Robert Glenn “Junior” Johnson, who gained 50 NASCAR Cup Collection races as a driver and 132 as an proprietor and was a part of the inaugural class inducted into the NASCAR Corridor of Fame in 2010, has died at 88.
Johnson had reportedly been in declining well being and had entered hospice care earlier this week, in line with NASCAR.com.
Johnson is survived by his spouse, Lisa, his daughter Meredith and son Robert Glenn Johnson III.
A local of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, Johnson – whose origins have been in bootlegging moonshine – was named one in all NASCAR’s best drivers in 1998 after a 14-year profession that led to 1966 and included a win within the 1960 Daytona 500.
He was immortalized because the “Last American Hero” in an Esquire journal characteristic written by Tom Wolfe in 1965 and later in a 1973 film adaptation starring Jeff Bridges.
As a automotive proprietor for drivers that included Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, Invoice Elliott and Terry Labonte, Johnson claimed six Cup championships. His final race win as an proprietor was the 1994 Southern 500 with Elliott.
It was Johnson who helped join the RJ Reynolds tobacco firm with NASCAR, which led to Winston sponsoring its premier collection from 1971-2003.
In 1986, Johnson obtained a full presidential pardon from President Ronald Reagan for his 1956 federal conviction for moonshining.
“It’s with nice disappointment that we share the passing of Junior Johnson on behalf of the Johnson household. In the beginning, everybody on the NASCAR Corridor of Fame provides our most honest condolences to Lisa, Robert, Meredith and the whole
NASCAR issued the next assertion from its CEO and Chairman, Jim France:
“Junior Johnson truly was the ‘Last American Hero.’ From his early days running moonshine through the end of his life, Junior wholly embodied the NASCAR spirit. He was an inaugural NASCAR Hall of Famer, a nod to an extraordinary career as both a driver and team owner. Between his on-track accomplishments and his introduction of Winston to the sport, few have contributed to the success of NASCAR as Junior has. The entire NASCAR family is saddened by the loss of a true giant of our sport, and we offer our deepest condolences to Junior’s family and friends during this difficult time.”
Johnson was thought of one of many best innovators in NASCAR historical past. Maybe essentially the most well-known innovation he was credited with was “discovering” drafting and the the advantages related to it, resulting in his sole Daytona 500 win as a driver in 1960 (he additionally gained the Nice American Race as a staff proprietor two different occasions, in 1969 and 1977). In a number of interviews through the years, Johnson mentioned he found drafting by reportedly with the ability to “see” air transferring between his automotive and the one in entrance of him, and the way the air movement would assist “pull” his automotive nearer, with the ability to “push” the automotive forward of him — and bringing alongside his personal automotive as properly — quicker and faster, and in addition main to permit Johnson’s automotive to slingshot round and forward, oftentimes resulting in a win.
Like many drivers of his period, together with fellow NASCAR Corridor of Famer David Pearson, Johnson primarily ran partial schedules throughout his 14 seasons of racing in what was then often called the NASCAR Grand Nationwide Collection. However even working part-time didn’t hinder him, together with 13 wins in 36 begins in 1965. That was additionally his remaining common season as a driver, along with his final win coming later that very same 12 months at what was thought of his dwelling racetrack, North Wilkesboro Speedway.
It was additionally due to his primarily part-time standing that Johnson by no means competed in sufficient races in any single season to come back near win a Grand Nationwide championship as a driver — along with his highest end in any season being sixth (in each 1955 and 1961).
Johnson was simply 35 years previous when he hung up his steering wheel for the ultimate time, happening to even better success as a staff proprietor. Although he obtained quite a few provides to get again behind the wheel, he handed on all of them, preferring to name his personal pictures as chief of his personal staff. Or, as he put it quite a few occasions, “in a supervisory capacity.”
Johnson was most recognized for his No. 11 race automotive as each a driver and proprietor. As a driver, he additionally drove for a number of homeowners in automobiles sporting numbers together with 26, 27, three and 55. As an proprietor, his groups sported 26, 27 and 98, nevertheless it was No. 11 that grew to become so related to him as an proprietor, primarily from 1974 via his remaining season main his staff in 1994.
He would promote all of the gear and property of his group upon the completion of the 1995 season to Brett Bodine, however for practically one other quarter-century, Johnson would stay a well-liked ambassador for NASCAR and the game of inventory automotive racing, the NASCAR Corridor of Fame, in addition to remained a fan favourite till Friday’s passing.
He known as his induction into the NASCAR Corridor of Fame in its first 12 months of operation the best day of his life.
Information of Johnson’s demise drew fast response on social media:
Once I was a child rising up in Owensboro, Ky I dreamed of assembly Jr Johnson, my dream got here true, meet him, he grew to become my boss and made me a champion, I beloved that man, God Bless Jr and his household,
You have been the best! RIP
— Darrell Waltrip (@AllWaltrip) December 20, 2019
Robert Glenn Johnson, Jr.
The Final American Hero.
What a Legend.
