Junior Johnson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Junior Johnson
JuniorJohnson1985.jpg
Johnson in 1985
Born Robert Glenn Johnson, Jr.
(1931-06-28) June 28, 1931 (age 86)
Wilkesboro, North Carolina, U.S.
Achievements 1960 Daytona 500 winner
6-time Winston Cup Series Owner's Champion with Cale Yarborough (1976, 1977, 1978) and Darrell Waltrip (1981, 1982, 1985)
Awards Named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers (1998)
International Motorsports Hall of Fame Inductee (1990)
Motorsports Hall of Fame of America Inductee (1991)
NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee (2010)
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career
313 races run over 14 years
Best finish 6th (1955, 1961)
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 a former NASCAR driver of 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 family is of Ulster Scots descent, and settled in the foothills of North Carolina in the early 1600s. The Johnson family was involved in the whiskey business before he was born. His maternal great-grandfather served as the second highest ranking Confederate general in North Carolina. His father, a lifelong bootlegger, spent nearly twenty of his sixty-three years in prison, as their house was frequently raided by revenue agents. His family experienced the largest alcohol raid in United States history, seizing 400 gallons of moonshine from the house.[1] Junior was arrested and spent one year in prison in Ohio in 1956-57 for having an illegal still, although he was never caught in his many years of transporting bootleg liquor at high speed.[2] This is why there are no Nascar wins listed for those years.

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. At Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Johnson also won the NHRA B/G (B Gas) title, driving a Chevrolet-powered 1941 Studebaker.[3] His winning pass was a 13.13 seconds at 104.04 mph (167.44 km/h).[4]

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 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.[5][6]

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 a crash; Johnson suffered only minor injuries.

He retired as a driver in 1966. In his career, he claimed 50 victories, 11 at major speedway races. He retired as the winningest driver never to have a championship.[citation needed]

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.

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 No. 11, Nashville 420, July 16, 1983

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.[7]

Awards[edit]

Family[edit]

His first marriage ended in divorce in 1992. His marriage to his current wife Lisa in 1992 has resulted in two children, daughter Meredith Suzanne, and son Robert Glenn Johnson III, both whom attended Duke University.[9] He resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. Johnson is referenced in the Bruce Springsteen song "Cadillac Ranch". "Junior Johnson drivin' thru the woods of Caroline..."

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."[10]

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] Johnson had a voice role in the animated film Cars 3, as Junior "Midnight" Moon, a reference to his Moonshine Company.

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."[11]

Motorsports career results[edit]

NASCAR[edit]

(key) (Bold – Pole position awarded by qualifying time. Italics – Pole position earned by points standings or practice time. * – Most laps led.)

Grand National Series[edit]

Daytona 500[edit]
Year Team Manufacturer Start Finish
1959 Paul Spaulding Ford 33 14
1960 John Masoni Chevrolet 9 1
1961 Rex Lovette Pontiac 43 47
1962 Pontiac 9 34
1963 Fox Racing Chevrolet 3 42
1964 Dodge 3 9
1965 Junior Johnson & Associates Ford 2 28

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Information". johnsoninfo.weebly.com. Retrieved 2016-04-19. 
  2. ^ Menzer, Joe (2001). The Wildest Ride: A History of NASCAR. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 59. ISBN 9780743205078. 
  3. ^ Davis may have confused driver and entrant. Gasser Wars (Cartech, 2003), p.181.
  4. ^ Davis, Larry. Gasser Wars (Cartech, 2003), p.181.
  5. ^ Aumann, Mark (October 2, 2012). "The art of the draft". NASCAR. Archived from the original on October 5, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Raymond Lee Fox, Sr". Archived from the original on January 17, 2006. Retrieved 2008-02-25.  , legendsofnascar.com; Retrieved February 20, 2008
  7. ^ Hall of Famer Johnson launches new racing team
  8. ^ "Racing legend 'owns' the road". The Tribune (Elkin, NC). May 26, 2004.
  9. ^ a b "Junior Johnson's son to postpone racing career while attending Duke University". Archived from the original on 2013-11-02. 
  10. ^ For Junior, A Presidential Pardon Was A Great Start To The 1986 Season
  11. ^ http://www.juniorsmidnightmoon.com/legacy

External links[edit]

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