(EDITOR’S NOTE: In September, two-time ASA National Champion and former Pro Cup North titlist Gary St. Amant was suspended from NASCAR for violating its substance abuse policy. St. Amant was working with Brett Butler in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series as a driver coach when he was tested by NASCAR at the Bristol Motor Speedway (TN) race in August. St. Amant was reinstated this week by NASCAR after meeting requirements set forth by the company that handles NASCAR’s substance abuse policy. This week St. Amant spoke openly to SPEED’s Bob Dillner [also co-owner of Speed51.com] about the entire incident and what’s to come of Gary St. Amant from this point forward.)
DILLNER: What’s new in Gary St. Amant’s world?
ST. AMANT: Probably the biggest thing that is new is my reinstatement back to NASCAR. I was informed at 4 o’clock pm yesterday (Tuesday) that I was reinstated. That was good. Racing has been my life. I feel like this is a big step as far as staying in the racing world.
DILLNER: We’ve talked a couple times since the incident, but a lot of fans and people in the industry want to know what happened to get you suspended from NASCAR?
ST. AMANT: It was a very isolated incident. A couple of weeks before I was supposed to go to Bristol (to be a driver coach in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series), a last minute deal came together (to race a car). I had had a bad weekend. I went over to a friend’s house and one of his friends came over and they smoked a marijuana cigarette and I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I did something that I wasn’t supposed to do.
When I went to Bristol I really wasn’t thinking about it. That hasn’t been a part of my life; not just that (smoking marijuana), but the (NASCAR drug) testing part as well. I never dreamed that it would be in my system after a few weeks of doing that little bit. It did show up and it changed my life. It was a very embarrassing moment that I regret. I am looking forward to putting it behind me and moving on.
DILLNER: What was your reaction when you received the call from NASCAR to let you know you have been suspended for violating its substance abuse policy?
ST. AMANT: To be honest with you it was about the worst night of my life. It was the worst day of my life. I couldn’t believe that it happened and I couldn’t believe what was about to be steered into my face.
I didn’t sleep at all that first night. It was a very rough night. I woke up the next day and realized that I couldn’t have another night like that one again. I had to deal with the problem and the very first person I called the next day was Wayne Auton (Series Director for NASCAR Camping World Truck Series). I told him about it and I just apologized for it. I also wanted to let him know that that’s not the real Gary St. Amant. He knew that and he was behind me and (let me know) if there was anything he could do to help me, I could let him know. He said to do what NASCAR tells me to do and I’ll be back in the series. Basically, that’s what I have done.
DILLNER: What have you had to do?
ST. AMANT: They do a mandatory assessment. That group (Aegis Sciences Corp., hired by NASCAR) will then tell you how much rehabilitation you need. For me, one six hour class is what I was told I needed.
Aegis Sciences and Labs do all the testing. With them I have had to do four tests; I have had four clean screenings since I have started in the program. That has gotten me back into their good graces. Spencer Leuders with NASCAR called me yesterday and said I had officially been reinstated to the series.
DILLNER: How did that feel to find out you have been resinstated?
ST. AMANT: It was a great feeling. It was almost like that whole time I was living in dirty air. It was hard to breathe; it was hard to look at people because you knew what they were thinking. They weren’t thinking, ‘What’s Gary St. Amant up to?’ They were thinking, ‘What did he do to get kicked out of NASCAR?’ It was tough because I could tell who was supportive of me. I got a lot of phone calls the day after it came out. Almost everyone has been supportive; I have to thank everyone that has been a friend. That has helped to get though this tough and embarrassing time. It’s time to move on.
DILLNER: Knowing your family, I’m sure they were an important part of you getting past this.
ST. AMANT: They were really supportive. When I found out that it was going to get out there the way it did with all the publicity, I made sure everyone was aware so it didn’t hit them upside the head. Telling my mom and dad was really tough in the beginning, but it was nice to see how supportive they were. It made it a lot easier on me once I told them and it made it easier to tell other people what exactly happened.
DILLNER: What are your thoughts about NASCAR’s substance abuse policy?
ST. AMANT: Doctor (Robert) Black, who heads up the lab, called me and told me that my part of the process had been finished with him. He (then) asked me what I thought and I said, ‘I believe in making sure that everyone at the race track is in good mind and they have no drugs in their system.’
The way it happened… hurt me. I am not going to make $50,000 for the whole year, yet I have to be put through that scrutiny of the publicity of it all. I felt like the publicity part (for a first-time offender) wasn’t really fair. But I definitely believe that everybody at the race track should be clean in order to do their job. There are some parts I agree with and some that I disagree with.
DILLNER: What’s next for Gary St. Amant?
ST. AMANT: I am definitely looking for some opportunities. Racing is what I have done all my life. That’s what I know and that’s what I want to be a big part of. This past year we did this deal with Brett Butler; he was the driver and I was his crew chief / mentor. It was kind of an interesting year going from driving for 25 years into the crew chief role. We had our ups and downs and I feel we gave Brett a good opportunity this year.
The highlight of my year was racing local at Columbus Motor Speedway (OH). I never thought it would be like that, but it really told me something about myself. It told me that I am not done racing.
I finished second and third. Me and Donny Hill raced side-by-side for about the last 10 laps of a feature and he passed me on the last lap for the win. It just felt good being competitive in a racecar again. I knew then I still have a burning desire to race.
I’m definitely looking for opportunities, but not only as a driver. I feel I can be a good mentor as well. The Butlers are still looking for sponsorship so there may still be an opportunity there, but I would like to be with another driver or team.
DILLNER: What would you think if somebody said Gary St. Amant is too old?
ST. AMANT: I’d say just look at my buddy Mark Martin (50, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series) and Ron Hornaday (Camping World Truck Series). There are a couple guys that are 50-years-old. I just turned 47-years-old so I feel like I have a few years of racing left in me and I’d like the opportunity to show it.