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Title: Oral History Interview with Junior Johnson, June 4, 1988. Interview C-0053. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Johnson, Junior, interviewee
Interview conducted by Daniel, Pete
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 149.3 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-02-20, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Junior Johnson, June 4, 1988. Interview C-0053. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0053)
Author: Pete Daniel
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Junior Johnson, June 4, 1988. Interview C-0053. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0053)
Author: Junior Johnson
Description: 172 Mb
Description: 45 p.
Note: Interview conducted on June 4, 1988, by Pete Daniel; recorded in Dover, Delaware.
Note: Transcribed by Jovita Flynn.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series C. Notable North Carolinians, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with Junior Johnson, June 4, 1988.
Interview C-0053. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Johnson, Junior, interviewee


Interview Participants

    JUNIOR JOHNSON, interviewee
    PETE DANIEL, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
PETE DANIEL:
[This is an interview with Junior Johnson. It's being done on June 4, 1988, at Dover, Delaware, at the Dover Downs Race Track.] I think most people would want to know about your family background. That is, how long have the Johnsons been up in the mountains of North Carolina?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, my grandpa lived in the same area where I live now and my father lived since about the 1900's. That's where my father was born, in that same area, and it was where me and my brothers and sisters all was born and raised up.
PETE DANIEL:
Could you just put on for the record your parents' names?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Robert Glenn Johnson, Sr. and Lora Money Johnson.
PETE DANIEL:
Did you go to school right there in your neighborhood?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
A little community called Clemmon. We went to school there up until we finished the seventh grade, and then you moved on to a high school called Ronda for the rest of your years in school. I only went to the seventh, I mean through the seventh and started in the eighth, and I quit school in the eighth.
PETE DANIEL:
Were any of your teachers particularly significant in your life?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
All of my teachers was very significant in my life. I had a teacher called Tom Calloway that was one of the, I thought, smartest persons I'd ever seen in my childhood years. I also had a teacher called Nola Howard. She was really a great person, and still living. She retired from teaching several years ago. She

Page 2
was a patient, good person, and she really took a lot of time with her school kids.
PETE DANIEL:
Do you have friends now that you grew up with back there?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Yes, I still live in the same territory or area where I was born and all. I grew up there and I still live there, and all the neighbors and friends and relatives still live in the same area where I growed up. All of my friends are still there.
PETE DANIEL:
Did you have any particular person you looked up to and sort of set as a role model when you were growing up?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, I looked up to my father a lot because I thought my father was one of the most knowledgeable people about everything that he went to do. You know, farming, he was in the whiskey business when I was a young boy. He had more knowledge about everything that he did, and anything that anybody wanted to do, he knew how to do it and how to go about it and stuff. I've always felt like if I could grow up and be like my father, I'd be happy and satisfied with my life, and I still feel that way about it. He was the one person in my eyes as far as I was concerned.
PETE DANIEL:
Was he a farmer, mostly? Is that what he did mostly?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
He farmed for a living, but back in them days you could just survive on a farm. In that area of North Carolina where I lived was kind a a moonshining area. Of course, about everybody who lived around where I lived was either involved in it one way or the other, or they sold the material to make it with, or they had some connection with the moonshine business. Course, he, by

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his being that close around it, and him being where he could get involved in it, he got involved in it.
PETE DANIEL:
What did folks do for leisure? You were growing up mostly in the what, late '30s and early '40s, on through there. Did you have movies? What all did you do for recreation?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Most of the time radio was about the only communication you had with the outside world, at the time that I was growing up. Television didn't come along until quite some years after I was growing up. But radio was about all your connections with the outside part of the United States, our world, far as that goes.
PETE DANIEL:
What did y'all listen to?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Ah, stuff like the Grand Ole Opery on Saturday night. They had various programs on that most all the family, like Amos and Andy, this type of program was basically what everybody listened to and followed and all. You know, through every day there were certain things on that they kept up with. That's some of the most famous ones.
PETE DANIEL:
Was religion a big part of life growing up?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Religion was pretty well taught in everybody's home because they had plenty of time to go to church and raise their kids in a religious type atmosphere. They didn't have all the things like they have today to go to to get 'em away from religion. So about all families were very religious.
PETE DANIEL:
Well, changing the subject a little bit, what kind of food was your favorite growing up?

Page 4
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Basically vegetarian type of stuff that come out of the garden that we growed on the farm was basically my prime foods and still is today. Stuff like potatoes, pinto beans, stuff that you grow in the garden, normally.
PETE DANIEL:
Did kids in those days have milestones? I know when you grow up on a farm, a lot of times you have chores and then you'll sort of, you get a driver's license or join the church or get your first shotgun or maybe kill your first deer? Were there things like that that kind of marked growing up for you?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
It was getting a car, was the basic—about every young boys' dream, you know, in growing up, especially in the area where I lived cause a car at the time was unheard of. About one family out of ten had cars. That was about the extent of it. If you was lucky enough to make enough money to buy a car, you was like the kid on the block, you might say. And about everybody worked frantically towards that goal when he's going to have his own [unknown].
PETE DANIEL:
Who taught you to drive?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
My Daddy, I think, had a big influence on me, and I had two brothers that was very influencing on driving. Both of them was older than I was, and they was kind a in the moonshine hauling business. I picked up on fast cars and stuff because I seen them doing 'em and driving 'em and had an opportunity to see their mistakes and stuff. And I picked up on the fast cars and driving basically when I was just a young boy through my father's effort of trying to have fast cars to haul whiskey with and my brothers.

Page 5
PETE DANIEL:
What were your brothers' names?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
L.P. and Fred Johnson.
PETE DANIEL:
And you learned how to drive with them sort of as your teachers?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
That and seeing mistakes that they made when they was growing up. They was a little older, and I'd see them make mistakes in driving, and I tried to better myself by capitalizing on their mistakes.
PETE DANIEL:
What kind of mistakes would they make?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, they'd wreck cars and tear 'em up a lot, that type of thing. I tried to avoid all that stuff I could because I could see what kind a shape they was in when they wrecked. Sometimes I was with them in a car and the car would get away from 'em and they'd tear it up, that type of stuff.
PETE DANIEL:
You think you had a real nak for driving?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
I think I did. I think I was gifted with the feel of an automobile to correct any situation I got into when I got a little older. I basically could outguess what the car was going to do.
PETE DANIEL:
How do you explain having that gift? I mean your brothers were probably really good drivers but you come along being the younger one and seemed to have a better hand at it than they do.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, I think you build your confidence in what you think you can do and what you can't. And when you get your confidence so high, you don't believe that there's any kind a position that you can get a car in that you can't correct it and

