THE RISING STAR
FPA prize was a ride in F1’s feeder series,
Formula 3000. In his third season, Wilson took
Nordic Racing to the championship, beating
runner-up Mark Webber by a record margin.
“I used to call him Mad Dog. He
had this crazy ability to follow you
so close, defying aerodynamics,
that it seemed he was biting on
your rear tire, like that mad dog
that won’t release the ball! Justin
was a master at the art of racing.
A driver’s inspiration.”
“Godspeed my friend. Godspeed.
Some things in life just don’t
make sense. It’s impossible to
comprehend why certain things
happen. But may we never forget
the man JW was.”
“Oh man, my heart is aching…
another friend gone. Godspeed
to one of racing’s truest
gentlemen. Why do we do this?
Because we love it, don’t want to
be anywhere else but a racecar.
We will keep your legacy my
friend. Racers race.”
RuSPORT was a happy team from the
outside, but AJ Allmendinger, who won
the 2003 Formula Atlantic title and
’04 Champ Car Rookie of the Year title
with the Carl Russo-owned/Jeremy
Dale-managed team, admits that he
was intimidated when the towering ex-Formula 1 driver strolled into “his”
squad to take the second seat in ’05.
“I was intimidated by him,” AJ told
NASCAR.com. “This guy was badass.
It messed me up… All I wanted to do was
beat him, because I knew if I beat him
I was doing something pretty special.”
Rather than play on that tension
and mess with the kid’s head, Justin
took AJ under his wing and encouraged
him to whittle the rough edges off his
unquestionable raw talent.
“Justin was so good and always
made me want to be at my best
because I respected him so much,”
Allmendinger said. “He always made
sure you were happy, you were OK.
Always pumped me up.”
It was a rock-solid friendship for
the final 10 years of Justin’s life.
“Thanks for showing all of us how to
be a great racecar driver, but more
importantly showing us all how to be
so humble,” tweeted AJ moments
after the big man’s death.
(TOP) Even when he was sitting down, AJ
looked up to Justin in every sense. He’s
been floored by the loss of his “brother.”
THE ODD COUPLE
A similar demo of style came at Toronto
three years later. Despite a bone-dry track
in final practice, Wilson chose to do his
sighting lap with his car still wearing the
set of old grooved rain tires on which the
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team rolled their
car from paddock to pit lane.
Difficult to tell how much sighting Wilson
did, given that he spent most of the lap
looking out the side of the cockpit as the
car fishtailed from one lurid slide to the
next. It was simply an artist reveling in his
art and, from the outside, it was exhilarating.
It felt right when, later that day, Justin beat
the best that the Penske and Ganassi
drivers could throw at him and nailed DRR’s
first pole for well over a decade.
and have the grip, talent and confidence to
turn in early, hard and fast. Then Wilson
appears and falls in line behind them, but
for him this is an out lap, his tires not yet
fully up to temperature.
Yet he comes in at the same speed and
on the same trajectory as his two rivals. The
front end of his Panoz can take it, but the
rear can’t; the tail steps out and finds a
bump which bounces it still wider. Above
the engine note you can hear that squeaky
noise of light-loaded rear tires trying to grip
the pavement. Wilson doesn’t lift the gas,
merely winds on opposite lock in his elegant
straight-armed style allowed by the roomy
cockpit of the DP01. Next time by, he’s lost
not a foot of ground to the cars ahead.
(FAR LEFT) Wilson took four victories for RuSPORT,
2005-’07. (TOP LEFT) Loyal investors got their man
into Formula 1. (BELOW LEFT) With Julia and Jane
after scoring Newman/Haas Racing’s final win, at
Detroit in 2008. (BELOW) Three years after scoring
Dale Coyne Racing’s first win at The Glen, JWil was
back to score his and Coyne’s first oval victory, at TMS.
Justin’s time in
Formula 1 was short
– just one season, in
fact – but he scored a
point for the struggling