Robert Glen Johnson, Jr. (born June 28, 1931 in Wilkes County, North Carolina) was one of the most successful NASCAR drivers in history and later an even more successful team owner. He will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010.
Driving Days Edit
Growing up on a farm in Wilkes County, Johnson, like many of the pioneers of stock car racing, developed his driving skills running moonshine as a young man. He was one of many drivers who easily transferred his moonshine experience to the highly pitched pavement of the NASCAR superspeedways.
In his first full season, he won five races and finished sixth in the 1955 NASCAR Grand National points standings. If NASCAR had a Rookie of the Year at the time, Johnson surely would have won it.
The following year, he took an unscheduled trip to prison in Chillicothe, Ohio after an encounter with federal agents at his father's moonshine still in the Carolina mountains. He served 11 months of a two-year sentence.
Johnson returned to the NASCAR scene in 1958 and picked up where he left off, winning six races. In 1959, he won five more NASCAR Grand National races and was regarded as one of the most capable short-track racers in the business.
His first big win at the Daytona 500 in 1960. It was in practicing for that race that he discovered the concept of "drafting," running close behind another car and taking advantage of its slipstream to gain additional speed. Using that technique he won the race, despite the fact that his car was slower than others in the field.
He retired in 1966. In his career he claimed 50 victories as a driver, and 11 of these wins were at major speedway races.
As a NASCAR Owner Edit
As a team owner, he worked with some of the legendary drivers in NASCAR history, including Darel Dieringer, LeeRoy Yarbrough, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Neil Bonnett, Terry Labonte, Geoffrey Bodine, Jimmy Spencer, and Bill Elliott. In all, his drivers won 139 races, which is second only to Petty Enterprises. His drivers won six Winston Cup Championships -- three with Yarborough (1976-1978) and Waltrip (1981-82, 1985).
- He was inducted as a member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990.
- He was named on of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.
- He was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1991.
His first marriage ended in divorce in 1992. His marriage to current wife Lisa in 1994 has resulted in two children, daughter Meredith Susanne, and son Robert Glen Johnson III.
subject of "The Last American Hero" movieEdit
A Tom Wolfe article about Johnson in the March 1965 issue of Esquire magazine led to a 1973 movie based on the article and Johnson's early life, The Last American Hero (a/k/a Hard Driver). Jeff Bridges starred as the somewhat fictionalized version of Johnson, and Johnson himself served as techical advisor for the film. The movie was critically acclaimed and featured the Jim Croce hit song, "I Got A Name".