Robert Glenn Johnson Jr. (June 28, 1931 – December 20, 2019), better known as Junior Johnson, was a 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; winning the NASCAR championship with Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip. He produced 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 was 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".
Johnson in 1985
|Born||Robert Glenn Johnson Jr.|
June 28, 1931
Ronda, North Carolina, U.S.
|Died||December 20, 2019 (aged 88)|
Charlotte, 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)
|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)|
|NASCAR Convertible Division career|
|2 races run over 1 year|
|Best finish||64th (1959)|
|First race||1959 Catawba 250 (Hickory)|
|Last race||1959 Old Dominion 500 (Martinsville)|
Early life and driving daysEdit
Johnson was born in Ronda, 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. 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.
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 Johnson won six races.
In 1959, Johnson 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.
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. Johnson also tried to qualify for the 1963 Indianapolis 500 but he failed to qualify.
He retired as a driver in 1966. In his career, Johnson claimed 50 victories, 11 at major speedway races. He retired as the winningest driver never to have a championship.
As a NASCAR ownerEdit
As a team owner, he worked with many NASCAR drivers, 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 132 races, which is fifth to Petty Enterprises, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Roush Fenway Racing. His drivers won six Winston Cup Championships—three with Yarborough (1976–1978) and Waltrip (1981–82, 1985).
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.
- He was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.
- He was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1991.
- Johnson joined Michael Jordan, Dale Earnhardt Jr and Richard Petty by having a stretch of highway named in his honor in 2004. His daughter Meredith sang the national anthem at the dedication of the highway. An 8.5-mile (13.7 km) stretch of U.S. Highway 421 from the Yadkin and Wilkes county line to the Windy Gap exit is named Junior Johnson Highway.
- He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on May 23, 2010.
Johnson was briefly married in 1949 to Mary Gray. His marriage to childhood sweetheart Flossie Clark (1929–2020) ended in divorce in 1992; they were legally married in 1975, although they had been together since the early 1950s. (Racing Legends have them as married 1958). His marriage to Lisa Day (b.1965)in 1992 resulted in two children: daughter Meredith Suzanne (b.1995) and son Robert Glenn Johnson III (b.1993), both of whom attended Duke University. Johnson built a new home for his family in 1997,selling in 2012 due to poor health. He resided in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the time of his death in 2019. Until Flossie's death on April 9, 2020, she still resided in the family home, built by Junior in 1964 (next to Johnson's old Ingle Hollow race shop), that she kept as part of the divorce settlement.
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."
In the mid 1960s, writer Tom Wolfe researched and wrote an article about Johnson, published in March 1965 in Esquire, and reprinted in Wolfe's The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby. This was eventually reprinted in The Best American Sports Writing of the Century, ed. David Halberstam . 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) 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) 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) Johnson had a voice role in the animated film Cars 3, as Junior "Midnight" Moon, a reference to his Moonshine Company.
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 produced in an authentic copper still and handcrafted in small batches. The 'shine is a legal version of his famous family recipe, and is available in eight varieties that range from 70–100 proof.
Motorsports career resultsEdit
(key) (Bold – Pole position awarded by qualifying time. Italics – Pole position earned by points standings or practice time. * – Most laps led.)
Grand National SeriesEdit
|1965||Junior Johnson & Associates||Ford||2||28|
- Correspondent, Lee Montgomery Special. "NASCAR legend Junior Johnson dies at 88". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved 2019-12-20.
- Goldstein, Richard (December 20, 2019). "Junior Johnson, Good-Old-Boy Auto Racing Star, Is Dead at 88". The New York Times. Retrieved December 20, 2019.
- "Information". johnsoninfo.weebly.com. Retrieved 2016-04-19.
- Menzer, Joe (2001). The Wildest Ride: A History of NASCAR. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 59. ISBN 9780743205078.
- Aumann, Mark (October 2, 2012). "The art of the draft". NASCAR. Archived from the original on October 5, 2012.
- "Raymond Lee Fox, Sr". Archived from the original on January 17, 2006. Retrieved 2008-02-25.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link), legendsofnascar.com; Retrieved February 20, 2008
- "Double dippers: Those who have competed in NASCAR and the Indy 500". Fox Sports. Retrieved 2020-05-11.
- Hall of Famer Johnson launches new racing team
- Junior Johnson at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America
- "Racing legend 'owns' the road". The Tribune (Elkin, NC). May 26, 2004.
- "Junior Johnson's son to postpone racing career while attending Duke University". Archived from the original on 2013-11-02.
- "Track no longer home Junior Johnson: Life for 66-year-old auto racing legend now centers on his wife and two young children". tribunedigital-baltimoresun. Retrieved 2018-11-28.
- For Junior, A Presidential Pardon Was A Great Start To The 1986 Season
- Official website for Junior Johnson
- Oral History Interview with Junior Johnson at Oral Histories of the American South
- Junior Johnson driver statistics at Racing-Reference
- Junior Johnson owner statistics at Racing-Reference
- CanadianDriver.com Article on Junior Johnson
- Junior Johnson Biography
| Daytona 500 Winner