Page 6
save it. Confidence has a lot to do with how you drive an automobile, especially in a racing application.
PETE DANIEL:
So how'd you get interested in racing?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
They built a local speedway there close to where I lived, and one thing led to another. I was sort of the brave type young boy that lived in the community. If there was something that nobody else couldn't do, I'd either try it or do it, one of the two. I became a little bit more braver than most of the other guys did. And it wasn't long until I was in the racing, proving that I was braver than the rest of 'em. And it just kept growing from that on to, the first thing I knew I was in racing full-time.
PETE DANIEL:
When you say braver, you mean you were willing to go harder and take more chances and have the confidence that you could pull it off.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
That's true. That was one of my beliefs that I felt very strongly about, that as long as I was controlling the wheel, that I could do anything with that automobile that I wanted to and still save it, not wreck it and tear it up.
PETE DANIEL:
When you were starting out like that, were you doing any work on the cars or were you just driving?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
I worked on the cars a tremendously lot when I was driving 'em because it become pretty, well, it become pretty important that you know what it took to make the cars do what you wanted 'em to do, that you knew what the car was going to perform like. So you can take care of the unexpected basically. That

Page 7
was basically the reason I wanted to work on them, so I'd know what it took.
PETE DANIEL:
So you learned how to build engines and tune suspensions and all that as you came along?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
As I came along and through trial and error, I kept making 'em better and better. It wasn't long until I could, in any kind a situation, I could tell you where it was good or bad and what it was going to do.
PETE DANIEL:
Did it take you long to start winning after you got into racing?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
I was winning right away. I went right into it, right off the bat, started winning.
PETE DANIEL:
Well, I think anybody that is going back and study the early days of racing, would kind of be interested in what kind of an operation those early racing days were, back in the '50s. That is, did people have, I know they didn't have the support they do today but what kind of support did they have? Did you have a garage, you have a sponsor, or anything like that?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, it was a rarity to see somebody with a sponsor. What you'd do, you would get some friends and y'all would start either a race operation, or you would basically put a bunch of guys together and each guy would put x amount of dollars in it, and you'd go racing. You more or less raced because you wanted to. You couldn't afford to, and you couldn't make no money out of it. It was just basically because you wanted to.
PETE DANIEL:
Were the tracks any good back in those days?

Page 8
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, most of them was dirt. They pretty well proved that if you had a good enough car and a good enough driver, you could take dirt and show your talents and overcome most of the other competitors.
PETE DANIEL:
Driving on dirt must be a lot different than driving on a track like this.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Yes, it takes a lot of, a different style or type of driving. You broadside a car quite a bit when you're running dirt. When you're running asphalt, you basically have to take a car down in the corner, and kind a finesse it through the corner to keep it from getting sideways or doing anything like that. On dirt you run it sideways all the time.
PETE DANIEL:
I think I saw you drive in '57 or so, '56. I grew up in a little town close to Wilson, North Carolina. Ya'll were at the Wilson fairgrounds, and I'm pretty sure you were there.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
I run Wilson a lot. It was a good dirt track, and it put on a good show.
PETE DANIEL:
You ever think about the influence that you and all those people you were driving with had on people like me who would come to races. You ever think about what we thought of you?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, not so much back in the early days. It was basically trying to prove to the other drivers that you was a better driver than they was, and you could outdrive them. The fans back then weren't, you know, they weren't figuring in what we do today, back then. Cause today the fans are what brings us to the race track, what supplies the money to pay the bills. The

Page 9
fans are basically our financing. Back then, they weren't so much because we was doing it for the fun of it, more than anything else. And we didn't need financing much. We just, all we needed was a place for somebody to say, "Just come and race," and we'd go. [Laughter]
PETE DANIEL:
Well, just to get off the subject just a little bit here, almost every book you read on the early days of stock car racing talks about not just the legendary drivers but all the hell that was raised by those drivers on Saturday night and probably during the rest of the week. Was it really that wild back in those days?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, it was because that was part of the reason that we went to the race track. You know, seeing who was the best partier was just as important almost as seeing who was the best driver. And I don't think people was partying just to see how much hell they could raise. I think it was more a way of life with them. let's go have a drink and have a good time and so on and so forth. And it grew into something that was kind a exposed. I don't know if everybody wanted it exposed or not but that's what it kind a grew into.
PETE DANIEL:
I've never seen your name connected too much with that in all the accounts I've read. I guess you were there though.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, I've never been much of a party person. I've been to parties. People can do what they want to. But there's two ways to look at that. If you are getting anything out of it and you enjoy doing it, it's fine. If you're not, then you need to be doing something you like to do. You know, going somewhere

Page 10
or another where you like to go, and stay away from that stuff. It's just one of them things that I never really picked up on. Not that I haven't been to some and all but it was not my big thing, really.
PETE DANIEL:
You seem like you're a lot more thoughtful and reflective about things than other drivers that I've met. You seem to have a way of approaching things very calmly and you're not excitable or anything like that. I would think that would figure in that you probably wouldn't like parties all that good.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, I don't like to do things that I don't think out thoroughly—are they the best thing for me, are they the best thing for the people I'm involved in, or what I should or should not do? For that reason, nothing much seems to excite me like, somebody says, "Let's go party and raise cain tonight." I don't see no benefit in that. If you want to drink a beer or do something, that's your business. Going out and getting drunk and raising Cain, I just don't see no sense in it. There ain't nothing there to be gained, as far as I can tell.
PETE DANIEL:
Well, let's go back to racing. Who do you think in your day were the best drivers, if you could name about half a dozen of those that you drove against that you thought came closest to you?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Curtis Turner, Fireball Roberts. I think coming on at the end of my career, Cale Yarborough was certainly a driver who was in the category of myself and Turner and so on. We had guys when I was driving like Roy Hall and Tim and Fonty Flock. Bob Flock was a tremendous race driver. Herb Thomas was a very

Page 11
good race driver. These are some of the guys that I ran against that was excellent race drivers.
PETE DANIEL:
What in your opinion makes a driver fast?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Nerve, one word, that's it.
PETE DANIEL:
Like, if you have the nerve, then how do you graduate them, something like intelligence or reflexes or aggressiveness, or maybe just meanness, be a part of that?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, if you've got the nerve, then all you'll have to do is keep working till you get with the right team to where you've got the speed. Then you put both of them together and you've got something that nobody can basically cope with. We have a boy in our sport right now, don't have the fastest car but he's got the nerve. He's one notch up on everybody.
PETE DANIEL:
Who's that?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Dale Earnhart.
PETE DANIEL:
Speaking of nerve, do you or any other drivers that have that—when you're out there, what's going through your mind? Are you calculating or is it just something you're born with and go with?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Something you're born with, and you use it as a weapon. But if you're smart, you use it sort of unnoticeable. It pays off more to keep it to yourself and don't expose it unless you have to.
PETE DANIEL:
But people know that when the chips are down, that you're never going to back off.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
That's right, and that's when it pays off. Because if you use it any other time, to where it's not a profitable tool,

