X

NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson Dies at Age 88

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2019

CHARLOTTE, NC - MAY 23:  Hall of Fame inductee Junior Johnson speaks during the 2010 NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Charlotte Convention Center on May 23, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

NASCAR Hall of Famer Robert Glenn "Junior" Johnson died at age 88, the auto racing circuit announced Friday. 

NASCAR.com's Zack Albert wrote Johnson "had been in declining health and entered hospice care earlier this week." NASCAR chairman and CEO Jim France released a statement on his death:

NASCAR @NASCAR

NASCAR statement from Jim France on the passing of Junior Johnson. https://t.co/Kg8aaVitxH

Johnson competed in 313 NASCAR Cup Series races over his career, collecting 50 checkered flags. He was enshrined in NASCAR's Hall of Fame in 2010 as part of the inaugural class.

Johnson earned the moniker of "The Last American Hero" after Tom Wolfe profiled him for the March 1, 1965, issue of Esquire.

His legend extends beyond the track. President Ronald Reagan granted him an unconditional pardon in 1985 regarding his federal conviction for moonshining in 1956. He was working at his father's still when authorities arrived and arrested him.

The legal matter came at an inopportune time in his career as he had five wins in 36 NASCAR Cup Series races in 1955.

Johnson retired after the 1966 season and subsequently embarked on a successful career as a team owner. Under his watch, Cale Yarborough won three straight cup championships from 1976 to 1978, and Darrell Waltrip collected three championships as well in 1981, 1982 and 1985.