With Dale Earnhardt Jr. sidelined, NASCAR driver A.J. Allmendinger will get his first Sprint Cup Series start this weekend since being reinstated after a failed drug test.
Allmendinger, of Los Gatos, Calif., is scheduled to drive the No. 51 Chevrolet for the small team of Phoenix Racing at the Cup race Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina.
The car previously was driven by Kurt Busch, but he is taking over for Regan Smith in the No. 78 Chevy of Furniture Row Racing starting Saturday.
That left Smith without a ride, and he appeared set to move to Phoenix Racing’s car.
However, Hendrick Motorsports on Thursday tapped Smith to drive two races in Earnhardt’s No. 88 car -- at Charlotte and the following week at Kansas Speedway -- after Earnhardt announced that he’s sitting out the two races due to a concussion.
So Phoenix Racing turned to Allmendinger, 30, who was suspended July 24 for failing a drug test and also lost his ride in Penske Racing’s No. 22 Dodge in the Cup series.
Allmendinger will drive the No. 51 car at Charlotte but no decision has yet been made on whether he’ll stay in the car for the Kansas race Oct. 21, Phoenix Racing General Manager Steve Barkdoll said in an email.
NASCAR reinstated Allmendinger on Sept. 18 after the driver completed its “road to recovery” rehabilitation program.