Junior Johnson

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Robert Glenn Johnson
JuniorJohnson1985.jpg
Born(1931-06-28) June 28, 1931 (age 83)
Wilkes County, North Carolina
AwardsNASCAR'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 champ.
finish
6th - 1955 in NASCAR and 1961 (Grand National)
First race1953 Southern 500 (Darlington)
Last race1966 American 500 (Rockingham)
First win1955 Hickory Motor Speedway
Last win1965 Wilkes 400 (North Wilkesboro)
WinsTop tensPoles
5014846
 
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Robert Glenn Johnson
JuniorJohnson1985.jpg
Born(1931-06-28) June 28, 1931 (age 83)
Wilkes County, North Carolina
AwardsNASCAR'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 champ.
finish
6th - 1955 in NASCAR and 1961 (Grand National)
First race1953 Southern 500 (Darlington)
Last race1966 American 500 (Rockingham)
First win1955 Hickory Motor Speedway
Last win1965 Wilkes 400 (North Wilkesboro)
WinsTop tensPoles
5014846

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]

YearRacesWinsPolesTop 5sTop 10sRankAvg StartAvg Finish
19531000026.038.0
195440111551.026.0
19553652121867.412.2
19561301113710.821.1
19571000015411.020.0
19582760121688.712.0
1959285114151113.110.9
19603433141879.614.2
196141710162266.812.1
1962231278206.117.6
196333791314124.214.4
196429351215145.312.1
1965361391819123.311.4
196670311495.716.0
Totals31350461211487.213.5

[4]

Daytona 500 results[edit]

YearManufacturerStartFinishTeam
1959Ford3314Paul Spaulding
1960Chevrolet91John Masoni
1961Pontiac4347Rex Lovette
1962Pontiac934Rex Lovette
1963Chevrolet342Fox
1964Dodge39Fox
1965Ford228Johnson

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]

YearDriverRacesWinsPolesTop 5sTop 10sRankAvg StartAvg Finish
1953Junior Johnson1000026.038.0
1965Bobby Isaac10111751.02.0
1965Junior Johnson361391819123.311.4
1965Curtis Turner20000393.029.0
1966Darel Dieringer200111216.07.5
1966A. J. Foyt3000014.725.0
1966Bobby Isaac80023538.918.9
1966Gordon Johncock200112.515.5
1966Junior Johnson70311495.716.0
1966Fred Lorenzen10000233.023.0
1966Curtis Turner30011246.011.3
1967Darel Dieringer161689124.113.5
1967Lloyd Ruby100008.022.0
1967LeeRoy Yarbrough30011374.014.7
1968LeeRoy Yarbrough20261313164.012.0
1969LeeRoy Yarbrough28701520165.48.8
1970Donnie Allison10011402.03.0
1970Fred Lorenzen10000549.033.0
1970David Pearson10011237.04.0
1970LeeRoy Yarbrough1711811436.412.2
1971Charlie Glotzbach20147104212.512.5
1972Bobby Allison3110112527212.512.5
1974Earl Ross15103889.311.1
1974Cale Yarborough1541101024.57.9
1975Cale Yarborough2733131396.514.8
1976Cale Yarborough3092222315.18.2
1977Cale Yarborough3093252714.04.5
1978Cale Yarborough30108232413.66.0
1979Cale Yarborough3141192245.38.6
1980Cale Yarborough31614192223.19.0
1981Richard Childress100002531.039.0
1981Darrell Waltrip311211212515.37.2
1982J. D. McDuffie200001920.520.0
1982Bill Schmitt100006422.021.0
1982Darrell Waltrip30127172013.89.1
1983Darrell Waltrip3067222527.17.7
1984Neil Bonnett300071489.313.7
1984Darrell Waltrip3074132055.911.2
1985Neil Bonnett28211118410.510.6
1985Darrell Waltrip2834182118.27.3
1986Davey Allison10001477.07.0
1986Neil Bonnett28106121312.316.1
1986Darrell Waltrip2931212228.610.0
1987Terry Labonte2914132237.111.1
1988Terry Labonte29111118412.810.8
1989Terry Labonte29209111013.215.1
1990Geoffrey Bodine2932111938.111.4
1991Geoffrey Bodine27126121410.415.7
1991Tommy Ellis200007030.018.5
1991Sterling Marlin2902716714.311.8
1992Bill Elliott2952141729.710.9
1992Sterling Marlin29056131013.014.4
1992Hut Stricklin100002727.031.0
1993Bill Elliott3002615812.913.5
1993Hut Stricklin3000122421.022.8
1994Bill Elliott31116121015.716.8
1994Jeff Green100005131.018.0
1994Tommy Kendall100006327.022.0
1994Jimmy Spencer2921342921.525.1
1995Loy Allen, Jr.500014131.820.4
1995Brett Bodine3100022021.222.3
1995Jimmy Horton100006130.034.0
1995Greg Sacks100003920.017.0
1995Elton Sawyer2000003828.329.4
Totals10491321154365779.812.8

[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. at the Wayback Machine (archived January 17, 2006), 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. ^ http://www.juniorsmidnightmoon.com/legacy

External links[edit]

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