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.
No. 78 Furniture Row driver starts the year off with two top-10 finishes Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live LAS VEGAS -- Martin Truex Jr . was all smiles after climbing out of his car on Las Vegas Motor Speedway pit road, his runner-up finish in the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet his best in two seasons with the team. And as happy as he was, you got the feeling Truex wasn't satisfied. He still wanted more. "I've finished second a lot in my career," Truex said, with a grin. "But this feels good and it's better than third … or 30th." And the very fact Truex is shooting higher than a runner-up effort shows how far this single-car team has come in a year. Truex' debut with the Furniture Row Racing Team included winning the outside pole for the 2014 Daytona 500 but he finished last in the race and it proved a harbinger of things to come. He scored five top-10s but had 11 finishes of 25th or worse and led only one lap on the season after contending for a Chase bid a year earlier with Michael Waltrip Racing . This year he started 10th and finished eighth in the Daytona 500 and answered that last week at Atlanta with a sixth-place finish. His runner-up at Las Vegas equals a runner-up finish in the non-points paying Sprint Unlimited race at Daytona in February and he also finished fifth in his Daytona 500 qualifying race. And Truex is fourth in the Sprint Cup Series championship standings, only five points behind Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano entering next week's race in Phoenix. Truex could only shake his head when asked to describe the difference between the start of 2015 and the disappointment of 2014. "You can't describe it," he said. "When things aren't going good, you have to just keep on going and going, and working and working harder. "It's no different than what Sherry was going through. You find out what people are made of when they're down," Truex said, referring to his longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex, who has undergone treatment for ovarian cancer in the past year. "After seeing all that and being a part of that, its was like, a bad year in the race car, that's nothing. Caring for Pollex through her difficult treatment and watching her will to persevere and strength to overcome has affected Truex greatly and inspired him mightily. It has given him a new perspective and re-defined what it means to "never give up." "When you get a glimpse of something that could possibly change your life like that in a bad way, it makes you look at things a lot differently," Truex said. "Suddenly those bad days at the race track weren't so bad. Suddenly they were okay and I knew that if we just kept working hard, we could get through it all and certainly I feel like we have now. "But we're going to continue to work hard and try to get to that next level. We want to win races. We have got a great team. We have got good equipment right now and it's important when you're in those positions to try to take advantage of that." Truex was quick to credit some major offseason changes for the early season results. He has a new crew chief, Cole Pearn, and says the team's technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing is maturing and paying off, as is simply having a year under his belt with the FRR team. Third-place finisher Ryan Newman , a RCR driver and sixth-place finisher, JTG Daugherty Racing driver A.J . Allmendinger are part of that RCR alliance. "Just getting more experience together, getting more confidence in each other and really just having a better game plan going into the season is a big part of the reason why the cars are running better and all the teams seem to be running closer together," Truex said. Asked if the rules changes to the cars may have played a role in his reversal of fortune and lent itself more to his driving style, Truex said it was simpler than that. "I attribute it to knowing what we were doing wrong last year and fixing it over the winter time and coming out of the box kind of understanding what we're doing. "The biggest thing I was proud of today or took way from it was we were off a little bit at the beginning of the race and worked on it all day long, continued to get better and at the end of the day we were the best we've been all day." He continued, "That's what you like to see out of your team; you like to finish strong. "Got a lot of momentum on our side right now and hopefully we can keep building on that, build some more momentum and hopefully we are able to catch that 4-car (Sunday's race winner and points leader Kevin Harvick ) in a couple weeks." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
JTG Daugherty Racing focused on 36 Sprint Cup Series points races