Junior Johnson

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Robert Glenn Johnson
JuniorJohnson1985.jpg
Born (1931-06-28) June 28, 1931 (age 82)
Wilkes County, North Carolina
Awards NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers
1998
International Motorsports Hall of Fame Inductee
1990
Car owner for six Winston Cup championships: Cale Yarborough (1976–1978) and Darrell Waltrip (1981–82, 1985)

{{Motorsports Hall of Fame of America Inductee|1991}} NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee
2010
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career
313 race(s) run over 14 year(s)
Best finish 6th - 1955 in NASCAR and 1961 (Grand National)
First race 1953 Southern 500 (Darlington)
Last race 1966 American 500 (Rockingham)
First win 1955 Hickory Motor Speedway
Last win 1965 Wilkes 400 (North Wilkesboro)
Wins Top tens Poles
50 148 46

Robert Glenn Johnson, Jr. (born June 28, 1931), better known as Junior Johnson, is one of the early superstars of NASCAR in the 1950s and 1960s. He won 50 NASCAR races in his career before retiring in 1966. In the 1970s and 1980s, he became a NASCAR racing team owner; he sponsored such NASCAR champions as Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip. He now produces a line of fried pork skins and country ham. He is credited as the first to use the drafting technique in stock car racing. He is nicknamed "The Last American Hero" and his autobiography is of the same name. In May 2007, Johnson teamed with Piedmont Distillers of Madison, North Carolina, to introduce the company's second moonshine product, called "Midnight Moon Moonshine".

Driving days[edit]

Johnson was born in Wilkes County, North Carolina, the fourth of seven children of Lora Belle Money and Robert Glenn Johnson, Sr. His father, a lifelong bootlegger, spent nearly twenty of his sixty-three years in prison, as their house was frequently raided by revenue agents. Junior spent one year in prison in Ohio for having an illegal still, although he was never caught in his many years of transporting bootleg liquor at high speed.[1]

In 1955, Johnson began his career as a NASCAR driver. In his first full season, he won five races and finished sixth in the 1955 NASCAR Grand National points standings.

In 1958 he won six races. In 1959, he won five more NASCAR Grand National races (including a win from the pole position at the 1959 Hickory 250); by this time he was regarded as one of the best short-track racers in the sport.

His first win at a "superspeedway" came at the Daytona 500 in 1960. Johnson and his crew chief Ray Fox were practicing for the race, trying to figure out how to increase their speed, which was 22 miles per hour (35 km/h) slower than the top cars in the race. During a test run a faster car passed Johnson. He noticed that when he moved behind the faster car his own speed increased due to the faster car's slipstream. Johnson was then able to stay close behind the faster car until the final lap of the test run, when he used the "slipstream" effect to slingshot past the other car. By using this technique Johnson went on to win the 1960 Daytona 500, despite the fact that his car was slower than others in the field. Johnson's technique was quickly adopted by other drivers, and his practice of "drafting" has become a common tactic in NASCAR races.[2][3]

In 1963 he had a two-lap lead in the World 600 at Charlotte before a spectator threw a bottle onto the track and caused Junior to crash; he suffered only minor injuries.

He retired in 1966. In his career, he claimed 50 victories as a driver, and 11 of these wins were at major speedway races. He retired as the winningest driver never to have a championship.

Johnson was a master of dirt track racing. "The two best drivers I've ever competed against on dirt are Junior Johnson and Dick Hutcherson," said two-time NASCAR champion Ned Jarrett.

Career statistics as driver[edit]

Year Races Wins Poles Top 5s Top 10s Rank Avg Start Avg Finish
1953 1 0 0 0 0 26.0 38.0
1954 4 0 1 1 1 55 1.0 26.0
1955 36 5 2 12 18 6 7.4 12.2
1956 13 0 1 1 1 37 10.8 21.1
1957 1 0 0 0 0 154 11.0 20.0
1958 27 6 0 12 16 8 8.7 12.0
1959 28 5 1 14 15 11 13.1 10.9
1960 34 3 3 14 18 7 9.6 14.2
1961 41 7 10 16 22 6 6.8 12.1
1962 23 1 2 7 8 20 6.1 17.6
1963 33 7 9 13 14 12 4.2 14.4
1964 29 3 5 12 15 14 5.3 12.1
1965 36 13 9 18 19 12 3.3 11.4
1966 7 0 3 1 1 49 5.7 16.0
Totals 313 50 46 121 148 7.2 13.5

[4]

Daytona 500 Results[edit]

Year Manufacturer Start Finish Team
1959 Ford 33 14 Paul Spaulding
1960 Chevrolet 9 1 John Masoni
1961 Pontiac 43 47 Rex Lovette
1962 Pontiac 9 34 Rex Lovette
1963 Chevrolet 3 42 Fox
1964 Dodge 3 9 Fox
1965 Ford 2 28 Johnson

As a NASCAR owner[edit]

As a team owner, he worked with some of the legendary drivers in NASCAR history, including Darel Dieringer, LeeRoy Yarbrough, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip, Neil Bonnett, Terry Labonte, Geoffrey Bodine, Sterling Marlin, Jimmy Spencer and Bill Elliott. In all, his drivers won 139 races, which is third to Petty Enterprises and Hendrick Motorsports. His drivers won six Winston Cup Championships—three with Yarborough (1976–1978) and Waltrip (1981–82, 1985).

