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Racing News from around the World
NASCAR and Revolution Racing announced the 2011 driver lineup – the eighth season for the Drive for Diversity (D4D) program – tonight during NASCAR’s annual Charlotte Media Tour at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C.
- Jorge Arteaga of Aguascalientes, Mex. will race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Arteaga made three starts in the 2010 NASCAR K&N Pro Series including a 10th-place finish in his debut at Lee USA Speedway on July 30th. He won the 2010 NASCAR Mexico Series Most Popular Driver Award.
- Mackena Bell of Carson City, Nev. returns to the Drive for Diversity Program for a second season, and will race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. In 2010, three of her five starts in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series were top fives, while her best finish came on Aug. 20 where she finished second.
- Jessica Brunelli of Hayward, Calif. will race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Her 2010 season included six top-five and 10 top-10 finishes. She returns to the Drive for Diversity program for a second season.
- Michael Cherry of Valrico, Fla. returns to the Drive for Diversity Program for a third season and will race in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Last year he competed in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, becoming the first African-American to win a late model race at Tri-County Motor Speedway in Hudson, N.C. The win also was his first career late model stock car victory.
- Trey Gibson of Easley, S.C. will race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. In 2010, Gibson ran a full schedule of late model stock cars at Greenville-Pickens Speedway where he had two poles, two wins, 11 top fives and 20 top 10s. He made history by becoming the youngest driver to win a late model race at the historic Greenville-Pickens Speedway.
- Ryan Gifford of Winchester, Tenn. returns to the Drive for Diversity Program for a second season, racing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Last year, Gifford became the first African-American in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East history to win a pole position, on June 6. Gifford ran 10 races for Revolution Racing in 2010 in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, recording four top-five finishes, one pole and a 10th-place finish in season points.
- Tayla Orleans of Randleman, N.C. will race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. From age 7, in her first 120 races she recorded 31 wins and 92 top fives. Since that time, she has won numerous karting championships and honors that include becoming the youngest stock car winner in the history of Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl history.
- Bryan Ortiz of Bayamon, Puerto Rico will race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. In 2010, Ortiz drove for Sterling Marlin Racing in the Sunoco National Tour, recording a pole and four top-three finishes in seven races. He won rookie-of-the-year honors after capturing rookie of the race awards in all seven starts.
- Sergio Peña of Winchester, Va. returns to the Drive for Diversity Program for a second season, and will race in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. He entered his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series race at last season’s Toyota All-Star Showdown at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale, Calif., winning the pole, and finishing second to 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year Joey Logano.
- Darrell Wallace Jr. of Mobile, Ala. will race in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, and returns to the Drive for Diversity Program for a second season. Wallace was the youngest and first African-American to win a race and rookie-of-the-year honors in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. He captured two victories in the series last season – the most of any Drive for Diversity driver last year.
CREDIT: NASCAR PR
Champion NASCAR driver Rusty Wallace, ESPN's lead studio analyst for auto racing, has reached a new contract extension to remain with ESPN through the 2014 season, it was announced by Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president, production. "Rusty Wallace is a NASCAR legend," Williamson said. "We're very happy that he will continue to share his knowledge and experience with our viewers for the remainder of our current relationship with NASCAR. It's a very strong property and we look forward to the next four years." Wallace joined ESPN after retiring from driving following the 2005 NASCAR season. A 55-time winner in NASCAR's top series and the 1989 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, Wallace is lead analyst for ESPN's NASCAR studio programs, including NASCAR Countdown and NASCAR Now. Wallace also contributes NASCAR analysis to SportsCenter, First Take and ESPNEWS and calls selected NASCAR Nationwide Series races from the booth. He spent the 2006 season as an analyst for ESPN's coverage of the IndyCar Series before moving to NASCAR in 2007 as the stock car racing series returned to ESPN. "ESPN has given me the opportunity to do a lot of great things," said Wallace. "I got to call two Indianapolis 500s, call a lot of races from the booth and be on SportsCenter. Now I'm at home in the pit studio and I love working with Allen Bestwick and Brad Daugherty and all of the people at ESPN. I'm glad to be able to be a part of it for the next four years." Wallace, whose 706th career start ended his 2005 season-long "Last Call" tour, led nearly 20,000 laps in his 25-year career. The 1984 Rookie of the Year ended his 22nd consecutive full-time Sprint Cup season eighth in the standings, the 17th time he finished among the top 10. At the time of his retirement, Wallace ranked as one of the top five money winners in NASCAR history, with nearly $50 million in career winnings. In his last year on the NASCAR circuit, every race facility honored Wallace and nine race tracks now on the NASCAR schedule offered permanent dedications. More than a dozen state, city, and county seats of government declared race day as an officially recognized Rusty Wallace Day. In addition, bestowed upon Wallace were Delaware's Order of the First State and North Carolina's Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest civilian honors in those states. In 1998, NASCAR named the St. Louis area native one of its 50 greatest drivers of all time and he is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Hall of Fame. Wallace is owner of Rusty Wallace Racing, which fields a NASCAR Nationwide Series car driven by his son, Steve Wallace. In addition, he helped design Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. Visit www.espnmediazone.com for ESPN's latest releases, schedules and other news, plus photos, video and audio clips and more. CREDIT: RUSTY WALLACE RACING PR
Champion NASCAR driver Rusty Wallace, ESPN's lead studio analyst for auto racing, has reached a new contract extension to remain with ESPN through the 2014 season, it was announced by Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president, production.
