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Junior Johnson

Full Name:
Robert Glenn "Junior" Johnson jr
Born:
28th June 1931
Ingle Hollow, North Carolina
Died:
20th December 2019 (Aged 88)
Charlotte, North Carolina
Nationality:
American
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

Junior Johnson was a NASCAR legend both as driver and as a car owner. He won 50 top-division races behind the wheel (plus one as a relief driver) but was even more successful when entering others.

Background and early career

He was one of the last links to NASCAR’s origins in the moonshine whisky era of the late-1940s – honing his skills while outrunning the law. That period included a spell in jail before Johnson turned to stock car racing. He made his NASCAR debut in the 1953 Southern 500 at Darlington – crashing an Oldsmobile that day.

His Cadillac qualified on pole position at LeHi a year later and he was a championship regular during 1955 driving a B&L Motors Oldsmobile. That campaign included his first five victories as Johnson finished sixth in the standings.

NASCAR success

Two barren seasons followed before Johnson drove Paul Spaulding’s Ford Fairlane in 1958 – winning six times included three mid-season races in a row. A winning driver for eight seasons in succession – he counted Jason Masoni, Rex Lovette (for whom he finished sixth in the 1961 championship), Cotton Owens, Ray Fox and Banjo Matthews among his team owners. His 1960 campaign in Masoni’s Daytona Kennel Club Chevrolet Impala included victory in the Daytona 500 after Bobby Johns spun with eight laps to go. Johnson entered his own Ford Galaxie in 1965 and it proved to be his most prolific season in terms of race wins (13).

Championship winning team owner

He retired from driving during 1966 to concentrate on running his team. Junior Johnson & Associates continued to enter cars until he retired in 1995. His cars won 132 times and Johnson was the power behind Cale Yarborough’s three championships in a row from 1976 to 1978. Darrell Waltrip also won three titles for Johnson (1981, 1982 and 1985).

Tough as nails, Johnson would not cede to a rival on the track either as a driver or entrant. He was often outspoken and controversial and was unafraid to cross swords with NASCAR officials.