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Junior Johnson (1931–2019), NASCAR legend

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Ex-moonshiner won 50 races in his Hall of Fame career

Junior Johnson was a NASCAR legend who won 50 races during his Hall of Fame career including the 1960 Daytona 500. Growing up in the hills of Western North Carolina, Johnson was a bootlegger, outrunning authorities while transporting moonshine in his car. He became a NASCAR driver with his first major race coming in 1953 at the Southern 500. Johnson is credited with inventing the drafting technique during his Daytona 500 victory when he used the slipstream of faster cars in front of him to slingshot to first place on the last lap. He was in the first class to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Johnson later became a team owner with his drivers winning over 100 races.

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Died: Friday, December 20, 2019 (Who else died on December 20?)

Details of death: Died at the age of 88.


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Last American Hero: Tom Wolfe wrote a famous profile of Johnson in 1965 for Esquire Magazine that called Johnson “The Last American Hero.”

On being in the first NASCAR Hall of Fame class: “I’ll tell you, this is a big, big deal to me. It’s the greatest thing that’s happened to me in this sport. You just don’t know how it feels to be one of the five people selected to go into this first class.” —Johnson to the Charlotte Observer

What they said about him: “Few have contributed to the success of NASCAR as Junior has. The entire NASCAR family is saddened by the loss of a true giant of our sport, and we offer our deepest condolences to Junior’s family and friends during this difficult time.” —NASCAR Chairman Bill France

“'The Last American Hero' Can’t imagine the things that man got to experience in his lifetime. What an inspiration!!!” —NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer

“Every aspiring driver needs to know Junior Johnson’s story. RIP the true soul of NASCAR. Built cars to outrun the law. Then, only legends receive pardons from Presidents.” —NASCAR driver Kurt Busch

Full obituary: Charlotte Observer

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