NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver A.J. Allmendinger was arrested for DWI early Thursday morning in Mooresville, N.C., after being pulled over and blowing a .08 on a Breathalyzer test -- the legal limit for intoxication in the state. Cited for a misdemeanor, Allmendinger will appear in court on the charge in December.
Allmendinger, though, won't be facing any music from his RPM team or NASCAR -- the same organization that will suspend crew members for racing with an illegal part.
It should be noted that, yes, NASCAR did acknowledge that Allmendinger did something wrong by placing him on probation for the remainder of the calendar year. Consider the move a whole lot less than a slap on the wrist if Allmendinger manages to avoid doing anything particularly stupid in the next two months.
But, further, consider this: within the two sentences NASCAR released Thursday about Allmendinger's punishment, it only mentioned that he broke the catch-all rule in NASCAR's rule book -- rule 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing). Not once is it mentioned that he was punished for the DWI.
It's almost like the broom and rug are fully ready for covering purposes.
The story at Richard Petty Motorsports isn't any better.
The team said Thursday that Allmendinger will participate in all racing, media and sponsor-related activities this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. Team co-owner and namesake Richard Petty acknowledged in a statement that he's "disappointed" in Allmendinger but that "A.J. has taken full responsibility for his actions and will work to make this right."
Up until this season, Petty has long had a stand against alcohol companies being involved with his racing endeavors. His stand was such that he wouldn't participate in beer-sponsored pole awards or a second-tier NASCAR series formerly sponsored by Anheuser-Busch.
A merger this season, though, with George Gillette's operation brought Kasey Kahne's No. 9 Budweiser-sponsored team into the Petty fold -- and Petty enjoyed a public drink of wine in victory lane following Kahne's June win at Infineon Raceway located inside the heart of California's wine country.
That all, of course, is neither here nor there when it comes to Allmendinger's situation, but it is interesting to see the reaction -- or, lack thereof -- from a team and an owner that used to take such an anti-alcohol stand.
Don't get me wrong -- this isn't a piece dedicated to bad-mouthing those who earn drunk driving offenses or one defending them either. They are an extremely serious matter but can, at times, happen to unsuspecting people. For all we know, Allmendinger may try to beat the charge based on his blood-alcohol level being so close to the legal range. We'll find that out in December.
But Allmendinger is a NASCAR driver doing things on a race track that at their primal level mimic what happens on the roadways of America. And unfortunately for NASCAR drivers, there's no apples-to-apples discipline comparison between them and the stick-and-ball athletes of the NBA, NFL or MLB. That's the nature of the beast when what you get paid to do is drive a race car instead of catch a football for a living.
Because of that, somebody, anybody, needed to come down on Allmendinger with a little more force. Allmendinger needed to be suspended from Sunday's race at Talladega.
No, Allmendinger isn't a bad guy and yes, he's acknowledged the mistake he made. A DWI, though, is a mistake someone can only make so many times before it drastically affects the life of someone else. For all we know, Allmendinger was lucky that didn't happen in the wee hours of Thursday morning in North Carolina.
NASCAR sent a message this season by (rightfully or wrongfully) suspending Jeremy Mayfield for his alleged drug abuse, and they should have sent a message again on Thursday saying that driving offenses -- especially alcohol-related ones -- are absolutely not tolerable.
Instead, we're left with what boils down to be an ugly comparison of punishments.
A crew chief pushes the car measurements too far and ends up with a big fine and six-race suspension. A driver drinks a little too much at the dinner table and gets arrested for DWI? "Don't do it again, son."
Something, my friends, doesn't add up there.