In the painful initial minutes after hearing Monday night's news that his good friend and former teammate Justin Wilson had died of injuries suffered in an IndyCar Series racing accident, NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger shared his raw and emotional reaction on social media . "Life isn't fair. We lost one of the great ones today.'' Allmendinger said on Twitter. He accompanied his tribute with a wonderfully telling old photo of himself -- at 5-feet, 6-inches -- standing on a racing tire alongside a smiling 6-foot-4 Wilson. It was so appropriate because Wilson, 37, was a person that Allmendinger -- and so many others -- looked up to figuratively, literally, on-track and off. "Justin was such a quiet guy, and the general public probably doesn't know much about him, so I want to let them know he was such an amazing person,'' Allmendinger said. "I want people to know he was a badass race car driver that, I felt, never got the credit he deserved. But the most important thing is as good as he was on the race track, he was so much better off it." "I truly looked up to him,'' Allmendinger added, acknowledging the pun. While the quiet Brit may not be a super familiar personality to many NASCAR fans, there are plenty of stock car connections to Wilson. Sprint Cup drivers Danica Patrick and Allmendinger competed alongside Wilson in Champ Car and later the IndyCar Series, where Wilson was a seven-time winner. RELATED: Drivers mourn the loss of Justin Wilson Cup driver Michael McDowell and former Cup racer Marcos Ambrose teamed with Wilson in Rolex 24 at Daytona sports car races as did former Camping World Truck Series competitor Max Papis , who also raced against Wilson in the open-wheel ranks. Allmendinger shared a seat with Wilson in five Rolex 24 races, and they were teammates as the long-shot small team Michael Shank Racing won the 50th anniversary edition of the Rolex 24. Wilson finished runner-up in Daytona's 24-hour race in 2010 driving for Cup owner Chip Ganassi. Of course, you didn't have to have know Wilson to appreciate the kind of racer and the kind of person he was. That's evident in the racing community with all the supportive social media tributes and well wishes sent by NASCAR drivers past and present many who never even met Wilson. In the hours immediately after Sunday's accident, three-time Cup champ Tony Stewart sent his plane to transport Wilson's younger brother Stefan to be at his brother's side in the hospital. RELATED: Stewart lends support to Wilson's family In many ways, Wilson's racing career -- and the way he went about it -- spoke much more loudly than the reserved Wilson ever needed to. Allmendinger recalls that he and Wilson were rookies together in Champ Car, except that Wilson was four years older than the young Californian at the time and fresh off a season in Formula One. "I was intimidated by him,'' Allmendinger said. "This guy was badass. It messed me up because I was so intimidated by it that all I wanted to do was beat him, because I knew if I beat him I was doing something pretty special." And Allmendinger considers his first major race win (2006 at Portland, Ore.) all the more special because it came after an intense duel with Wilson. "Here he had just finished second place and yet he was the first to come into Victory Lane and hug me,'' Allmendinger said. "It happened to come down to me and him battling for the win. I had just beat him and as I'm getting out of the car, he runs up and hugs me. That's the type of guy he was.'' It's a recurring theme when people speak of Wilson. He was one of those rare and exceptional individuals whom you never heard a harsh word spoken about. He was well respected as a person and a competitor, the latter sometimes under-appreciated. Despite the impressive resume Wilson brought to America, he mostly drove for underfunded, smaller teams. But he succeeded against the odds and always provided the underdog a legitimate shot. His win in 2012 at Texas Motor Speedway came for the small Dale Coyne Racing team. And just a few weeks ago -- in the midst of a part-time ride with Andretti Autosport with little to no testing in the cars -- he finished runner-up to Graham Rahal at Mid-Ohio. It was vintage Wilson. "He was a guy that never got a great opportunity especially late in his career, I always hoped Penske or Ganassi would pick him up,'' Allmendinger reflected Tuesday. "He was one of the best out there. But you know what, he always made the most out of it and never complained about it." I was always struck by what a strong family man he was -- a doting husband, devoted dad to his two girls and a proud big brother to Stefan, a promising young racer in his own right. "Justin was so good and always made me want to be at my best because I respect him so much,'' Allmendinger said. "He always made sure you were happy, you were OK. Always pumped me up. It drove me to be the best I could." And now Allmendinger and so many others in the racing community will honor their friend by doing the same for Wilson's family.
CONCORD, N.C. -- Best Buy Co., and Richard Petty Motorsports on Tuesday announced their continued partnership for the 2011 Sprint Cup Series season that extends the consumer electronics retailer's status as primary sponsor of the No. 43 driven by A.J . Allmendinger . "Best Buy is proud to renew our relationship with Richard Petty Motorsports and driver A.J . Allmendinger for the 2011 season," said Drew Panayiotou, senior vice president, marketing, Best Buy. "Richard Petty is a motorsports icon and is well respected within the sport of NASCAR. Being a part of a team with his leadership is a privilege. We will be doing some innovative work with Richard Petty Motorsports surrounding our sponsorship, creating new and fun ways to engage the fans. We look forward to continuing our support of A.J . and the No. 43 team as they strive to make their way to Victory Lane." Best Buy will be the primary sponsor for 24 Sprint Cup Series events in 2011 and will be featured as the primary sponsor for two non-points events, the Duel and the Sprint All-Star Race. In addition, Best Buy will serve as an associate sponsor for the No. 9 driven by Marcos Ambrose. The deal marks the company's second year with Allmendinger and its seventh year in NASCAR. "It's great to have Best Buy back on board our No. 43 Ford," Allmendinger said. "They have been a great partner and I'm really excited about the opportunity to work with an organization that is as passionate about its racing program as I am. I think this is going to be a great year for this Richard Petty Motorsports team and I can't wait to get the Best Buy Ford into Victory Lane." Allmendinger is coming off a season in which he compiled two top-five finishes and eight top-10s. In addition, he scored his first career pole at Phoenix. Allmendinger finished season 19th in points, a career best.
