Junior Johnson: The Complete Package

Angie CampbellContributor IOctober 18, 2009

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 14:   NASCAR personality Humpy Wheeler, former driver and car owner Junior Johnson, and Vice President of Communications Jim Hunter pose for a photograph during the inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame class voting on October 14, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

On Wednesday, Junior Johnson was one of the first five inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, joining Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Bill France Sr., and Bill France Jr.

Johnson was deeply honored and somewhat shocked to be included in this group of NASCAR pioneers.

“It’s probably the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me,” he said.

Though some have  questioned Junior Johnson’s inclusion in the first class of NASCAR’s Hall of Fame, he is arguably one of the most colorful and successful figures in the history of stock car racing.

Darlington Raceway President Chris Browning echoed this sentiment, saying, “Junior Johnson was a legendary pioneer in NASCAR first as a successful driver and later going on to own a championship race team.”

Johnson was born in Wilkes County, North Carolina and honed his driving skills running moonshine in the rural South.  He cultivated his reputation as an outlaw and his antics became legend among his fellow moonshiners. Johnson was known to use police lights and sirens to fool policemen into thinking he was one of them, evading roadblocks, and making his escape.

In 1955, Johnson made his move into the world of NASCAR using the driving skills learned on the back roads of North Carolina. In his first full season, he won five races and finished sixth in the 1955 NASCAR Grand National points standings.

His racing career was briefly interrupted in 1956 when federal tax agents caught Johnson working at his father’s still and arrested him. He was convicted of moonshining and served 11 months in a federal prison.

 In 1958 he returned to NASCAR, picking up where he left off and winning six races. Johnson soon became known as one of the best short-track racers in the sport.

Junior Johnson went on to achieve great success as a driver with 50 wins including the second Daytona 500 in 1960. He has been credited with discovering the drafting technique which was quickly adopted by other drivers and is still used at superspeedways today.

Johnson retired from racing in 1966 and went on to become one of the most successful car owners in NASCAR history, winning six Cup championships, third only to Petty Enterprises and Hendrick Motorsports.

Junior Johnson exemplifies the heart and soul of NASCAR.  From his humble beginnings on a farm in North Carolina to his Hall of Fame status today, his life can serve as a road map to any aspiring racer.

Rick Humphrey, President of Talladega Superspeedway, summed up Johnson's legacy.

“Junior Johnson showed the masses that ingenuity and hard work pays off on the racetrack and in the owner’s seat.”


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