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Racing News: NASCAR Hall of Fame Member Junior Johnson Passes Away


Compiled by SEMA Editors

Junior Johnson
Junior Johnson

NASCAR Hall of Fame Member Junior Johnson Passes Away

legend Junior Johnson, 88, has passed away. According to The New York Times, he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

Johnson was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in its inaugural Class of 2010. He won 50 races in NASCAR’s top division—the most of any driver without a championship—and added 132 victories and six championships as a successful team owner for many legends of the sport. Johnson won the second running of the Daytona 500 in ’60, then added two more victoires in the Great American Race as a car owner in ’69 and ’77.

Robert Glenn Johnson Jr., who became known as “Junior,” was born in 1931, in Ronda, North Carolina. The family business was farming and manufacturing and transporting untaxed whiskey. Johnson was convicted of moonshining in ’56 and pardoned by President Ronald Reagan, December 26, 1986. Until his death, he sold moonshine legally under the Midnight Moon label.

Johnson’s first appearance in NASCAR’s top division was in the ’53 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. He finished 38th in the 59-car field. His first victory came at Hickory Speedway, May 7, 1955, and he added four more victories by the end of his rookie season. In ’60, he beat Bobby Johns in the Daytona 500, using the “drafting” technique he discovered, which consisted of an aerodynamic push and pull created by the air at high speeds.

In ’65, Johnson won 13 of his 36 starts, including his final win as a driver at North Wilkesboro Speedway. That same year, Johnson was featured in Tom Wolfe’s iconic article, “The Last American Hero is Junior Johnson. Yes!”

Johnson ended his driving career at the age of 35 and became a team owner for three more decades. He was enshrined in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010, joining Bill France Sr. and Jr., Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty as the inaugural inductees. He remained involved with the NASCAR Hall for years afterward and contributed an operational moonshine still as an exhibit for the museum’s Heritage Speedway section. He was presented for induction by his son, Robert.

As of press time, no funeral arrangements have been announced.

Reintjes Named Vice President of Broadcasting

Steve Reintjes, who has served as NHRA’s coordinating producer for the past two years, has been promoted to the role of vice president of broadcasting. In his new role, Reintjes will continue to oversee NHRA’s production of all NHRA on Fox television broadcasts, as well as content created at the NHRA Wally Parks Studio, displayed at NHRA events and streamed online via NHRA.TV. Reintjes has an extensive background in live broadcasting with more than 19 years of experience in network television. He has produced more than 500 live events covering 11 sports, including major college football bowl games, multiple FCS college football national championship games and NCAA national championship games in men’s and women’s soccer. He has produced the last two years of all NHRA on Fox television broadcasts. Reintjes will begin his new role January 1, 2020.