Junior Johnson, NASCAR OWNER, Darrell Waltrip, Car #11, Nashville 420, July 16, 1983

Career statistics as owner[edit]

Year Driver Races Wins Poles Top 5s Top 10s Rank Avg Start Avg Finish
1953 Junior Johnson 1 0 0 0 0 26.0 38.0
1965 Bobby Isaac 1 0 1 1 1 75 1.0 2.0
1965 Junior Johnson 36 13 9 18 19 12 3.3 11.4
1965 Curtis Turner 2 0 0 0 0 39 3.0 29.0
1966 Darel Dieringer 2 0 0 1 1 12 16.0 7.5
1966 A. J. Foyt 3 0 0 0 0 14.7 25.0
1966 Bobby Isaac 8 0 0 2 3 53 8.9 18.9
1966 Gordon Johncock 2 0 0 1 1 2.5 15.5
1966 Junior Johnson 7 0 3 1 1 49 5.7 16.0
1966 Fred Lorenzen 1 0 0 0 0 23 3.0 23.0
1966 Curtis Turner 3 0 0 1 1 24 6.0 11.3
1967 Darel Dieringer 16 1 6 8 9 12 4.1 13.5
1967 Lloyd Ruby 1 0 0 0 0 8.0 22.0
1967 LeeRoy Yarbrough 3 0 0 1 1 37 4.0 14.7
1968 LeeRoy Yarbrough 20 2 6 13 13 16 4.0 12.0
1969 LeeRoy Yarbrough 28 7 0 15 20 16 5.4 8.8
1970 Donnie Allison 1 0 0 1 1 40 2.0 3.0
1970 Fred Lorenzen 1 0 0 0 0 54 9.0 33.0
1970 David Pearson 1 0 0 1 1 23 7.0 4.0
1970 LeeRoy Yarbrough 17 1 1 8 11 43 6.4 12.2
1971 Charlie Glotzbach 20 1 4 7 10 42 12.5 12.5
1972 Bobby Allison 31 10 11 25 27 2 12.5 12.5
1974 Earl Ross 15 1 0 3 8 8 9.3 11.1
1974 Cale Yarborough 15 4 1 10 10 2 4.5 7.9
1975 Cale Yarborough 27 3 3 13 13 9 6.5 14.8
1976 Cale Yarborough 30 9 2 22 23 1 5.1 8.2
1977 Cale Yarborough 30 9 3 25 27 1 4.0 4.5
1978 Cale Yarborough 30 10 8 23 24 1 3.6 6.0
1979 Cale Yarborough 31 4 1 19 22 4 5.3 8.6
1980 Cale Yarborough 31 6 14 19 22 2 3.1 9.0
1981 Richard Childress 1 0 0 0 0 25 31.0 39.0
1981 Darrell Waltrip 31 12 11 21 25 1 5.3 7.2
1982 J. D. McDuffie 2 0 0 0 0 19 20.5 20.0
1982 Bill Schmitt 1 0 0 0 0 64 22.0 21.0
1982 Darrell Waltrip 30 12 7 17 20 1 3.8 9.1
1983 Darrell Waltrip 30 6 7 22 25 2 7.1 7.7
1984 Neil Bonnett 30 0 0 7 14 8 9.3 13.7
1984 Darrell Waltrip 30 7 4 13 20 5 5.9 11.2
1985 Neil Bonnett 28 2 1 11 18 4 10.5 10.6
1985 Darrell Waltrip 28 3 4 18 21 1 8.2 7.3
1986 Davey Allison 1 0 0 0 1 47 7.0 7.0
1986 Neil Bonnett 28 1 0 6 12 13 12.3 16.1
1986 Darrell Waltrip 29 3 1 21 22 2 8.6 10.0
1987 Terry Labonte 29 1 4 13 22 3 7.1 11.1
1988 Terry Labonte 29 1 1 11 18 4 12.8 10.8
1989 Terry Labonte 29 2 0 9 11 10 13.2 15.1
1990 Geoffrey Bodine 29 3 2 11 19 3 8.1 11.4
1991 Geoffrey Bodine 27 1 2 6 12 14 10.4 15.7
1991 Tommy Ellis 2 0 0 0 0 70 30.0 18.5
1991 Sterling Marlin 29 0 2 7 16 7 14.3 11.8
1992 Bill Elliott 29 5 2 14 17 2 9.7 10.9
1992 Sterling Marlin 29 0 5 6 13 10 13.0 14.4
1992 Hut Stricklin 1 0 0 0 0 27 27.0 31.0
1993 Bill Elliott 30 0 2 6 15 8 12.9 13.5
1993 Hut Stricklin 30 0 0 1 2 24 21.0 22.8
1994 Bill Elliott 31 1 1 6 12 10 15.7 16.8
1994 Jeff Green 1 0 0 0 0 51 31.0 18.0
1994 Tommy Kendall 1 0 0 0 0 63 27.0 22.0
1994 Jimmy Spencer 29 2 1 3 4 29 21.5 25.1
1995 Loy Allen, Jr. 5 0 0 0 1 41 31.8 20.4
1995 Brett Bodine 31 0 0 0 2 20 21.2 22.3
1995 Jimmy Horton 1 0 0 0 0 61 30.0 34.0
1995 Greg Sacks 1 0 0 0 0 39 20.0 17.0
1995 Elton Sawyer 20 0 0 0 0 38 28.3 29.4
Totals 1049 132 115 436 577 9.8 12.8

