Roger Penske will meet with suspended driver AJ Allmendinger this week to discuss their future together -- or perhaps apart.
Penske, speaking to reporters after Sunday's drivers meeting at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said he's got a "very open mind" to who could drive his No. 22 car next season.
"Quite honestly, our phone is ringing off the hook with people who are interested in the ride in the 22," Penske said. "... But I want to sit down face to face with him -- which is the only fair way to do it -- and determine what's the best thing for the team and what's the best thing for him. We had a lot invested in him to this day. He's invested a lot in this sport. I'd like to see him land on his feet."
Penske said he's spoken frequently to Allmendinger and reminded the driver that much bigger names have failed drug tests and later redeemed themselves in the public eye. Allmendinger is young and still has time to come back, he said.
But it's unclear if Allmendinger will remain with Penske Racing for several reasons:
• Allmendinger had a one-year contract with the team, and it's unsure when he'll complete NASCAR's "Road to Recovery" program and be allowed to return. Penske may have to make a decision on a driver for 2013 long before that.
• Penske Racing has a no-tolerance drug testing program. The organization has conducted 300 random tests of its employees in the past year alone; Allmendinger is an independent contractor and isn't subjected to Penske's policy.
Still, Penske wondered aloud: "You have people within your company that if this would happen, what action would you take that way? Can you have a different set of circumstances for someone?"
In Allmendinger's absence, Penske said the team will continue using Sam Hornish Jr. as often as possible because sponsor Shell likes the continuity. Plus, it gives Penske a chance to evaluate whether Hornish Jr. is a good fit for next season.
"It gives us a chance to see how Sam develops, quite honestly," he said. "Then if we get further down the road and we want to make a change, we can do that."
One unknown: Penske said he had sponsors lined up to run a third Cup car for Hornish Jr. later this season. Now that Hornish Jr. will already be in the 22 car, what driver could Penske get to race those events?
While everything is still uncertain, Penske said he feels bad for Allmendinger's situation because he viewed the driver like one of his own children.
"I hope he'll rebound and have a successful career, because he's a terrific kid," Penske said.