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you've basically wound up making somebody mad at you because, it didn't mean anything. They feel like you've run over 'em or you did something to 'em for nothing. You need to save all your nerve and skills and stuff till it's real important. Then use them. Then they understand why you did what you did. You out nerved 'em or what not. They know why you did it.
PETE DANIEL:
Awhile ago, we talked about the fifties and you said that when you were going through it, you probably weren't really aware of how significant what you were doing was. But when you look back on it now, you're sitting up here on a race track in Dover, Delaware, and stock car racing is one of the biggest things in the country—one of the biggest spectator sports in the whole country—and it was you and men like you that really got it started. Do you look back on that as being as significant as say, people who were starting up rock and roll at the same time or people who were in the movies like James Dean? How do you see your self in all that?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, I basically look back over it now, and I can see how my career and people like Curtis Turner's career, Fireball Roberts' career, were so devastating in promoting and pushing racing to the point it is now. We did it with bullishness, use our nerve to present to the public our skills that people could not understand and believe that people would do some of the things we was doing. Why would you want to go out and try to kill yourself to prove that you could outdrive another guy, or you have the best racing team or the best car, whatever? To start with, it was like we was all crazy, and we might have been

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cause, like I said before, we did it mostly for fun to start with because we all enjoyed the challenge. And we didn't make that much money, so the crews, the guys that we's friends with, would pool their money. We'd put it all in a car and go see if we could beat the other guy. So it was definitely a challenge to us more so than the money cause wasn't that much money in it.
PETE DANIEL:
You think the fans came because they knew that y'all were out there and you were going to race. Why do you think fans come to watch it?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, to start with they came to watch, what I would call, a bunch of fools. But in the same reality, it was disbelief to the fans that you could take a car and do with it what we could do with cars. Basically, we'd run 'em sideways and backwards and about anyway you wanted to see one, in whatever position you wanted to see it in. We could get 'em in that position and still save 'em and not wreck 'em a lot of times. A lot of times we would wreck 'em but it was a disbelief to the fans to start with, I think. It brought them out to the race track. Then it become, as time went along, it started to be a sport because it was their favorite driver against somebody else's favorite driver. So, it just kept growing. They started following certain people and going to certain race tracks, seeing what was entertainable to them. The sport raised itself up. It just kept growing by leaps and bounds. Then we got television, and it wasn't long before we got national sponsorship. It's just beyond where anybody ever thought it would go to. And I don't think it's close to being over with or how far it'll go.

Page 14
PETE DANIEL:
Couple of years ago we had another conversation about this, and you made the statement that it's all been tamed now. And I kind of picked up in your voice that you were kind of ambivalent about that. You weren't sure that was all together a good thing or all together a bad thing.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, I think it's good that we have a control atmosphere on it where we can stop a crisis or something of that nature. It's not as colorful now as it was then because, regardless of how you look at it, if the sport is rambunctious, exciting, a lot of controversy, I guess you could say, going on all the time, it makes for good entertainment. And for that reason, I think, it might be getting to the point where we're taming it down. It could hurt the fans' interest in it.
PETE DANIEL:
There's a part of the '50s and, I guess, the '60s that isn't generally known to a lot of people except those who really follow races, and that was the fact that Wendell Scott raced all through that time even though it was a very, sort of tense time as far as race relations. That's an interesting thing because a lot of times people think of racers as kind of a closed minded people and all that. How was that era when he was driving? Was he welcomed or was he just kind of, how did that go?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
He was certainly welcomed everywhere he went. All the people that I know helped Wendell in many, many ways. I know my crew and I did a lot of things for Wendell. We give him parts and stuff to try to help him along the way. He was a very well mannered gentlemen, and he didn't try to present a problem around the race track. He wanted to be part of our sport, and he was

Page 15
part of it. Wendell was very limited in his resources and things he could do and all. I don't know if I could have lived underneath the strain that Wendell lived under and kept on racing. I think I would have quit. You gotta give him credit for keep plugging away at it and trying to come up with a professional organization where he could go out and really show his talents and stuff. I think if he'd had the right situation, he could have been pretty successful.
PETE DANIEL:
I got the impression from what I've read that his reason for driving was just like what you said about everybody else—he wanted to race. He felt compelled to go out and race.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Yeah.
PETE DANIEL:
Have you still got some time?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Yeah.
PETE DANIEL:
I've got some more things to ask you. What do you think your most important contribution was, as a driver?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, I think I contributed a self confident skill to the sport that people still live by. And that's guts and nerve, where you basically do your driving with your nerve and the gut feeling that you can do something. I think Curtis Turner was very instrumental in that kind a situation also. We proved and showed that you can do various things with cars. Once you've seen it done, you know it can be done, and you'll try it if you're a race driver. I think a lot of these things was instrumental in pushing a lot of people forward in racing. I think myself, I came from nowhere and come to where I'm at today, and it's basically living proof that if you try hard enough and

Page 16
work long enough, you can succeed in this sport. And I think it's been instrumental in a whole lot of race teams, that they didn't give up and quit because they had living proof that it could be done.
PETE DANIEL:
Well, before we leave your racing career, do you want to just add anything about, any more thoughts that you have about racing, because I want to move on and talk about why you retired and how got into running a team.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

Page 17
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
We basically tried to run a racing team that our sponsors would be proud of us—they'd be proud to be associated with us—and do what the fans come to see. Put on a good show and go home and feel like we've done a good job for the fans. Cause the fans is what makes or breaks us. If it wasn't for them coming out, going to the races, it wouldn't be no use for the big sponsors to be here. They'd have nothing to present, or we wouldn't have nothing to present to 'em if it wasn't for the fans coming out. So I just think our racing is going a long, long ways from where it is right now. It's a good opportunity for young engineers to get involved in it because it's a highly skillful, high paying position to be connected with the right kind a racing team.
PETE DANIEL:
Well, you retired at what would be a relatively young age for a driver. You want to explain that a little bit.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, the biggest reason I retired when I did, I'd won all the super speedways that we had on our circuit at the time that I retired. And I'd won all the other, you know, basically half mile and mile race tracks that we had. For me to keep racing when I'd win another race, I was duplicating what I'd already done, and it wasn't long 'til I lost interest in it. And I had a real good opportunity to get off in the car owner field of the thing and make much, much more money doing that than I was driving. So when that opportunity came along, and already having won most all the races that I could win, I felt like, and I still feel that way, that I made a good decision by retiring.

