December '18

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DECEMBER 2018 THE SHOP 13 Johnson. He had discovered the aerodynamic draft from the car in front of him. "If nobody else finds out about it, I've got an advantage," he thought at the time. Johnson followed the Pontiacs for the next several laps and toward the end he was running second behind Bobby Johns in another Pontiac. Then one of the strangest things ever to happen on a race track took place. With Johnson continually running right up against Johns' car, the resulting suction effect caused the back glass to pull out of the Pontiac, which greatly upset the car's stability. Johnson saw the whole thing up close and personal. "With my car sucking off his back glass, and the wind going inside the car too, it jerked his back glass off, his whole car come off the ground and he spun around down to the infield, and I went up and I won the race. Everyone knew by the time the race was about over, what I had done all day long was just drafted people and that's how I got to where I was at. It was just absolutely a miracle that the car won that race." GO OR BLOW By 1963 Junior was in a very powerful car himself. The Ray Fox-built 1963 Chev- rolet was one of the hand-built mystery motor cars. The Z-33 Mark II 427-ci "Mystery Motor" was a special hand-built race engine from Chevrolet. Between 18 and 42 of these rare power plants were produced. The bore and stroke were the same as the 427-ci "W" engine (based on the old 348/409); however, the completely new design featured what would be known in the future as a "big-block" (intake and exhaust valves canted in two different planes). Horsepower was estimated at 600-plus. In 1963 Johnson ran a "mystery motor" in his Chevrolet that developed huge amounts of power but had long-distance reliability issues. The largest production engine in 1963 was the 409-ci "W" series, and this special power plant was the factory's first prototype of the big-block 396-ci en- gine. Today the original race car still exists and includes the ac- tual mystery motor as raced all those years ago, in fully restored condition. with whiskey business. I went on and got bigger and bigger in racing when I got out." On May 18, 1958 he was back racing at his home track in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Leading by half a lap late in the race going through Turn 3, things got a little too wild and Johnson's car left the race track due to excessive speed, flying over a dirt embankment. Somehow he was able to keep every- thing under control, and after blasting through some high weeds that bordered the track, he returned to the racing surface and beat Marvin Panch to the finish line, taking the checkered flag in front of 6,000 local fans that were screaming wildly. The Wilkes County Wild Man was back where he belonged. DRAFTING TO WIN The 1960 factory-backed Pontiacs were the fastest on the track, running some 15 mph faster than the 1959 Chevrolet Johnson was driving, which was built in just 10 days by car owner Ray Fox. During the practice session, Johnson realized that the faster Pontiacs were not going to be possible for him to catch. However, something happened next that changed stock car racing forever and allowed him to run with the faster cars that day. "Cotton Owens come by (in a Pon- tiac), and when he come by I just ducked over in behind him. All the sudden my car started pickin' up speed. I just run right up against him, and stayed there. The thing was turning about 7,500 rpm and that was unheard of," remembers

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