"Rusty Wallace is a NASCAR legend," Williamson said. "We're very happy that he will continue to share his knowledge and experience with our viewers for the remainder of our current relationship with NASCAR. It's a very strong property and we look forward to the next four years."
Wallace joined ESPN after retiring from driving following the 2005 NASCAR season. A 55-time winner in NASCAR's top series and the 1989 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, Wallace is lead analyst for ESPN's NASCAR studio programs, including NASCAR Countdown and NASCAR Now. Wallace also contributes NASCAR analysis to SportsCenter, First Take and ESPNEWS and calls selected NASCAR Nationwide Series races from the booth. He spent the 2006 season as an analyst for ESPN's coverage of the IndyCar Series before moving to NASCAR in 2007 as the stock car racing series returned to ESPN.
"ESPN has given me the opportunity to do a lot of great things," said Wallace. "I got to call two Indianapolis 500s, call a lot of races from the booth and be on SportsCenter. Now I'm at home in the pit studio and I love working with Allen Bestwick and Brad Daugherty and all of the people at ESPN. I'm glad to be able to be a part of it for the next four years."
Wallace, whose 706th career start ended his 2005 season-long "Last Call" tour, led nearly 20,000 laps in his 25-year career. The 1984 Rookie of the Year ended his 22nd consecutive full-time Sprint Cup season eighth in the standings, the 17th time he finished among the top 10. At the time of his retirement, Wallace ranked as one of the top five money winners in NASCAR history, with nearly $50 million in career winnings.
In his last year on the NASCAR circuit, every race facility honored Wallace and nine race tracks now on the NASCAR schedule offered permanent dedications. More than a dozen state, city, and county seats of government declared race day as an officially recognized Rusty Wallace Day. In addition, bestowed upon Wallace were Delaware's Order of the First State and North Carolina's Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest civilian honors in those states.
In 1998, NASCAR named the St. Louis area native one of its 50 greatest drivers of all time and he is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Hall of Fame. Wallace is owner of Rusty Wallace Racing, which fields a NASCAR Nationwide Series car driven by his son, Steve Wallace. In addition, he helped design Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa.
Visit www.espnmediazone.com for ESPN's latest releases, schedules and other news, plus photos, video and audio clips and more.
CREDIT: RUSTY WALLACE RACING PR
Bud Moore had just completed a highly successful three-year run with driver Bobby Allison behind the wheel of his No. 15 Ford, and he was in need of a new driver.
“Bobby Allison drove for me in ‘78, ‘79 and ‘80 and we needed somebody to come along in 1981 because Bobby was moving on,” recalled Moore, who will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte this May. “Melling Tool was going to sponsor us and help us out if we’d take on Benny because Benny was a traveling salesman for them. We did and that’s how we got started together.”
Trying to match what Allison had done would be a difficult task, considering he won 14 races, including the 1978 Daytona 500, and had point finishes of second, third and sixth. But with Parsons being a former series champion with 17 career wins under his belt, Moore felt good about continuing his solid momentum.
The season got off to a good start with Parsons posting four fifth-place finishes in the first eight races. He made it to victory lane for the first time at Nashville in May when he beat Darrell Waltrip and Allison to the checkered flag. The next two weeks, however, weren’t quite as kind as an accident at Dover and engine failure at Charlotte resulted in finishes of 32nd and 37th, respectively.