Page 18
I had never got hurt up in a car to the extent that I was broke up and banged up, and I had accomplished what I set out to accomplish in it. I took that as success and went into another field of it. I'm glad I did. I was young when I quit but I still don't have no regrets.
PETE DANIEL:
How old were you, just for the record?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Thirty-four years old.
PETE DANIEL:
Well, part of what y'all learned was that safety was very important. And of course, NASCAR has a record, probably the best record in the world, for having safe cars. Did you encourage that?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, our team has been one of the most contributive, innovating team to the sport. We basically have been big innovators of a lot of the safety equipment that we have out here today. We still continue to work on safety. That's one reason, I think, we've been lucky, and we've never had a driver hurt in one of our cars. We're proud of that, cause I don't reckon anything can hurt a race team worse than having one of its drivers to get banged up or hurt up in a race car.
PETE DANIEL:
Can you just tell some of the things that you did to help safety?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
The fuel cell that we have today is a big factor. We had a big hand in that. Our brakes that we have today, we basically helped design and build them. The wheels we have today were basically part of our influence in the sport. What we call safety hubs and stuff is, we totally invented that stuff. It's what we call a full floating hub. You can break an axle and the

Page 19
wheel won't come off. The real heavy, beefed up suspension is, basically, a lot of that come from us. The roll cage, safety belts and stuff, we was a big part of developing that. The cars don't have hardly anything on 'em that we weren't a part of innovating. We either did it or had a big hand in it.
PETE DANIEL:
Did they even have seat belts when you were driving?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Not when I first started. But it wasn't long until we had seat belts plus shoulder harnesses. And we was the first to ever run shoulder harness.
PETE DANIEL:
Well, when you started off as a car builder, were you in partnership with somebody or was this your iniative? Could you explain how you got into that?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, I always built my own cars and raced them. When I was running for Holly Farms, basically owning my own car. Every once in a while I would quit building cars and go drive for somebody else because I had things that would interfere with me building cars. I was still driving then but I still liked to build my own car. So I finally quit driving and when I quit driving, I started building my own cars, and I've been able to do that ever since.
PETE DANIEL:
Could you list who has driven for you over the years?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, I've had Darryl Derringer, Bobby Isaac, Custis Turner drove some for me, Fireball Roberts, A. J. Foyt drove some for me, Gordon Johncock, Mario Andretti drove some races for me, Lloyd Ruby, Indianapolis Guy. I've had such drivers as David Pearson drove some for me. Leroy Yarbourgh, Cale Yarbourgh, Darryl Waltrip, and let's see, Terry Labonte drives for me now.

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They's some other drivers has drove for me but, right off hand, some of them kind a slips me.
PETE DANIEL:
I guess it wouldn't be a good question to say which one of those was the best?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, I wouldn't turn my hand for the driving ability between about three or four drivers in stock cars. I know there's better at Indianapolis cars than these boys are. But Cale Yarborough, Darryl Derringer, I mean Darryl Waltrip, Bobby Allison, and Leroy Yarborough are four people, I think one of them is just as good as the other.
PETE DANIEL:
Did Mario win any for you when he was driving for you?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
No, Mario run second for me. Mario did a good job for us, and he only run in between races. Like if we was gonna run Daytona Beach in February, we would run two cars and Mario would drive one of them. Of course, our other driver would drive the other one. We'd only do that at Riverside and different places.
PETE DANIEL:
I was thinking when I was writing these questions, is there a point where the speed of a car gets to be the enemy instead of the friend of the driver? Do you get to a point where speed is just too much, or is that what you're always looking for more of?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
That's what you're always looking for more of. I think it gets to where it's too much for some drivers. I think the one driver here at our race track today that could handle any kind a speed without getting into trouble, and it's Dale Earnhart. Bill Elliot is a very good speed driver, and he handles speed very well also. But I think it can get to a point where it would

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overtake Bill Elliot. I don't think speed is ever going to take Dale Earnhart.
PETE DANIEL:
I want to go back to building cars and engines. There's a lot of stories told about how a team manager, a mechanic, can cheat a little bit and get an edge on somebody else, and sometimes that would be incorporated because it was such a good idea, later when it was found out or whatever. Do you know of any particularly good stories about how you make things go faster and not get caught in it?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, I don't know if you'd call it cheating or not. I guess you could. The way the rules read and the way they're interpreted, sometimes you have a very, very broad span to work in. And a lot of times the first person that thinks of anything, or the first person that comes up with the best fast track, is the one they call cheating. We have a rule book to go by, and we take that as far as we can stretch it. And a lot of times that could be cheating determined on who interpreted the rule. It's very rarely now that you see a guy who'll go out and build a big motor, we'll say. That is outright cheating. Or, he'll go out and make his car too wide, or off-set his car, run it too low to the ground, run with wide wheels, and all kinds of stuff like that. That's out and outright cheating. But what we do and what we've been accused of, ever since I've been building my own cars, is cheating. And when you cheat them ways that I mentioned, you are cheating. We stay away from that. What we do do, if NASCAR says you can run the car twenty-six inches off the ground, that's counting on the lowside, we run it twenty-six inches. A lot of

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people can't run them twenty-six inches, run twenty-six and a half, twenty-seven. They don't build their cars where they take advantage of the rule book, and for that reason, they wind up getting hurt. Not only that, they get to believing that everybody's cheating cause they're getting beat.
PETE DANIEL:
[Laughter] Yeah.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Now there's a thousand ways you can cheat, especially in the motor area, carburation, cylinder heads, manifolds. You know, black and white can be interpreted a lot of ways. We could take an aluminum manifold and make it look exactly like the one that everybody races out here, on the outside. That's what they look at. But on the inside you can't see it, so you know, it could be many, many ways, shape, forms, whatever, inside. That's part of the terminologies of cheating cause they think it's something wrong if you beat 'em. And if they can't see in there, they feel like you got to be cheating.
PETE DANIEL:
How do you organize your life around racing? You pretty much into it all the time, every week, all season long? How do you organize your week, say, like this week?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, we prepare for races in advance. Like this past week we was ready to come to Dover before we ever went to Charlotte. And we prepared as if we was going to wreck and destroy our car at Charlotte. So when we got home from Charlotte, we's ready to go to Dover. So we've prepared for Riverside, California. And when we go home from here, we'll be at home on Monday and Tuesday, and we'll be preparing a car for