[4]

In 2011, Johnson announced that he would restart a race team with son Robert as driver. Junior Johnson Racing will be located in Hamptonville, North Carolina. Robert, the 2010 UARA Rookie of the Year, plans to run a 28–30 race schedule in 2011, which includes the entire K&N East Series schedule and some races in the UARA and Whelen All-American Series.[5]

Awards[edit]

Family[edit]

His first marriage ended in divorce in 1992. His marriage to his current wife Lisa in 1994 has resulted in two children, daughter Meredith Suzanne, and son Robert Glenn Johnson III, who is a sophomore at Duke University.[7] He resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. Johnson is referenced in the Bruce Springsteen song "Cadillac Ranch".

Presidential pardon[edit]

On December 26, 1986, President Ronald Reagan granted Johnson a presidential pardon for his 1956 moonshining conviction. In response to the pardon, which restored his right to vote, Johnson said, "I could not have imagined anything better."[8]

Film[edit]

In the mid 1960s writer Tom Wolfe researched and wrote an article about Johnson, published March 1965 in Esquire, and reprinted in Wolfe's The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby (1965) (in turn reprinted in The Best American Sports Writing of the Century, ed. David Halberstam [1999]). The article, originally entitled "Great Balls of Fire", turned Johnson into a national celebrity and led to fame beyond the circle of NASCAR fans. In turn, the article was made into a 1973 movie based on Johnson's career as a driver and moonshiner. The movie was entitled The Last American Hero (a.k.a. Hard Driver). Jeff Bridges starred as the somewhat fictionalized version of Johnson, and Johnson himself served as technical advisor for the film. The movie was critically acclaimed and featured the Jim Croce hit song, "I Got A Name".

Follow Your Dreams Productions' President and CEO, Fred Griffith, has signed a rights deal for a true life story movie about Junior Johnson.(Sports Illustrated Vault, 2006)[citation needed] Unlike The Last American Hero which was about a fictionalized character name Junior "Jackson". Griffith, an American actor and producer from South Carolina, is currently adapting a screenplay based largely on the book, Junior Johnson, Brave In Life, written by Tom Higgins and Steve Waid.(Big West Racing, 2006)[citation needed] Veteran actor and producer Chris Mulkey is a writing producer for the film. According to Griffith this film will remain true to the real life of Junior Johnson.(Morris 2006, p. C-1)[citation needed]

Midnight Moon[edit]

In May 2007, Johnson teamed with Piedmont Distillers of Madison, North Carolina, to introduce the company's second moonshine product, called Midnight Moon. Johnson became part owner of Piedmont Distillers, the only legal distiller in North Carolina at the time. Midnight Moon follows the Johnson family’s generations-old tradition of making moonshine, and is available in all 50 states. Every batch is born in an authentic, copper still and is handcrafted, in small batches. The 'shine is a legal version of his famous family recipe, and is available in 8 varieties that range from 70-100 proof. Junior describes his moonshine as "Smoother than vodka. Better than whiskey. Best shine ever."[9]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Menzer, Joe (2001). The Wildest Ride: A History of NASCAR. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 59. ISBN 9780743205078. 
  2. ^ Aumann, Mark (October 2, 2012). "The art of the draft". NASCAR. Archived from the original on October 5, 2012. 
  3. ^ Raymond Lee Fox, Sr., legendsofnascar.com; Retrieved February 20, 2008
  4. ^ a b [1] Racing-reference.info Junior Johnson Career Statistics
  5. ^ Hall of Famer Johnson launches new racing team
  6. ^ "Racing legend 'owns' the road". The Tribune (Elkin, NC). May 26, 2004.
  7. ^ a b "Junior Johnson's son to postpone racing career while attending Duke University". 
  8. ^ For Junior, A Presidential Pardon Was A Great Start To The 1986 Season
  9. ^ www.juniorsmidnightmoon.com/legacy

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Lee Petty
Daytona 500 Winner
1960
Succeeded by
Marvin Panch