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.
Kevin Gilardoni to drive No. 99 as Papis aims to give back
Max Papis holds his composure after being slapped by Mike Skeen's girlfriend after the Chevrolet Silverado 250.
Ty Dillon expresses his frustration with Chase Elliott on their last-lap wreck and Max Papis recalls his rough racing with Mike Skeen at the end of the Chevrolet Silverado 250.
Max Papis announces that he will become an owner in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
IndyCar racer dies at age 37 following wreck RELATED: Stewart lends support to Wilson's family IndyCar driver Justin Wilson died Monday evening from head injuries sustained Sunday during a race at Pocono Raceway . He was 37. During Sunday's race, Wilson appeared to be struck in the head by debris from a late-race crash involving Sage Karam in the first turn at the 2.5-mile track. The Andretti Autosport driver's car then veered left off the racing surface, where it bounced off the inside wall. Wilson was part of the winning team for the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2012 with fellow drivers AJ Allmendinger , Oswaldo Negri Jr. and John Pew while competing for Michael Shank Racing. He had 17 career starts in GRAND-AM/ALMS/IMSA events. NASCAR drivers and others in the industry took to Twitter to share condolences with Wilson's family and to post remembrances of a fellow racer. Ur my boy forever. Love you @justin_wilson . One of the best ever. On and off the track. pic.twitter.com/kDZxxfj0jN — AJ Allmendinger (@AJDinger) August 25, 2015 Life isn't fair sometimes. We lost one of the great ones today. One of the best ever. I know ur up there being a Wheelman JW. Ur amazing!!! — AJ Allmendinger (@AJDinger) August 25, 2015 Thoughts and prayers to his family, friends, and to the @IndyCar family. #RIPJustinWilson — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) August 25, 2015 So sad to hear that we lost Justin Wilson today. Thoughts & prayers to his family and friends. — Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) August 25, 2015 Very sad to hear the news of Justin Wilson's passing. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. — Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) August 25, 2015 Didn't know Justin but I did know he was a unbeliever person and a great car driver. So sad.. #RIPJustinWilson pic.twitter.com/YI6HdSaCYz — Kasey Kahne (@kaseykahne) August 25, 2015 Terrible and tragic news. Prayers to his family and friends. We are all family. #RIPJustin — Joey Logano (@joeylogano) August 25, 2015 Wow. Heart is torn for the Wilson Family. Prayers to all. — Darrell Wallace Jr (@BubbaWallace) August 25, 2015 Thankful to have known @justin_wilson & honored to have shared a seat with him. He was a Great Man and will be missed pic .twitter.com/vgRS4iEzsm — Michael McDowell (@Mc_Driver) August 25, 2015 Wow, what a sad day. @justin_wilson was a good man. A great man. I had the pleasure of knowing him and pray for his family. — Danica Patrick (@DanicaPatrick) August 25, 2015 My heart breaks for Justin's family and friends. https://t.co/QpJldzyc2n — Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) August 25, 2015 A trust fund has been created for Wilson's children. Donations may be sent to the address below. Wilson Children's Fund C/O INDYCAR 4551 West 16th Street Indianapolis, IN 46222 pic.twitter.com/lIiFGnL78y — Max Papis (@maxpapis) August 25, 2015
Max Gresham gets loose in Turn 4 and makes contact with Max Papis sending him into the wall.
Max Papis makes contact that crashes Marcos Ambrose and Brian Vickers.
Greg Zipadelli and Max Papis talk about how Tony Stewart's injury will impact Stewart-Haas Racing in the coming weeks
Michael Annett and Max Papis both spin late in the Johnsonville Sausage 200 Presented by Menards at Road America.