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Pocono, Pennsylvania, while we're there. Then we'll leave for Riverside, California, on a Wednesday.
PETE DANIEL:
Does this truck carry the car?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
We have two of these trucks. One of them, while we're in California, will be loaded out and ready to go to Pocono when we get back. So all a driver will have to do is get out of the other truck and get in this truck and head for Pocono, Pennsylvania.
PETE DANIEL:
Do you have a hands-on relationship with your shop? Do you go in and personally inspect the engines and look over the suspenion?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
I go over their stuff pretty often. And I do have a hands-on relationship with everything that goes on in my shop. I hate to send the racing team off to the racing track, and it failed and me not know why it failed. If I know why it failed, I know what kind a shape it went there, I accept it. If I don't know why they failed and didn't have nothing to do with preparations of going to the race track, then it's disturbing to me to stand back and see something that either disintegrated or destroyed itself, and the first time I seen it was after it happened at the race track.
PETE DANIEL:
That sounds like a pretty high pressure life. What do you do to relax?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, you don't. With the schedule we have today, you don't relax. If you do, somebody will beat you. We have twenty-five good racing teams here that can produce winning race teams that's basically about as good as ours. Lot of 'em here has four

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or five people that's worked for me on their crews. So they know basically how to organize the structure to prepare and be ready for about anything that comes along.
PETE DANIEL:
Do you personally have any hobbies or do anything to get away from it all?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Basically, the only thing, the only hobby that I have is I do like to—I grew up in, you know, kind a at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains—and I like to coon hunt. I do have a bunch of coon dogs. When I can get away from the shop, six or seven o'clock at night and go to the house and eat supper, I do load my dogs up and go a coon hunting on every occasion I can break loose and get away.
PETE DANIEL:
How big an operation do you have as far as employees?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, we have forty-three men that work in the shop. You know, do the racing stuff. Our staff consists of five secretaries, and bookkeepers. So you know we've got like forty-eight people working full-time.
PETE DANIEL:
Do you do work for other racing teams too?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
I do build some motors for other racing teams but that's about the extent of it. Most all of them work just on our stuff and make parts and produce parts just for our race team.
PETE DANIEL:
What's your relationship with the various sponsors that have supported you through the years?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
We have a very good relationship with anybody that's ever sponsored us. It is such a relationship that some of the sponsors has come back and sponsored us as many as three times. You know, like they'll get in for two or three years and some

Page 25
reason, hard times or a change of managements or something another, will dictate them to get out of racing. Then four or five years from then, they'll come back and want to do it again. So we have had sponsors that has raced with us over a period as much as three different times. This is a second time that we've had the Budweiser-Anhauser Busch people out of St. Louis sponsoring our cars. So, you know, we're sponsor conscious. They come first in whatever we do.
PETE DANIEL:
Do you ever get any offers personally to do appearances and all? I never see you personally appearing.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
I do personal appearance stuff for our sponsors, and that's the extent of it. I don't go out and do stuff like most of the race drivers do, which is, they'll go with car dealerships and stuff of that nature. I don't do that kind a stuff, no. What I do is if Budweiser or Baby Ruth candybars or Banquet frozen foods have a convention or something in some city like Chicago or somewhere, I will go to them things and represent them because that's part of our relationship.
PETE DANIEL:
You don't do things like television advertisements like you see Mario Andretti or Richard Petty or somebody like that? I've never seen you do anything like that.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
No.
PETE DANIEL:
That's just a choice you made not to do it?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
I think it's better for our driver to do most of our TV stuff. He is a person that's out in front of the public. He is a person that we rely on to basically present our product and our race team out in the marketplace and stuff of that nature.

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Management-wise, I think I'm better qualified for that for a company than our drivers are.
PETE DANIEL:
Do you have much trouble with curiosity seekers, people pestering you, or do you pretty much know how to not be bothered too much with that?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
I do have a lot of that but I don't have no problem with it. It comes with the sport, and it's part of what we need to keep in contact.
PETE DANIEL:
Say tomorrow, you'll be directing the team during the race, and you stand there in the pit and look out on the track, like they're running around now, do you look at your car, do you hear what other cars are doing? How do you gauge that? What are you talking to your driver about? What are you thinking about?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, we're discussing what we need to do to our car to make it better for him. We're constantly working with whatever combination that we need to be working with to help him—tire stagger, air pressure in the tires, and all kinds of stuff. We also monitor most of the other race teams' radios, and we pick up their conversation and stuff. We know if they're in good shape or bad shape, or what their troubles is, right along with ours. So we pretty well have a handle on, we know the race and the operation of everybody else, the same as we do ours.
PETE DANIEL:
So somebody is telling you what the other drivers are talking about too?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Right.
PETE DANIEL:
Who else among the team managers here would you rate real high?

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JUNIOR JOHNSON:
I would rate Richard Childress's team pretty high. Richard's a very good manager. He's very knowledgable. I would also rate Bill Elliot's crew—they're a very knowledgable team, of what's going on. Harry Hyde has a lot of knowledge of what racing's all about. We do have some younger teams here that have young crew chiefs and stuff that are doing a good job, but I think it's a temporary good job. I think that good management will be around a long time. I think they'll swap teams and go other places. And keep working at it til they become a professional in the management field of it, and then you'll see them stay with just one certain team for a long, long time.
PETE DANIEL:
Do you want to elaborate anymore on the ownership?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, nothing except, I think that guys that are interested in owning a race car and running a racing team should take a look at not waiting until you've wore yourself out as a race driver, and you're not able to get off in the field of owning the cars and stuff. You've got, like from forty-five, fifty year old til, you know, and you sure ain't gonna be able to do that kind of stuff when you're getting to be sixty year old. I think you need to do it in your early forties, and you'll be successful at it for maybe twenty or twenty-five years. I think once you get fifty-five years old, you're not going to be successful at it at all because you're basically a person then that's looking for retirement or a easy way to live or something. Racing's too tough to think that you can wait that long and be successful at it—owning a team and running it for long time.

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PETE DANIEL:
Well, let's move on and talk a little bit more about your personal life if you don't mind. Like, could you just tell me when you got married? How are met your wife and a little bit of that?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, my wife is basically a young sweetheart from, you know, fourteen years old. We knew each other all of our lives, and we grew up together. We dated and run around together and went to the race tracks. Like when I was growing up and driving at local races Saturday night, Hickory was about thirty mile away, and we'd go to the races and back on Saturday night. I basically growed up with my wife. She's not only been my sweetheart, she's been my friend. She's a big part of what I've accomplished—without her I don't think I could accomplish nothing.
PETE DANIEL:
Did she help you manage any or do any of the work?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
She has a lot to do with our managing of our race team and our business. We're in the poultry business. We have a very large herd of cattle, and we have 178,000 chickens that we grow for Holly Farms. We have other interests besides just racing so she looks after a lot of that stuff. She kind a takes care of our, you might say, home life, more so than I do because I make major decisions and I do major things overall, but we have guys that looks after the farm and runs that part of our business just like the ones that run our racing office.
PETE DANIEL:
I was going to ask you about that anyway. What other kinds of business interests you have? You say you have poultry and cattle.