So when the series headed to Texas World Speedway on June 7 for the Budweiser 400, Parsons and Moore were in need of a turnaround but they weren’t the only ones. Promoters for the speedway struggled to sell tickets for the event and a crowd of approximately 18,000 was on hand for what proved to be the final NASCAR race at the two-mile facility.
“The track was real rough and as far as spectators were concerned, I ran several races there and they never drew any spectators for some reason,” said Moore. “I think it was because the track was so far out between Dallas and Houston, but I don’t really know why they couldn’t draw fans. I know Winston was paying the purse to even get us to go down there and run.”
The fans who did show up, however, saw a memorable finish between Parsons and Dale Earnhardt, who was driving the No. 2 Wrangler Pontiac of Rod Osterlund.
“We really had a good car that day, but we were very, very fortunate that we finished because the oil tank broke loose in the car,” said Moore. “There were several things that happened that day that were really bad and we often wondered how we even finished, but Benny drove a heck of a race that day to outrun Earnhardt and win. It was a great day for all of us.”
Earnhardt led the most laps that day with 96 and was ahead with four laps to go, but Parsons was able to get up alongside and run door-to-door to the finish. Parsons ended up edging Earnhardt by a half-second at the finish line to win the race and give Ford Racing it’s 300th series victory.
One more victory followed late in the year at Richmond, but Parsons endured a series of mechanical failures over the final two months of the season. He finished 24th or worse in six of the last seven races to end up 10th in the final point standings.
“It was a good relationship all the way around with Melling and Benny, and I just hated we didn’t get to go another year or so with them, but it didn’t happen,” said Moore, who ended the relationship at season’s end. “Benny was a great race driver, but the biggest thing was when Wrangler came along and hired me. With all of the stuff that was happening with that sponsorship, I had to take on Dale Earnhardt. I had to go with them because of the situation, but I really hated having to leave Benny. I felt if we could have run two or three years together, that we would have won a lot more races than what we did.”
Parsons, who was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998, went on to become the first NASCAR driver to qualify a stock car at more than 200 miles an hour when he ran 200.176 mph at Talladega Superspeedway in 1982 for the Winston 500. He won only one more race after leaving Moore, with that coming at Atlanta in 1984, before retiring after the 1988 season. He went on to have a successful career as a broadcaster while Moore went on to compete in the series until selling his operation in 1999.
CREDIT: FORD RACING PR
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) announced today that it has reached an exclusive agreement with K&N Filters for the company’s air and oil filters to be designated the “No. 1 Filter in NASCAR®.”
This multi-year agreement provides K&N with a marketing platform to enhance and differentiate its products and drive sales. K&N will utilize the NASCAR Performance brand marks and intellectual property on its packaging, as well as within literature, on its advertising and promotional programs, and at industry events.
K&N offers a complete line of Washable/Reusable High-Flow Air Filters, Wrench-Off Oil Filters, and Performance Air Intake Systems that replace the entire factory air delivery system to provide a guaranteed increase in horsepower. K&N makes filtration products for most cars, trucks, and motorcycles. Additionally, K&N has recently released a line of Heavy Duty Air Filters for use on over-the-road diesel trucks, motorhomes and other industrial equipment.
In addition to its exclusive NASCAR Performance partnership, K&N will maintain its status as an official developmental series partner of NASCAR by continuing its run as title sponsor of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series and also will remain a NASCAR Prize Money & Decal (Contingency) Program sponsor in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. K&N has been a major supporter of all types of motorsports from grassroots racing to the professional categories.
NASCAR is one of the few professional sports leagues that has created an automotive specific marketing program for its family of automotive sponsors. The platform, branded as NASCAR Performance, includes exclusive marketing rights, the ability to co-brand products and product packaging as well as involvement in a long list of integrated media programs. The NASCAR Performance product program logo is a symbol of integrity that represents NASCAR’s commitment to performance, precision and quality.
“Increased performance and efficiency are benefits that the car-conscious NASCAR fan is always looking to achieve,” said Todd Armstrong, managing director, NASCAR Automotive Group. “The filters that K&N produces provide that advantage, which is why this is a strong partnership with NASCAR, a sport that celebrates performance.”
As an exclusive automotive partner under the NASCAR Performance brand, K&N Filters will utilize NASCAR marks and marketing programs in service centers and related media channels.
“K&N is a company with a long history in motorsports and its technology has benefitted race teams with increased and reliable horsepower for 40 years,” said Steve Rogers, C.E.O. of K&N. “I always believed it was just a matter of time before NASCAR and K&N reunited, I feel like we have so much in common as family run businesses driven by our passion for motorsports.”
