In the early days of American auto racing, a majority of racers gained their skills as drivers from running moonshine. Moonshine is an illegal form of whiskey and was a main source of income for some people who lived in the southern U.S. One man whose name is synonymous with NASCAR and moonshine runners is Robert “Junior” Johnson.
Born in Wilkes County North Carolina, Junior Johnson honed his driving skills as a runner for his daddy’s business. After a few years running and racing in the small dirt track circuit, Junior Johnson tried his hand at NASCAR. In his first year, he won five races and finished sixth in the points total. His legend was born that first year.
Over the course of his 11-year NASCAR career as a driver, Junior won 50 races. In 1960, he won the coveted Daytona 500. For those who follow NASCAR, Junior Johnson is considered one of the greatest short track racers and most consider him the best dirt track driver to ever sit behind the wheel.
In 1973 a movie based on his life, The Last American Hero, was filmed with Jeff Bridges playing Junior. The movie was taken from an article written by Tom Wolfe and represented Junior’s younger years as a moonshine runner and racer.
Junior Johnson has been inducted into every major racing hall of fame and as a car owner has built one the most successful racing enterprises in the sport. For those who love the sport of NASCAR you know the legend of this man, for those new to the sport you will be graced with the man who is a pioneer, legend, and icon of a true American Sport.