December '18

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8 THE SHOP DECEMBER 2018 R obert Glenn Johnson Jr.—Junior, as he is known—was the son of a bootlegger from a place called Ingle Hollow, which is located near North Wilkesboro, in northwestern North Carolina. His talent for driving cars at a high rate of speed became apparent when he was just 14 years old, as he could out-drive and evade the federal law enforce- ment tax collectors on a regular basis with the family car, which was modified for increased cargo capacity and extra speed. Junior had dropped out of the eighth grade so he could start driving for his father full- time delivering illegal moonshine whiskey. His ability behind the wheel even at that early age is well documented and, in fact, he's credited with originating the term boot- legger's turn, which was described by Tom Wolfe in Esquire magazine back in 1965: "It was Junior Johnson specifically, how- ever, who was famous for the bootleg turn or about-face, in which, if the Alcohol Tax agents had a roadblock up for you or were too close behind, you threw the car into second gear, cocked the wheel, stepped on the accelerator and made the car's rear end skid around in a complete 180-degree arc, a complete about-face, and tore on back up the road exactly the way you came from. God! The Alcohol Tax agents used to burn over Junior Johnson. Practically every good old boy in town in Wilkesboro, the county seat, got to know the agents by sight in a very short time. They would rag them practically to their faces on the subject of Junior Johnson, so that it got to be an obsession. Finally, one night they had Junior trapped on the road up toward the bridge around Millersville, there's no way out of there, they had the barricades up and they could hear this souped-up car roaring around the bend, and here it comes—but suddenly they can hear a siren and see a red light flashing in the grille, so they think it's another agent, and boy, they run out like ants and pull those barrels and boards and sawhorses out of the way, and then—Ggghhzzzzzzzhhhhhgggggg- zzzzzzzeeeeeong!—gawdam! there he goes again, it was him, Junior Johnson!, with a gawdam agent's si-reen and a red light in his grille!" A FONDNESS FOR FAST CARS Young Junior behind the wheel of a 1940 Ford liquor car was quite a spectacle. "Fast cars always excited me," said Junior when asked in 1975 by Stock Car Racing This NASCAR icon has done a little bit of everything. By James Maxwell Junior Johnson: From Moonshine to Racing Pioneer The legend of Junior Johnson began in 1955 when he won five races driving an Oldsmobile in NASCAR competition, finishing sixth in points. His total winnings were $13,802.78.

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