CREDIT: NASCAR PR
RED DIRT RISING PRE-RELEASE DVD SALE
Red Dirt Rising - Special Edition DVD
This is a special pre-release offer from Save the Speedway. Help support their cause and purchase your copy of Red Dirt Rising today.
Own your copy for - $19.99
ABOUT THE FILM:
Based on a true story, the film shares with us a decade in the lives of Jimmie Lewallen and his wife Carrie as they experience the joys of love and marriage along side the tragedies of war and poverty (1939 - 1949).
Jimmie and his friends, Bill Blair and Fred Harb, find escape from life's challenges in racing - born out of hauling moonshine on warm North Carolina evenings - and inadvertently become racing's earliest heroes. Ultimately their antics laid the ground work for what has become one of the most lucrative sports in the world. A number of racing firsts occurred during the The Fightin' Forties, making this film a sensational history lesson as well as an exciting journey of romance, friendship and action.
To learn more about the film, visit http://www.reddirtrising.com
Starring: Brad Yoder, Burgess Jenkins, Ashlee Payne, Quentin Kerr, Mark Joy and Brett Rice
Screenplay By: J. Amanda Davidson & Gail Cauble Gurley
Produced and Directed By: Kathleen Bobak & James Suttles
- 3 Full Length Music Videos
- "Carrie James" - Written and Performed by Jeff Tillman
- "Carolina Moonshine" - Written and Performed by Matt Dylan with Special Appearance by Junior Johnson
- "Everyday Magic" - written and performed by Janet Hattabaugh
- PLUS... Over 25 original Racing Legends Driver Photographs
Purchase the DVD now for $19.99 + $4.95 shipping
Ford Racing can be many things to many people.
For some, Ford Racing is represented by Carl Edwards taking the checkered flag in a NASCAR Sprint Cup race or John Force dominating on the drag strips of NHRA. For others, Ford Racing is the beauty of the latest turnkey, ready-to-race offering; be it the Mustang Cobra Jet or BOSS 302R. Still others find their fix in the latest supercharger or crate engine offering as they maximize the performance of their Ford car or truck.
Ford Racing isn’t just competition, and it isn’t just performance parts.
With that in mind, Ford announced today the launch of “Ford Racing TV” via You Tube. Represented by a chic retro TV logo, Ford Racing TV is the enthusiasts’ one-stop destination for Ford Racing video offerings. The new site is located at www.youtube.com/fordracingtv.
Looking for the latest stunt from Ken Block or Tanner Foust in their high-horsepower Ford Fiestas? Want to celebrate on the podium with Ashley Force Hood at Pomona? Do you want installation tips from Ford Racing performance parts, or want to catch a sneak peak of the 2012 Cobra Jet? All will be available at Ford Racing TV.
Like the programs and product offerings from Ford Racing, the content of Ford Racing TV will be wide and varied.
“Ford Racing TV is our new, unified You Tube Channel, which will bring together all facets of Ford Racing programs and performance parts offerings,” said Jamie Allison, director, Ford North America Motorsports. “In short, Ford Racing TV is your one stop-shop on You Tube for all Ford Racing video. Ford Racing is represented by the performance of our drivers, cars and parts, and it is tied together with a rich, 110-year history and a vision started by our founder, Henry Ford himself.”
Ford Racing and Ford Racing Performance Parts have maintained separate sites for the last two seasons, and while the old sites will remain as an archive of past clips, all new content will move on the new You Tube Channel as of 12 noon, ET, January 19.
While Ford Racing TV is officially launched today, both the Ford Racing You Tube page and the Ford Performance Parts You Tube page will continue to exist for a period to ease the transition for Ford enthusiasts. Many of the top videos from each site have been transitioned to the new Ford Racing TV page, creating a “greatest hits” area to kick off the launch of the new site.
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Credit: Ford Racing PR
Looking ahead to this week’s test at Daytona International Speedway,
what is your focus from the engineering side?
“Essentially it’s an all new track for us,” said Sandler. “The first
step for us will be to look set-up wise and see what we may need to have
different with the new surface. The old Daytona surface was really
challenging handling-wise for drivers, and before, our focus was helping
with mechanical grip as well and making sure that our cars had low drag
(resistance). Now with the track being as smooth as it is with the new
pavement, we’re hearing that it’s a lot more like Talladega
Superspeedway, which really makes our focus more about getting minimal
drag and less about problems with mechanical grip.”
