- Associated Press - Sunday, May 26, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A.J. Allmendinger insists that he didn’t leave open-wheel racing because of the money.

Sure, it’s more lucrative to be part of a successful NASCAR team, especially when all of the sponsorship money and endorsement opportunities are factored into things. But Allmendinger said that isn’t why he gave up his successful career in Champ Car career in 2006 for stock cars.

“I just did it for a job, honestly,” Allmendinger said. “I think people just thought that I made the decision _ ah, the money is there and it’s easy to go. It was hard.”

At the time of his defection, open-wheel racing was in turmoil with a deep rift dividing drivers from Champ Car and the Indy Racing League. Champ Car would essentially fold, and the teams competing in the series migrated over to form the modern version of IndyCar.

“I didn’t move to NASCAR to get paid,” Allmendinger said. “I went there because at the time the split was bad. You didn’t know what was going to happen. The writing was on the wall that Champ Car was going to go away. At that point, the IRL schedule didn’t really excite me. It was just all ovals and not a lot of road courses because (series owner) Jerry Forsythe was so against it.”

Even now, Allmendinger said it was difficult to leave open-wheel racing.

His roots go back to karting and the Barber Pro Series, and includes a stop in the Atlantic Championship that launched his Champ Car career. In fact, he had rarely driven a stock car before he made his Trucks Series debut for Bill Davis Racing in 2006.

Allmendinger worked his way to the Sprint Cup level, bouncing through a handful of teams before landing at Penske Racing last year. But a failed drug test got him suspended and ultimately fired, and Allmendinger started to look around for an opportunity just about anywhere.

He found it with Penske, who gave him a second chance in IndyCar. He is scheduled to run Sunday’s race, then the doubleheader at Detroit next weekend and that’s it for his IndyCar schedule at the moment.

“If Roger Penske wants to offer me a job and offer me races and keep doing that, I’m not going to turn him down, no matter what series it’s in,” Allmendinger said. “So, that’s just kind of where I stick at and everything else, I just kind of go along with it and see what happens.”

Allmendinger said his first go at the Brickyard this month has been enjoyable, but he wasn’t sure whether he felt home again in open-wheel racing.

“I feel like the reception that I’ve gotten here has been great with the fans and the other drivers and other teams,” Allmendinger said. “I feel like I’ve been welcomed here and that’s been really nice to have. Ultimately is it back home? I don’t even know what that feeling is.

“I just know right now I’ve enjoyed being here so much,” he added, “and to be here as a Roger Penske driver is just a dream come true, and I really haven’t even experienced it yet. I can’t wait until Sunday when I finally get introduced.”