SEBRING, Fla. – What stands out to Justin Wilson about the multi-dimensional AJ Allmendinger?
“He’s just a really fun guy to be around, easy-going and obviously fan favorite. He’s quick as well and can back up all his kidding around off the track with the speed on the track,” said Wilson, who has competed against and has been a teammate of the 31-year-old from Los Gatos, Calif.
The two, who most recently teamed up to co-drive a Michael Shank Racing entry to third place in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, crossed paths again as the fog was lifting at Sebring International Raceway to start a team/manufacturer test day. Both had work to attend to – Wilson in a Honda-powered Dale Coyne Racing car and Allmendinger getting his initial laps in the No. 2 Team Penske-prepared Chevrolet entry – so catching up was limited to a few pit lane pleasantries.
Wilson and Allmendinger also were teammates in Champ Car at RuSPORT during the 2005 season, in which Wilson finished third in the championship (behind titlist Sebastien Bourdais and Oriol Servia) and Allmendinger placed fifth. The previous season, Allmendinger edged out Wilson for Rookie of the Year honors.
Wilson remained at RuSPORT for 2006 and was runner-up to Bourdais in the championship. Allmendinger competed in the first four races of the season for RuSPORT, but was replaced by 2002 CART champion Cristiano da Matta. Five days later, he joined Forsythe Championship Racing and won the next three races. He earned five victories in all and placed third in the standings.
On this particular winter day, Allmendinger was examining another career option. Surrounded by familiar faces, he got reacquainted with an Indy car.
“He’ll get back up to speed quickly. It’s the finer details of the car that takes time,” Wilson said. "I enjoy racing him and would love to do so again. I think he would bring some interest to the series.”
Bourdais, a four-time Champ Car champion, who is entering his second season with Dragon Racing agrees.
“He’s a tough racer,” said Bourdais, who joined new teammate Sebastian Saavedra in testing Feb. 18 at Sebring. “He’s fast and the records speak for themself. We had some pretty serious battles. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out. Maybe he’ll get back full time (in the series). (If so) he’s going to be running at the front with one of the best cars.”