Relaxation simple Junior. https://t.co/NdSokBy8G0
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) December 20, 2019
An Icon, a legend, a pioneer, a hero, a buddy has handed away as we speak. Junior was some of the influential individuals in all of inventory automotive racing. #RIPLASTAMERICANHERO pic.twitter.com/dIAn2fbBJ2
— Rick Allen (@RickAllenracing) December 20, 2019
Man it’s unhappy to listen to the passing of a legend, a Corridor of Famer, an ideal man and a lot extra https://t.co/ToDkpNH8mb
— Matt DiBenedetto (@mattdracing) December 20, 2019
Nobody exterior the France household has been extra instrumental to the expansion of Nascar than #JuniorJohnson, who has handed at age 88. A famous person driver, then multi-championship staff proprietor, he introduced RJR/Winston to Nascar, vaulting the game to nationwide prominence.
— Mike Pleasure (@mikejoy500) December 20, 2019
Godspeed to a legend behind the wheel, be it on the monitor or on the street hauling moonshine.
— RBSeeville (@RBSeeville) December 20, 2019
Godspeed to the Final American Hero, #JuniorJohnson. With out query some of the celebrated drivers, staff homeowners, and enduring figures in @NASCAR historical past. All males die, however legends dwell perpetually.
— Brock Beard (@LASTCARonBROCK) December 20, 2019
— Ryan Gross (@thatwasgross) December 20, 2019
Had the consideration of assembly #JuniorJohnson just a few years in the past on the @NASCARHall A #NASCAR pioneer who did extra for our sport than most individuals notice. It’s a tragic day within the racing world. pic.twitter.com/Gxnih3rnSY
— Trey Keesee (@TreyKeesee) December 20, 2019
What an honor it was to satisfy #JuniorJohnson @NASCARHall just a few years in the past. Not solely a legend and an icon, however a real gentleman in each side. R.I.P. sir. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/QtRoiNhQEw
— Jim Sloan (@calefan28) December 20, 2019
RIP to the final American hero, Junior Johnson. Junior was one of many first superstars in NASCAR and was one the primary innovators throughout the sport. He was additionally a automotive proprietor, and owned automobiles pushed by greats akin to Darrell Waltrip, and my all time hero, Invoice Elliott. Thanks Junior. pic.twitter.com/3NfGAFm93i
— Sam Blevins (@BlevinsSam) December 20, 2019
So unhappy to listen to this, was one cool man! https://t.co/ULiNjttjeW
— Bobby Labonte (@Bobby_Labonte) December 20, 2019
Racer. Legend. Hero.
Relaxation In Peace, Junior Johnson. pic.twitter.com/3SPVYp86kh
— Charlotte Motor Speedway (@CLTMotorSpdwy) December 20, 2019
actually saddened by the information of the passing of NASCAR pioneer Junior Johnson. it’s been a troublesome 12 months for the fellows from the early days. 😪 pic.twitter.com/Q4hGgOxr3d
— Wooden Brothers Racing (@woodbrothers21) December 20, 2019
All of us at Richmond Raceway are heartbroken to listen to the legendary Junior Johnson has handed away. ‘The Last American Hero’ gained right here as a driver twice, in 1961 & ‘65, and gained 7 extra occasions right here as an proprietor.
Our ideas are along with his household, associates & the whole NASCAR group. pic.twitter.com/HUeZQipj9a
— Richmond Raceway (@RichmondRaceway) December 20, 2019
No-one can ever be in comparison with Junior Johnson…no one!
Among the many most identifiable names in Motorsports, most fascinating characters in all types of leisure, among the many most plentiful lives ever lived…
There’ll by no means be a Life or Story fairly like that of Junior Johnson🏁
— Ricky Craven (@RickyCraven32) December 20, 2019
North Carolina has misplaced an enormous with the demise of NASCAR legend Junior Johnson. I simply obtained off the telephone along with his spouse, Lisa, and our prayers are along with her, his youngsters, Robert and Meredith, and the whole household. – RC
— Governor Roy Cooper (@NC_Governor) December 20, 2019
It’s by no means simple when an icon of a sport passes. This night, we keep in mind the moonshiner turned legendary racer and proprietor, Junior Johnson. His love of our sport helped develop it into what it’s as we speak. Heroes get remembered, however legends by no means die. #NASCAR #GodspeedJunior pic.twitter.com/i9BFfhXzKw
— JD Motorsports w/ Gary Keller (@JDMotorsports01) December 20, 2019
We’re deeply saddened that we have misplaced a real #NASCAR legend.
Thanks Junior Johnson for all the things you have executed for this sport. Our ideas are with your loved ones, associates, and the quite a few lives you touched. pic.twitter.com/EvNI4EGLBy
— Xfinity Racing (@XfinityRacing) December 20, 2019
Unhappy to listen to the passing of Junior Johnson. We have been honored to have the ability to characterize his @JJMidnightMoon firm on our @TeamChevy’s. Our ideas and prayers are with the Johnson household. #WeAreGMS pic.twitter.com/SwOBZs5FSe
— GMS Racing (@GMSRacingLLC) December 20, 2019
Each aspiring driver must know Junior Johnson’s story. RIP the true soul of NASCAR. Constructed automobiles to outrun the legislation. Then, solely legends obtain pardons from Presidents. pic.twitter.com/M8fbwthL2U
— Kurt Busch (@KurtBusch) December 21, 2019