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JUNIOR JOHNSON:
We've been in, both of us is first a farmer. Then I got into racing, and it's been part of both our survival. I don't think we'd be happy without our farm. It's what we growed up with, what both of us like to do. Racing's been good to us. You know, we don't want to be, if somebody says, "Well, we've got what we want out of racing. We gonna take it and go." We're not gonna do that. We've got a lot out of racing, and we want to give part of it back.
PETE DANIEL:
Well, when you grew up in Wilkes County, it must have been one thing, and when you go back to it now, it must have changed a whole lot. Could you elaborate just on how life has changed in those years since you grew up there?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, when I was growing up a boy in Wilkes County, the roads basically was all dirt. We didn't have no real good roads. Nobody much had a car. You walked about ninety percent of the places that you went. Nobody didn't have no money either. If they weren't fooling with whiskey, like I said before, or selling some of the products it took to make moonshine, they didn't have no money much. So as Wilkes County has progressed and come along, the moonshine businese kind a died out. There's a company come in there, name of Holly Farms, that started a tremendous poultry industry from scratch. A little company that kept growing and growing and growing. Most everybody in Wilkes County started growing chickens for this poultry business, and it's been the life saver of our county, Wilkes County. It and a company called Lowes Hardware has produced jobs, facilities, and stuff for people that made a tremendous change in our economy of the

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county. I think now it's one of the greatest counties that we have in North Carolina. We certainly have the greenest, best farming, fertilization type situation with the poultry business there of anybody I know of.
PETE DANIEL:
I was gonna ask you a question about politics. How do you describe yourself politically?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, I'm basically a Democrat. I always will be a Democrat because my whole family, father, grandfather, and all of 'em, has always been Democrats. I guess in North Carolina if you're a Democrat, you die a Democrat. Ninety-nine percent of the people that I know are either one way or the other, and they stay that way. We have had a mix in politics where the Republican situations have created a change, let's say, from Democrat to Republican, but not very often. I like people on both sides. I don't vote a Republican ticket. But I've got good friends in Democrats and Republicans. As an individual, I don't want nary one of them mad at me from the standpoint of, will you help me or do me a favor or would you do this and that? I have helped the Democrat party a lot. I contribute to it a lot.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

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PETE DANIEL:
If you hadn't become a race driver, what other kind of career do you think you would have pursued?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, I was going after a baseball career. I think that's what all people in my area at the time, that was the top sport of everybody round where I lived. It was either a baseball player, if you made a lot of money, you have to go away from there to make any money. And I was pursuing a baseball career. I think I would have been very, very good at playing baseball. I was a pitcher, a left handed pitcher. I had put, from about ten years old to about fourteen years old, I put four years in an effort of being a major league baseball player. And I was advanced at the time I was on the farm and turned a farm tractor over and broke my arm, but prior to that I had advanced to where I was playing ball with people four and five years older than I was because I was as good at fourteen as they was at eighteen. And I think I would have made it. Not just because I was that much better than everybody else, but because I had tried that much harder. I had put four years in learning how to throw a ball, learning how to control, learning how to make good pitches, curve balls, sliders, and stuff of that nature. I had a professional baseball player helping me at a very young age. He was one that had already been in the major leagues, and he knew what it took, and he was teaching me major league ball when I was twelve, thirteen years old.
PETE DANIEL:
Who was he?

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JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Frank Johnson, played with the Philadelphia Phillies. He hurt his arm, and of course, he kind of fell out of basball after that. He still knew the fundamentals of baseball. He knew how to pitch and what balls that you had to have. You had to have the fast ball, curve ball, you know, hit the spots you were supposed to hit and stuff. He taught be a lot of that stuff. I worked very, very hard to try to make sure when I got an opportunity I was good enough to present, you know, something that I could make money from. But then I broke my arm, turned the farm tractor over and broke my arm. From that point on I never could throw a baseball. I could throw it okay but it hurt so bad I couldn't stand it. So I gave it up. Course, at that particular time, I was fourteen. I was trying to, you know, get into the booze business because that was the only thing going on around us. I was learning how to drive fast cars already at that time. And it just came natural that I kind a, I hurt my arm and I said, "Well, I can't do this anymore, so I'll go do this." First thing you know I was in the racing business. Plumb forgot about baseball cause I was at a loss for what it took to play baseball.
PETE DANIEL:
What teams were you playing on? What kind of teams were there around to play with?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
There were some good Triple A ball playing teams around in my area that we had back then. They would form a, you know, sort of county teams. Local business people would get up teams to play other teams and stuff. We had a lot of baseball teams, you know, just kind a country ball teams. A lot of the players

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that I played with or against went on to play, like I say, class A ball and some went to the majors.
PETE DANIEL:
That's another example of your having a kind of exceptional confidence in your abilities that you could, almost like you always knew that you were going to do something to sort of get away from Wilkes County or be, if not famous, at least be very good at something.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, I'm a strong believer if you try hard enough and work hard enough that you can see defeat is just unheard of to me. I have a lot of boys that work for me. There's just certain things that I tell them to do. They say, "It can't be done." It can be done if you work hard enough, put enough effort into it, it can be accomplished. Maybe not what you want to accomplish but in that field you'll find a place that you can accomplish what you're trying to do.
PETE DANIEL:
Where do you think you got that confidence? You just always have it or somebody teach it to you?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
I think I got it from my father. My father was undefeatable in anything he went after. If it was building a tool shed, a barn, whatever, he always accomplished what he set out to do.
PETE DANIEL:
But a lot of people don't have that confidence. It's interesting to see that you had a little bit of an edge on your brothers, and you that came from a background that wouldn't suggest that you were going to end up as a famous race driver and all that. It's just a remarkable kind of thing. You have something, a gift of some kind that not everybody gets.

