Title: Oral History Interview with Junior Johnson, June 4, 1988. Interview C-0053.
Interviewer: Daniel, Pete
Interviewee: Johnson, Junior
Subjects: Automobile racing drivers--North Carolina Motor sports--North Carolina
Abstract: Born in Wilkes County, North Carolina, in the early 1930s, Junior Johnson describes what it was like to grow up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where moonshining was a commonplace local enterprise. It was because of moonshining, in fact, that Johnson first learned to drive cars, having watched his father and older fathers "haul whiskey." Drawn to cars and fast driving at an early age, Johnson soon became a well-known stock car driver in the region. Johnson speaks at length about what it was like to be one of the founding participants in the then-nascent industry. According to Johnson, stock car drivers were motivated by a competitive drive and a desire to race for the sake of racing. Moreover, Johnson discusses how stock car drivers in the 1950s were known for their propensity to party and shirk the law. He was able to avoid the former, but not the latter, and served eighteen months in prison for moonshining, which he describes as a positive, life-altering experience. He retired from driving at the age of thirty-one, having accomplished all of his racing goals. From then on, Johnson participated in the building of the NASCAR empire by running his own race team. From an insider's perspective, Johnson describes the technological innovations that shaped the evolution of the sport and the changing role of sponsors and audience. In addition to describing his role in the shaping of NASCAR, Johnson talks about his other business endeavor as a poultry farmer for Holly Farms in Wilkes County. Following his success with NASCAR, Johnson and his wife (a childhood sweetheart) returned to Wilkes County as their home base. He describes how that area changed over the course of his lifetime. Finally, Johnson briefly discusses Tom Wolfe's interview of him and his short prison sentence in the 1950s.