At this time last year, AJ Allmendinger was suspended after failing a drug test and his future in the sport was bleak.
He completed NASCAR's Road to Recovery program and returned to competition last fall, but Allmendinger was still unable to land a full-time ride this season. He has driven for variety of teams in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series -- in addition to making a handful of starts for Penske Racing in the IndyCar Series, including a seventh-place finish in the Indianapolis 500.
On Saturday, Allmendinger's persistence paid off as he was named the driver of the No. 47 car fielded by JTG/Daugherty Racing.
"To be able to be back full-time next year is something that at this point last year I never thought would happen," Allmendinger said Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. "Just really thankful, happy and I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity, so thank all you guys for the opportunity and just can't wait to get there."
Allmendinger will replace Bobby Labonte, who has driven for the organization since 2011 but has struggled to consistently produce results for the single-car team this year.
JTG/Daugherty brought Allmendinger in this June to drive in select races and give an assessment of where the team could improve. He finished 10th at Watkins Glen and, with Labonte's contract up at the end of the year, he became the ideal choice to join the team on a full-time basis.
Some drivers might be hesitant to sign with a small team, but Allmendinger relishes the opportunity to be the sole focus for organization eager to grow.
"It's a good little race team," Allmendinger said. "I feel like we can really build this race team and make it stronger.
"It's a lot of fun to be around them and I've just thoroughly enjoyed my time so far. I feel like it's a great opportunity for me and I feel like it's going to be a lot of hard work, a lot of building, but we can make this race team into something strong."