Junior Johnson deserves his induction into Hall

BY Jeff Hammond • October 15, 2009

With NASCAR's first Hall of Fame class announced, many of our newer fans may be asking themselves, "Who is Junior Johnson?"

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He may not be around much right now, but Robert Glenn "Junior" Johnson is one of the men who was very instrumental in making the sport of NASCAR great.

Prior to his selection to NASCAR's Hall of Fame, I don't think he's ever been given the proper recognition of what he meant to the sport — from bringing long-time sponsor Winston into the fold to helping innovate and create things like the art of drafting at superspeedways. And oh, by the way, he was also one of the toughest drivers to put a helmet on.

Johnson's style and way of racing was very important to our sport. But he's also one of the most underrated car owners the sport ever had. Right now, everybody is rightfully talking about what Rick Hendrick is accomplishing, but look at Johnson's record — he won six Cup championships, several Daytona 500s, numerous events at some of the premier tracks on the circuit — Bristol, Martinsville, Darlington, etc.

Something you can't quantify, though, is the amount of help he gave to other race car drivers. For one, I know that he helped unite Dale Earnhardt and Richard Childress.

Most people nowadays don't know much about Johnson because he's not flamboyant and he doesn't find ways to put himself in the news. He also may not be the most well-spoken or well-read man who's been involved in our sport. But he's done an awful lot. I owe my career to attending Johnson's University of Ronda at Engle Hollow.

To me, he's just one of the greatest people I've ever been around.

He is definitely deserving of being one of the first five inductees in NASCAR's Hall of Fame. I think he surpasses a lot of people because of what he accomplished as a driver, as an owner and more importantly, as a contributor to the growth of the sport. I cannot put enough emphasis on what he did to make sure R.J. Reynolds' Gerry Long and Ralph Seagraves went to Daytona to meet with Big Bill France and told them, "You need to spend your money with these people, not just with me."

This sport would never have taken off and grown like it did without that meeting taking place.

Johnson's story and legacy needs to be better explained. There are too many young people who just don't understand his contribution and place in history. And now I think with his inclusion in the Hall of Fame, it will be.

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