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JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, I think I do, and I have had and still have, and I'm tickled to death that I do have. Cause I still work with my brothers on the farm, doing various things, and they haven't, over the years I can remember doing things with them. Their attitude towards the basics of whatever they do has not changed. I mean, if things are too hard to do, sit down and say, "Looks like it's not worth it to me." But if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. It's worth taking the time to make sure that you're satisfied that it's the way that you want it to be. Not substituting or not give in to the idea that it's too hard to do, or it ain't worth working on. That's defeat to me, and I don't like it.
PETE DANIEL:
[Laughter] One last kind of question is about the way of life here. For most people, anybody who's going to be studying racing today, you sit here at a track and you have a way of life. What kind of people are attracted to this? Are the people, do they come from rich families, or middle class families, or poor families? Do they stick with this for a long time? What kind of a way of life is it from your point of view?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, it's not the rich people that come to our sport and stay. The rich people that comes to our sport most of the time has a belief that I got money, and I can buy success, and that's not true. You've got to earn success in our sport. And that's the people that stays. One that's willing to give enough to make sure that they're successful. Money don't have a whole lot to do with it to start with. Certainly when you get in a position to where you've paid your dues, you want to make money

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out of it. But that's a long time down the road. You got to be willing to stick with it until payday comes.
PETE DANIEL:
This is sort of like a circus or something. You come here and set up. You know, you come up for the week-end, and then you pack up your tent and your cars, and you go on to the next place. Is it a hard life?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
It's a very hard life. You're on the road a lot. You're away from your family a lot. You extend your ability and physical ableness beyond what you believe you can do. And if you extend your energetic system twice what it's capable, because your determination not to give up. It's a very tough life. It's basically, like you say, like a circus. You come here and you set up and do this. It is like a circus to a certain extent, setting up and getting ready to perform. But when the time comes to perform, the circuit that our stock cars, is physical ability to produce and give the strength and energy beyond any belief. A circus is a performance that you perfected. You do it because you're good at it and you won't extend yourself to the physical ability that you would be exhausted, or you couldn't go no further and that type stuff. That's the difference in the circus and what we do.
PETE DANIEL:
Yeah. Well, I think that anybody who's ever seen you drive or seen anybody drive would like to know what's going through your mind when you're out there competing. You're out there behind the wheel, and you want to lead the race. What goes through your mind? Do you have any sense of speed or danger or thrill, or, what's going through your mind?

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JUNIOR JOHNSON:
You never believe that it's dangerous, and the reason I don't think you ever believe it's dangerous is simply because you're controlling everything. You control the driving. You can either slow down or go however fast you want to. And I think that sense of being in control, don't never cause you to be ascared or fear for your life or whatever you want to say. I think, in answer to your question about what makes you have that drive, is the competition. You want to prove to the other guy you're better than he is. It don't make no difference how much nerve he's got, or how hard he drives, or whatever he does, you still, if you are a determined race driver, you gonna try to prove to him that you're better than he is. And you'll wind up doing that if you work at it hard enough.
PETE DANIEL:
It's competition like any athlete, thinking about, I can do this better than the next person.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
That's exactly true, and you'll perform better under pressure than you will any other time.
PETE DANIEL:
Do you remember any times in your career where you could elaborate, where maybe somebody was pushing you real hard, and you got the best of them because you pushed back harder?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, when I won the Daytona 500 in 1960 at Daytona, I was the underdog. Like, if you was betting on something today, it'd be a 100 to 1. Because the car I had weren't capable of winning. The situation I was in, it was unbelievable that you could take a car like I had and win the race. But during the last week of practice at Daytona, like three or four days before the race, I was out playing around on the race track with Joe

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Weatherly and Jack Smith and Cotton Owens and some old racers that I raced against. And I picked up and sensed that if I got behind the other cars that was faster than I was and stayed as close to 'em as I could, that I could run as fast as they could run. But yet I was like 50 horsepower under horsepowered, 20 miles an hour slower than they was by ourselves. But when I could get in there close to 'em and hang in there, I was just as fast as they was. So they didn't have nothing on me. And when the race started, that's what I started doing. Well, the 500 mile race was two-thirds over with before everybody figured out what I was doing. How's he taking this car that's not even competitive, and he's still here with us, and he's still, you know, I had led the race right smart because the other cars were faster than I was and was tearing tires up and stuff. But I was using them to pull me along. When they finally figured it out, most of them had done blowed their cars up trying to out run me, and they was only a couple of 'em left. And it come down to the end, just me and them, and one of them was trying to get away from me when he wrecked his car and lost it and just basically left me sitting there by myself. But I had used up all the competition to get me where I was at.
PETE DANIEL:
That's amazing. So that's when drafting first started?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
That was when drafting first started.
PETE DANIEL:
What kind of car did you have at that time?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
A '59 Chevolet. And I was running against the factory Pontiacs, and they had, you know, souped up motors and everything

Page 38
back then that they had produced from the factory Pontiacs. My car wasn't supposed to even be in ten laps of them.
PETE DANIEL:
Yeah, that's a good example of, you just felt that when you were out there fooling around with these guys.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Playing around with them, yeah.
PETE DANIEL:
Did y'all do a lot of that before races in those days? Were you free to go out and just race a little bit and get a little…
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Get a feel of how your car felt and everything when you was around other cars. And then later on, "Come on, let's go out and draft a little bit." Well, before then it's, "Let's go out and run together and see how our cars run."
PETE DANIEL:
Do the cars draft as much now at the speeds they go?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Oh, now, all cars are so fast that there ain't no drafting to it. Your car is running right behind the car in front of you, running wide open. You can pull out and run wide open by yourself just as good as you can running behind them. But what they did, we took the aerodynamics of cars and made them so streamlined that they's not a slip stream there to follow along.
PETE DANIEL:
So the air closes back down behind them.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Yeah, yeah, like an airplane, you know. It just sheds off from them and there ain't nothing there for you to follow.
PETE DANIEL:
Well, are they, when you see the camera they put in cars, it looks like they're almost skating. I mean, I'm sure they're not but they look awfully light.

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JUNIOR JOHNSON:
They are light, very light. That's what them spoilers are on the back, to make sure that the, you know, keep driving it back down to the ground and it don't get loose.
PETE DANIEL:
I think most people don't realize that these are race cars as much as they are. I've heard people say, "Well, what's the interest in looking at stock cars racing." And I said, "Well, they're not exactly stock cars." [Laughter]
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
No.
PETE DANIEL:
Could you just tell a little bit how much different these are from stock cars? I think that would be an interesting thing for people to learn.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, the sheet metal on these cars are basically stock, street sheet metal. Just like you could go down to a dealer and if you bent a fender, you could buy a fender, and it'd be the same fender we've got. But we have what we call a rear spoiler on the deck lid that the air comes over the back glass and it hits that spoiler and it drives the back end to the ground. And on the front, we have a spoiler on the front of it which is a cup spoiler. It kind a pooches out in front of the car. Air comes in and hits that and goes up over the hood and drives the nose in the ground. So them two things make that car stay on the ground, in the front and in the back. In a straight line, you could easily run them cars 250, 300 mile an hour, and they drive good. The only place that we don't have spoilers to really put pressure on them is when you go into a curve sideways. There's nothing there to keep it from sliding sideways except the

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tires. But in a straight run, them spoilers just nail it to the ground.
PETE DANIEL:
Have you ever studied ground effect?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Yes, we do that all the time. We'll spend a month out of, probably one month out of the year in the wind tunnel with ground effects study.
PETE DANIEL:
I talked to Tony Rudd who worked for Lotus cars. He and, I think, Peter Wright were the ones that Colin Chapman gave that assignment to. He was telling me about some of the problems they ran into getting that formula one car, that Mario Andretti won the world championship in, developed. It's an interesting idea that he came up with.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
It's an interesting formula. But sometimes what's so intriging about air is that you never know what air's going to do. You have to try it, and you can formulate what you think it's going to do but you still have to try it to see if it's going to do it. Sometimes it won't do it. It will either help it in one area and hurt it in another, or do something that you're not expecting it to do.
PETE DANIEL:
So where do you have a wind tunnel?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
We've used the Detroit General Motors' wind tunnel all the time.
PETE DANIEL:
Do they have one with a movable bottom to it?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
They can put it in yaw or, you know, twist it anyway you want to twist it.
PETE DANIEL:
Well, I'm about out of questions, but we could go on if you wanted to.

