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Junior Johnson Biography

Son Of A Moonshiner, Professional Racer, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments, Fifty Nascar WinsCONTACT INFORMATION

1930-

American race car driver

Junior Johnson was among the pioneers of organized stock car racing and one its most successful practitioners as a driver, mechanic, and team owner. Johnson brought both notoriety and respect to a motorsport that had its beginnings in the hills and mountains of the American South, and grew into the multi-million dollar Winston Cup National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR). The notoriety derived from the fact that many of the sport's best drivers—of whom Johnson was the best known—learned and honed their talents by evading the law. These individuals not only mastered the art of evasive and fast driving on the hairpin turns and gouged roadways of the North Carolina countryside, they also became shade-tree mechanics of note. They fine-tuned their cars into professional race-worthy vehicles in order to run illegal, bootlegged liquor from the mountain stills where it was manufactured to the cities and saloons where it was sold.

After serving eleven months of a two-year prison term in 1956, Johnson devoted more of his time to professional racing than bootlegging, and proceeded to

Junior Johnson

revolutionize the sport with an intimidating driving style. It included the first use of aerodynamic drafting—driving in the vacuum developed behind the bumper of a leading car to save fuel, which increases the speed of both vehicles in a push-pull dynamic-in the 1960 Daytona 500. He also pioneered the use of two-way radios between the driver and pit crew. Johnson garnered fifty NASCAR wins before retiring from driving in 1966, the year following publication of Tom Wolfe's essay, "The Last American Hero" in Esquire magazine, in which Johnson was portrayed as a savvy good 'ol boy who flummoxed both the law and Detroit's Big Three automakers with his mechanical savvy and hard-charging driving style. This characterization was reinforced when Jeff Bridges portrayed Johnson in the 1973 movie The Last American Hero. After retiring from driving, Johnson then turned his attention to running race operations with such drivers as Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Bill Elliott, Darrell Waltrip, and Terry Labonte. In 1970, Johnson was already a pioneer in obtaining corporate sponsorship for his racing vehicles. He furthered these inroads when he became instrumental in the decision of R.J. Reynolds to underwrite the sponsorship for NASCAR, thus beginning the Winston Cup NASCAR series brand.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Address: 1950 Flintstone Drive, Statesville, NC 28677. Address: c/o Penske Corporation Headquarters, 2555 Telegraph Rd., Bloomfield Hills, MI 48302-0954. Phone: (248) 614-1122.

Sketch by Bruce Walker

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsAuto Racing