Renee Metzgar was familiar with the name of AJ Allmendinger for years, but became an avid fan in March. It was then that her nephew choose Allmendinger to take her on a parade lap around Charlotte Motor Speedway prior to May’s race. When she first heard thew news of A.J.’s failed drug test she went online. Was she hoping for more information? Or maybe some support from other fans.
There Mark Farrell was doing his “normal Dinger tweeting and texting about how he was gonna take the trophy home” and suddenly his reasons to watch the Coke Zero 400 were gone. “It felt like a blow to the head” says the New Jersey resident.
Allmendinger had tested positive for a banned substance. Sam Hornish was flown in to drive the #22 car normally driven by AJ.
Renee’s gut reaction was also one of shock. It did not fit with anything she knew of AJ. She had spent weeks researching the driver prior to meeting him at Charlotte. In that meeting with Allmendinger she was calmed because the 30 year-old born driver told her that he had spent the team to read her tweets. “I was a fan for life.”
While her initial reaction shook her the online talk of others was bad as well. She “got angry” once she got onto the internet because “people were saying hurtful things and judging him” without knowing the details or what led the the failed test. Days later little is known about what caused the charismatic driver to fail a drug test.
Former teammate Scott Speed was also surprised by the news. He also sent out a message of disbelief.
Signed to a one year deal with Penske Racing this was supposed to be the opportunity of a lifetime for Allmendinger.
“He understands the opportunity. He wouldn’t ruin that” says Mark who met Allmendinger on multiple occasions. “He’s great to talk to. Always ready to have a conversation. Really down to earth.” There was never any doubt that Allmendinger was the driver for him. “It wasn’t hard becoming a die hard AJ fan. I was hooked right off the bat. His attitude and hunger makes him fun to watch on the race track. No one out there wants it more then the Dinger.”
It’s those characteristics that have given rise to the #SupportAJ movement. It started with some simple tweets and caught on from there. It became not just an effort to refute negative reports but a chance to show support for their driver. “It’s heartwarming to see them rally around their driver like this” says Tracy from Wyoming. In between working two jobs she has spent the last three years running a fan-based website, dingerworld.com,where she has often been mistaken for one of his PR reps. When she met AJ 2 years ago at Las Vegas she knew she had found her driver. “He put me at ease right away with his teasing humor. He smiles and jokes constantly and is just full of energy.”
It’s that type of following Allmendinger has earned during his 6 year stint in NASCAR. Fans like Tracy have seen it all. From failing to qualify in his first four attempts at the Sprint Cup level to when he recorded his first top-ten finish 20 races into his second season. They followed him from Red Bull to Richard Petty Motorsports. Last season Allmendinger set career best in top-ten finishes, he was 15th in the driver standings and appeared to be on the verge of a breakout. In the #43 car nonetheless. They relished in his victory as part of Michael Shank Racing during this years 24 Hours of Daytona and followed him to Penkse Racing to see it happen.
When Tracy found out the news about AJ she was on a family vacation in South Dakota. Immediately she thought “there was no way AJ would ever do something to deliberately jeopardize his career. Racing is his life.” While starch in her support for AJ she does believe “NASCAR did what they had to do in order to follow their own drug policy and I have no problem with them erring on the side of caution fort he sake of safety.”
Heather's son Thomas watches after AJ prior to the Sonoma race
There there is the story of Heather from San Jose, California. Heather had heard about AJ from her husband (then boyfriend) David some seven years ago. When Heather met AJ she asked if he remembered her husband from his BMX days. To her surprise not only did Allmendinger remember him, he had read David’s tweets about Heather going to Sonoma without him.
Her reaction was like may of those mentioned earlier. As Heather puts it #SupportAJ was started to “show our love and support to AJ.” Their ultimate goal? “We hope it lifts his spirits and his families to see people from both coasts believing in him no matter what.” Michael Shank, Former Miss Sprint Cup Monica Palumbo, and NBL BMXer Chad Kady joined in support by retweeting Heather’s comments.
AJ Allmendinger is more then just a NASCAR driver to his fans. Heather’s son Thomas lists his three favorite racers as Daddy, Lighting McQueen, and AJ. He chooses AJ “because he never gives up.”
AJ didn’t give up on any of his fans. He was calm, remembering and himself. Renee, Mark, Tracy and Heather are not about to give up on AJ.
Tracy from Dinger World shows support with new twitter icon
You can follow these fans on Twitter by clicking on their user names below. You can also show your support by using #SupportAJ in your tweets.
Mark Farrell – @Puckstoppin34
Renee Metzgar – @trm201
Tracy – @DingerWorld her fansite dingerworld.com & facebook
Heather – @tjsmommy722
#FreeAllmendinger #AJisInnocent #SupportAJ #freeaj #DingerNation #ReinstateAJ #TeamDinger