologize to Roger, everybody at Team Penske, (sponsor) Quicken Loans, everybody that puts in the effort, all my guys, it’s embarrassing, honestly. It’s embarrassing for me. Roger deserves better than that, the sponsors. I don’t know where I go from here. I’m heartbroken, I don’t even know what to say anymore.”
He was still reeling Sunday night when he took to Twitter to again apologize.
”My mistakes are embarrassing and that is an understatement,” he tweeted. ”I’m grateful for Roger and (at)penskeracing for their trust and support of me. I never want to repay them like this. Sorry to all my crew guys for making them work so hard for nothing. I’m so sorry. Not sure where to go from here. Feel like I just need to get away for a few weeks.”
The support came quickly for Allmendinger from other drivers, including former teammate and longtime friend Paul Tracy, Graham Rahal and three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Dario Franchitti.
”Keep your chin up mate, we’ve all been there,” Franchitti tweeted. ”It’s great having you in the series and your drive in Indy showed your talent.”
Allmendinger led 23 laps a week ago in his Indianapolis 500 debut for Penske and might have had a chance to win if his seatbelt had not come undone while leading. The race was a second chance for the disgraced driver from Penske, who was forced to fire Allmendinger last summer after the driver failed a random NASCAR drug test.
Penske stood by Allmendinger’s side as Allmendinger completed NASCAR’s ”Road to Recovery” program.
Once reinstated to compete again, Penske put together the Indy 500 opportunity for Allmendinger and entered him in IndyCar races at Barber and Long Beach to prepare him for his return to open-wheel racing. The Detroit doubleheader was then added to the schedule, and Allmendinger couldn’t get over letting the team owner down.
”I feel so lucky that he believes in me and that’s not even close to how I want to repay him,” said Allmendinger, who downplayed a jammed thumb he suffered Saturday as somehow contributing to Sunday’s wreck. ”That’s just a poor excuse right there. It was just a huge mistake by me again. Start of the race, trying to be aggressive, not kind of get sucked into everything and just made a mistake again.”
Next up for Allmendinger is a pair of Nationwide Series road course races for Penske at Road America and Mid-Ohio, and whatever Sprint Cup Series events James Finch allows him to run. Allmendinger has run four Cup races for Finch this year with a best finish of 11th at Phoenix.
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