1 minute read

Junior Johnson

Fifty Nascar Wins

From 1960 to 1965, Johnson was a dominant force in NASCAR racing. Beginning with a win at only the second year of the Daytona 500, Johnson refined and expanded his capabilities as a driver by discovering the competitive advantages of aerodynamic drafting during a practice race. Driving a 1959 Chevrolet, which was outgunned by the faster and more powerful Pontiacs, Johnson devised the strategy that has been a critical element of NASCAR racing ever since. "When we was out practicing and a Pontiac would come by, I'd grab one, get as close to it as I could and hang onto it, and they couldn't get away from me," Johnson told Clendennen. "Cotton Owens and Jack Smith come over and told me we really had that Chevrolet flying. Well, little did they know that they was draggin' me around the race track, there was no way possible to keep up with them any other way." Johnson applied what he had learned on the day of the race, as he explained to Clendennen: "I just held on to every Pontiac I could get hold of."

Johnson added to his growing reputation by refusing to rely on help from the Chevrolet factory in Detroit, opting instead to remain independent. This decision added to his prestige when he repeatedly became the driver to beat, which caused fans and writers alike to consider him a David jousting a mighty Goliath. By the time he retired from driving after the 1965 season, Johnson was a 34-year-old motorsport legend. As a team owner, he fielded NASCAR Winston Cup teams to 139 wins and six Winston Cup Championships until 1995, when he retired to his beef farm and business interests in northern North Carolina. In 1998, he was named the greatest NASCAR driver of all time by Sports Illustrated magazine.

The Last American Hero

In 1973, director Lamont Johnson released the filmed version of Tom Wolfe's 1965 essay "The Last American Hero." Alternately titled Hard Driver, the film starred Jeff Bridges as Johnson, as well as Gary Busey as Johnson's mechanic, and Valerie Perrine as Johnson's love interest. The film remains mostly true to Johnson's life story, emphasizing his background as a runner of bootlegged corn liquor, and garnered positive critical reviews for Bridges's performance.

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsAuto RacingJunior Johnson Biography - Son Of A Moonshiner, Professional Racer, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments, Fifty Nascar Wins - CONTACT INFORMATION