“One of the biggest things we’ve worked on when it comes to working on
set-ups for our superspeedway cars is right height control,” stated
Bugarewicz. “This means that we’re working on minimizing how much the
splitter on the car wants to move around while our cars are out on the
track. You want your splitter to be low to the track in order to
achieve the best aerodynamics.”
“At every track you’re making a compromise between aerodynamics and
making that trade-off with how much grip your chassis makes,” explained
Sandler. “So when we go to a track like this new Daytona, our
compromise is more on the body control side, since the surface is now a
lot smoother with the new surface.”
What’s the first thing you will work on now to adjust the car at a place
“The rear of the car is essentially locked in at a speedway due to
specifications from NASCAR,” said Bugarewicz. “Anything that we would
make adjustments to would usually be forward from the rear axle of the
car. It’s usually things with the front suspension that we’d focus on
and make adjustments too in order to help our car.”
“In the past you would work to optimize mechanical grip, but now the
cars are pinned down, the surface is so smooth, that we think our focus
is just going to be decreasing drag. We don’t think that drivers will
be talking about a handling issue at Daytona this week during the test
per say. We’re just going to make sure that we have a great aerodynamic
car to get the most speed that we can out of it.”
“It means that a lot of the work that goes into these cars will have
taken place before we even get to the track now,” stated Sandler. The
cars are in and out of the wind tunnel, they’re getting measured
repeatedly, we take it to the k-rig to measure suspension travel, and by
the time it’s loaded on the truck, we should already have minimum drag
Does the smaller restrictor plate affect you all?
“Every team has the same plate mandated by NASCAR,” says Bugarewicz.
“We just work with that plate and make sure that we get the best we
can out of our cars, but we have great horsepower thanks to our
Credit: Roush Fenway Racing PR
What are you hoping to work on and learn at the Daytona test this week?
“Our plan this week is to visit the new track surface and see where we stand compared to the old Daytona. We’ll basically shake down the car we plan on running in the Daytona 500 and try to get some overall speed, as well as work out some things for qualifying and when it comes to the race.”
What does the restrictor plate change mean?
“The restrictor plate change takes about 30 horsepower away from us, which will probably lead to more side-by-side and tight packs when it comes time to race.”
Did you learn anything from the tire test back in December that you can apply to this test?
“We learned a little bit, but we were cut short. There were some things we found during the first day that we were going to do the second day, but didn’t have the car to do it with. So we came out of the test with a handful of ideas that we will put into our car and try this time.”
Does the new track surface or new nose make much of a difference?
“Yes and yes, they both are quite a bit different than what we had in the past. Daytona was one of the most abrasive tracks we went to the last few years and now, being one of the smoothest, is quite a big change in setup and what you do to prepare for the race. The new nose is something everyone has to deal with. For a team like ours who started to run well at the end of the year it’s a change we’ll have to grasp quickly. It creates a little different balance and as with something new there will be things that come up and we’ll just have to adapt quickly and be ready for them.”
What’s your goal for the 2011 season?
“Our goal is to contend for a Chase spot, win a couple poles and win a race, or be in contention for race wins. We need to build on what we had going the last part of the year. We made some additions to the team that should help and we made some changes to the car over the off season which will hopefully give us more speed.”
What’s your favorite restaurant in Daytona?
“Deck Down Under.”
Credit: Roush Fenway Racing PR
More than 225 journalists from
print, internet, radio and television outlets from 21 states and as far away
as Canada and Germany will convene in Concord next week as Charlotte Motor
Speedway hosts the 29th annual NASCAR Sprint Media Tour.
An essential part of NASCAR's pre-season schedule, this year's Media
Tour will begin Monday morning, Jan. 24, and continues through Thursday
afternoon, Jan. 27.
With support from sponsors Sprint and NASCAR, the Media Tour gives
credentialed participants the opportunity to preview the 2011 NASCAR season
with race shop tours; interviews with drivers, crew chiefs and team owners;
and overviews of the latest developments and news with motorsports industry
"Each season brings a host of changes, from driver and team swaps,
to adjustments in rules and even new events and attractions at the tracks,"
said Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor
Speedway. "NASCAR fans want to know what they have to look forward to in
2011 and this year's NASCAR Sprint Media Tour is designed to help
journalists obtain the very latest information to update race fans
Journalists from New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Washington, D.C.,
and Toronto are among those registered to participate, representing such
media outlets as USA Today, The New York Times, Bloomberg News, ESPN, FOX
Sports, The Associated Press, Reuters Newswire and Sports Illustrated.
Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Childress Racing,
Roush Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Penske Racing are just several
of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams scheduled to make announcements during
the four-day tour that boasts 21 stops, including a visit to the NASCAR Hall
Daily updates, including audio, video and photo galleries will be
available on Charlotte Motor Speedway's website at
www.facebook.com/CharlotteMotorSpeedway and via Twitter at
http://twitter.com/cltmotorspdwy or by following the Twitter hashtag
There are tracks that some drivers like to call home and then there are tracks that are home. In the case of Junior Johnson, he considered North Wilkesboro Speedway to be part of his personal backyard.
As a youngster running moonshine through the winding roads of Wilkes County in North Carolina, Johnson knew a thing or two about driving fast. And when he brought those skills to NASCAR there was one place and one place only that mattered more than any other.
“It’s my home territory. I grew up around here,” said Johnson recently. “The speedway was a big part of me getting into racing because with hauling moonshine like I was doing back in those days, hearing people talk about this guy outrunning that guy, I felt like I had cars that were better and faster than anybody and I sure didn’t give in to anybody being a better driver than I was, so North Wilkesboro Speedway is basically a race car drivers’ dream for me.”
The race track opened in 1947 and hosted races for 50 years before closing after the property was sold to Bob Bahre and Bruton Smith in 1996. The facility re-opened last year to host some touring series events and is schedule for more races in 2011.
“I saw that track go through all the changes from start to finish. In fact, as they were building the thing and it kind of took shape, when they quit working in the daytime with the grating equipment, a lot of us bootleggers would slip in there and run on it until they ran us off,” recalled Johnson. “They finally started putting the bulldozers across it after they would leave so we couldn’t go up there and run on it, but North Wilkesboro Speedway was one of a kind. It kind of set the example for a lot of other race tracks because I could go to North Wilkesboro Speedway to set my car up and run 12 other race tracks that the combination worked on. It was a dream for me because I could set my car up for Martinsville, Richmond, Darlington – all of those kind of race tracks – and I’d go to those race tracks already set up while others had to set up for that track. I could do it just by going to North Wilkesboro, so it was a great deal for me.”
Johnson ended up winning four times at the speedway, which was known for a quirky feature of having the backstretch run uphill and the frontstretch downhill, but it was the last of those that became the most memorable. The date was Oct. 3, 1965. Johnson had just come off a win at Martinsville the week before, which was his 12th of the season, but put more emphasis on winning at his home track because of a decision he had made leading up to that event.
“I pretty much made up my mind that I was gonna quit after that season and I wanted to win that race more than any other race,” said Johnson. “I put a lot of effort into going up there and practicing and working on my car and changing the setup. I built A-frames and all kind of suspension parts to make sure that I had the best car that was there. I knew that was gonna be my last race. It was my hometown and I just didn’t want to get beat there.”
Johnson was one of only three race leaders on the day. Fred Lorenzen led 190 laps before blowing an engine on Lap 219 and Cale Yarborough held the top spot for six laps, but Johnson led the other 204 en route to a two-lap victory, which was the 50th of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Hall of Fame career and 200th in the series for Ford Racing.
“It was an emotional thing for me to defend my territory,” said Johnson, who took home $4,675 for winning that day. “It was really rewarding to know that I could outsmart everybody and outdrive them at that place.”
Johnson, who ranks tied for sixth with Lorenzen on the all-time Ford win list with 26, finished the 1965 season winning 13 times, and even though he drove in seven races the following season, he eventually turned his attention to becoming an owner.
“Racing was never really exciting for me. It was something that I could do and I felt like I could do it better than anybody because I’d been in it on the highways. It didn’t excite me like it did other people and it was getting to be where I wanted to go into some sort of business,” said Johnson. “I was working with Holly Farms and had a poultry company of my own, and I just wanted to get off and get away from it, basically. But I ended up getting more involved when I got out of the driving side of it and into the owner’s side of it. I’ve stayed in it forever, almost.
“I got into that side of it and the more I did, the more intriguing it was as far as putting my wits against other people. That’s what kept me in it so long, and then I got to where I loved to try and outsmart, outwork and beat everybody that was out there. I always got a good feeling about going to the race track and saying, ‘I got you.’”
Johnson went on to win six championships as a car owner, including three consecutive with Yarborough behind the wheel from 1976-78, and was a member of the inaugural class inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame last year.
Credit: Ford Racing PR
For more on Justin Lofton and the golf tournament, visit LoftonRacing.com