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JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, I think you've covered about everything that I can think of like right now. We'll just say when you get back and you set down and start going over your stuff and all, and you come up with a question you want to know something about, just call me at the shop on the phone and I'll, you know, get back with you. That way you won't have to come down to my shop or meet me somewhere or another to get, you know, your questions answered. I can just do it over the phone.
PETE DANIEL:
Well, this has been really informative to me. I want to make sure that we have a record. This goes to this Notable North Carolinian Collection in Chapel Hill like I wrote you. What it is is people will be able to learn from this. As historians they'll come in and be able to consult it.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
What you should do, probably is, would help you some, is kind a walk around and talk to some of the people.
PETE DANIEL:
Some of your people here?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Yeah, or some of the other race teams.
PETE DANIEL:
Well, I may have to interview some more North Carolina drivers. This is the first one. This is for part of this, I guess they'd interviewed bankers and politicians and realized that there were people who were Notable North Carolinians that didn't come from that background at all.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Yeah.
PETE DANIEL:
So it may turn out that we do some more of these so I may just come around to do interviews. There's one question that this friend of mine suggested that I ask you, and I ought to do it. He's from Sparta, North Carolina, named Jim Kelly. He's

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Curious, what your reaction was to Tom Wolfe when he interviewed you for that piece he did.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, you'd almost have to know Tom Wolfe to get anybody's feeling about him. Tom Wolfe is a very unique type individual from the standpoint of—his beliefs about things are not normal people's way of looking at something or thinking or writing about it. He acts a lot like a person to me that can see beyond anybody else. And I kind a sensed that in him right away when he came to me and wanted to do the article and stuff like that. But I also sensed that if I didn't let him do the article, and go out and research and find his own material to do the article, that he was going to do the article like I wanted him to do it—leave the bad out, put the good in, cover up a lot of stuff. And I told him, I said, "Tom, I'll help you with anything that I can help you with. But I'm not going to help you with that story. You're going to have to go out and get that yourself." I said, "You go get it from the people. Let them tell you what they think about Junior Johnson." You know, if they say he's a sorry, no good scamp, that's fine with me. That's their opinion. But I want you to do it that way. Don't ask me to help you write your story. I'm not going to do it. And that's what he did, and it took him about eighteen months.
PETE DANIEL:
Really?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
To do that story. He would come and work on it a while and he'd leave and he'd come back. He did that and it's about eighteen months he worked on it.
PETE DANIEL:
Did he talk to you a lot?

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JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Quite a bit, but I particularly watched that I didn't influence him. I didn't want to influence him.
PETE DANIEL:
Yeah, you just gave him information. You didn't color it in anyway.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Facts, I gave him facts. That's all I would give him. If he asked me, he says, "Well, you know, has your Daddy been in the pen or prison? Have you been in prison?" and stuff. I said, "Yeah, I was in prison in 1957." Told him, you know, where I went, how long I was there, and what it was for. Then, you know, sometimes he would ask me, say, "Well, what'd you think about going to prison?" I didn't want to tell him, you know, that probably prison was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It taught me a lot of things. It taught me discipline. You learned to live with your fellow man and get along with him, and you're not the only thing there are on earth. There's somebody else bigger than you are. You will do what you're told. And if you don't want to live a life like this, you can change it. First things, I think if, I don't say that you need to go out here and do something to get in prison to learn what you need to do. But if you go in there and take what you learn in there and come out and live with that for the rest of your life, it might be the best thing that ever happened to you.
PETE DANIEL:
That's an interesting intrepretation of it.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Cause I truly think that my life was directed in another direction, and it's been an asset to me all the time that I have been associated with people and made decisions and see

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people—you know, fly off the handle and stuff like that. It's useless. It's a waste of frustration that don't accomplish nothing.
PETE DANIEL:
Do you want to elaborate anymore on that? I didn't bring it up simply because I'd rather for you to bring it up.
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
No, it was part of my life. It's a part I'm not ashamed of. If people says, "Well, I wouldn't want nobody to know I went to prison." I'm a not ashamed that I went to prison. In fact, if everybody got out of going to prison what I got out of it, it might be good for them. Because when I went to prison, I was a pretty well hardheaded, set type individual. When I came out of prison, I weren't that way, and I never have been since. And I learnt that in there. I learnt that it didn't make no difference who you are or where you come from. You did take orders. You did do what you were supposed to. And you lived by their rules and not your own or you paid, paid dearly. It's how much you wanted to suffer is how much you fought them.
PETE DANIEL:
So that kind of directed your energy. You learned how to control your energy and direct your resources in a more positive way, you think?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Positive is probably not the proper thought. You learn to concentrate before you open your mouth. And I still do it today from being in confinement and being proper discipline, you know. Made do what I was supposed to do. It was a lot of times it wasn't what I wanted to do but I learnt you accepted that as a way of life. They didn't ask for you to come here. You made that choice of screwing up or doing whatever you done, that you

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got here. You had to accept the fact that you did wrong and you was paying for it, and the quicker you could pay for it and get out and do what was right, the better off you was. I ain't forgot that nor never will forget it.
PETE DANIEL:
How old were you then?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Twenty, well, it was in '57. I was born in '31. Twenty-seven. Right in the prime of my racing career, really.
PETE DANIEL:
Yeah, you were just getting…
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Really getting into it.
PETE DANIEL:
… getting famous and all that, winning a lot. Did y'all listen to music when y'all were growing up? Did music have any influence on your life?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Not basically, we did listen, you know, like I told you awhile ago, the Grand Old Opery was something that you had to listen to on Saturday night. And people like Bill Monroe, Charlie Monroe, and Lester Flat and Earl Scruggs and all these people were your folk heroes back in my growing up days.
END OF INTERVIEW