It seems Junior Johnson has come full circle – and I’m not surprised.
The former NASCAR driver/team owner has, once again, become an owner. He has launched a race organization that will feature his 17-year-old son Robert as driver. The goal is, in time, to propel the younger Johnson into the Sprint Cup Series.
After his stellar driving career, in which he won 50 races, Johnson became an owner. Over the course of nearly three decades his team won 132 races. Six NASCAR championships were earned by his drivers Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip.
The last time he fielded a car in NASCAR was in 1995. He said it was time to go and, in his words, “I never looked back.”
He didn’t – but he’s sure looked ahead.
Junior will run Junior Johnson Racing from shops on his 278-acre estate in Hamptonville, N.C. Cars built there will be raced by Robert on the full K&N Pro Series East schedule, with other competition planned for the United Auto Racing Association and Whelen All-American Series late model stocks.
When it comes to Robert and racing this is not Junior’s first enterprise.
Robert has been racing since he was 14, the same age at which Junior began hauling moonshine along the dark country roads in the North Carolina foothills and beyond.
Ever since, Junior has been nurturing his son’s career. There was evidence of Robert’s skill after he won five races in his rookie season.
Last year, Robert competed on the full UARA schedule and in a handful of Whelen events out of the JKS Motorsports shops in Lexington, N.C. – with his father’s hand at the helm. He finished fourth in the final UARA point standings.
Robert is a junior at Forsyth Country Day school in Lewisville, N.C., and the proud owner of a Mercedes – at least at the last time I heard. He might presently be tooling around in something different.
Junior’s son is somewhat of a Renaissance Man. He is smart, athletic and alert. He has vast knowledge of everything from cars to flying to computers and probably other things of which I don’t know.
He plans to attend Duke University, which should tell you plenty about him. But I suspect his college education might go on hold if he’s successful in racing.
However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Junior told his son that, while racing is good, a degree from Duke is better.
Still it seems only natural that Junior would do anything possible to nurture his son’s career in racing. After all, Junior was a successful racer himself and why wouldn’t he fan the spark he sees in Robert?
Other fathers, with names like Petty, Earnhardt, Allison, Baker, Marlin and Ragan – among many others – have done the very same thing.
Junior, now 79, married his wife Lisa and had children at an older age. I suspect that as such, his kids – Meredith is Robert’s sister – mean a great deal to him. He wants only the best for them, as any father should, and he and Lisa have done all they could to provide for their needs and to help them realize their dreams.
Yes, Robert and Meredith have it far better than most kids. But that certainly does not assure their personal success and happiness.
When it comes to Robert, if Junior can assist in both by guiding him into a fruitful career in NASCAR, that is exactly what he’s now doing.
Simply put, he’s trying to be a good father.
He will continue to be even if Robert’s career path leads somewhere other than stock car racing.
[email_link] Print This Post