Ride along with Marcos Ambrose and A.J . Allmendinger as they battle it out for the win and a chance at a Chase spot.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Fully committed to earning the best possible result in the team's eighth consecutive Rolex 24 At Daytona outing, Michael Shank Racing will stage the strongest campaign in team history with three Daytona Prototype entries for the 49th running of the endurance classic on Jan. 29-30. On Friday, team owner Mike Shank announced the driver lineup for the third entry, with the No. 6 Ford-Dallara being driven Sprint Cup Series drivers A.J . Allmendinger and Michael McDowell and IndyCar driver Justin Wilson. The 2011 Rolex 24 At Daytona will mark Allmendinger's sixth attempt in the Rolex 24. He has led every race that he has started, with a best result of second, which he shared with Wilson in 2006. Wilson has three starts in the event, and will look to improve his own personal best, having twice run to the checkered flag in the overall runner-up position. "I've been telling Mike that I am not going to stop trying to win this race until we get to the top, and hopefully we can do that this year," Allmendinger said. "Mike Shank runs a great team, and this race is what his entire organization is all about. I can't even describe how much I want to win this race. Getting so close the first time out, and having led it as much as we have only makes me want it that much more." McDowell has Grand-Am experience stretching back to 2004, as the Phoenix native broke through for his first Daytona Prototype victory one year later in Mexico City. While his motorsports career has seen him show speed in everything from open wheel machines to the Cup Series, his participation in the Rolex 24 has remained constant, with three top-10 finishes in four starts. "Starting the year with the Rolex 24 is a great way to kick the season off," McDowell said. "I've been fortunate to run the 24 with some strong driver lineups, but I feel like this is the best effort that I've been a part of. Mike Shank's cars are always very fast at Daytona and the team does an excellent job preparing the cars."
Allmendinger talks about the highlights of 2011 and his goals on making the Chase next year.
A.J . Allmendinger suffered a flat tire before the green flag, but battled back to finish second and transfer into the All-Star Race.
A.J . Allmendinger saves the fuel needed to capture back-to-back Nationwide roadcourse wins.
A.J . Allmendinger spins off Turn 4 and ends up tearing the front end off the No. 51.
AJ Allmendinger and JTG Daugherty Racing announced a multiyear renewed partnership with one of their long-standing primary sponsors, Bush Brothers & Company.
AJ Allmendinger heads back to Watkins Glen International this weekend for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race as a defending winner. It's a mantle he happily accepts, one that brings back plenty of memories, but one that comes with expectations and a golden opportunity. Allmendinger aims to rely on his road-racing expertise in Sunday's Cheez-it 355 at The Glen (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM) on the 2.45-mile circuit, site of his breakthrough triumph in NASCAR's premier series. A victory would help provide a needed salve for the JTG Daugherty Racing driver, who sits 23rd in Sprint Cup points but could clinch a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs with a regular-season win. RELATED: Allmendinger wins first Cup race "I still believe it every day that we have a great shot to win a race and make the Chase and if I didn't believe it, then I shouldn't be in a race car," Allmendinger said in a release provided by the team. "From there, it's all about being better. Are we a championship-winning team right now? Probably not, but all you have got to do is look at what (2014 series runner-up) Ryan Newman showed last year. All you got to do is get into the Chase and you've got a shot." Allmendinger's likely best chance comes on the twisty turns at Watkins Glen, where his shrewd road course ability makes the No. 47 Chevrolet a pre-race favorite. The proficiency paid off last season, where Allmendinger outran fellow road ace Marcos Ambrose for his first Sprint Cup win. VOTE: Who will at Watkins Glen? But the performance sometimes comes with the double-edged sword of anticipation. It's another element of pre-race preparation that crew chief Brian Burns has tried to manage. "I'm not going to lie, it is a stressful weekend for us because we all have the same expectations," Burns said. "We try not to talk about it and try to block it out so we can stay as calm as we can. We try to keep each other on an even level. We know that if we don't make mistakes and do the simple things right and have the absence of bad luck, we can win." Misfortune derailed JTG Daugherty's hopes in June at Sonoma Raceway, the other road course on the Sprint Cup schedule. Allmendinger claimed the Coors Light Pole Award and ran among the contenders until a fuel-pressure issue forced the No. 47 behind the wall for extensive repairs in the garage. It was the latest setback in a season that thus far has produced just three top-10 finishes in 21 races. "We're doing our best and are trying to get better," Allmendinger said. "To go out there, whether it's battling for 25th or battling for the win, we are trying to get everything we can. This season has definitely not gone the way we've wanted it to go. It started off great and after five races we were top five in points and then we had some motor problems happen and a few incidents where we would be running in the top 10 and have an accident like we did at Bristol and so forth." A rebound could hinge on this weekend's return to Watkins Glen. Allmendinger said he still gets chills watching the race replay, but that he still contemplates what he could have done better over the final laps. Regardless of any internal second-guessing, his stirring 2014 drive cemented Allmendinger's name in the registry of premier-series winners. "Winning a race, no one can take that away from you," Allmendinger said. "You feel like you are king of the world for one day. At that moment, you are the best there is. I just remember on that day it was the best I had ever driven in my life. On that day, I had to man up and say, 'I'm not letting this race get taken away from me.' It's something that no matter whether if I win again or not, it's memories that I will always have."