Junior Johnson to Receive Smokey Yunick Award
Instituted in 1997 by legendary car owner and mechanic Smokey Yunick who passed away May 11, 2001, the award annually recognizes an individual whose lifelong efforts have had a major impact on the motorsports industry.
"Junior Johnson not only excelled behind the wheel of a stock car, but was also a championship team owner who brought several major corporations into the sport as sponsors," said H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. "His impact was far reaching, and he played a very important role in helping elevate the sport to the status it enjoys today.
"Smokey wanted this award to honor those who rose from humble beginnings and through hard work and dedication made a major impact on stock car racing," continued Wheeler, who will present the award. "The blue-ribbon panel that selects the recipient made an outstanding choice of which Smokey would be very proud."
Like many of stock car racing's pioneers, Johnson honed his driving skills running moonshine in the North Carolina mountains. His first NASCAR start came in the 1953 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway and he won 50 races before hanging up his helmet in 1966.
Johnson's greatest success, however, came as a car owner where he won 139 races and six championships in NASCAR's premier division. His drivers included Fred Lorenzen, Curtis Turner, LeeRoy Yarbrough, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip and Terry Labonte.
Throughout his career, Johnson was an industry leader in mechanical innovation and many of the sport's top crew chiefs and mechanics learned their trade while working under his leadership.
In addition, his race cars were among the first to carry sponsorship from major consumer brands and Johnson was responsible for bringing R.J. Reynolds and NASCAR officials together, a meeting that resulted in a 33-year series sponsorship.
In 1990, Johnson was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and in 1998 was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers.
Previous winners of the Smokey Yunick Award include Ken Squier, Bill Simpson, Ralph Moody, Banjo Matthews, Bud Moore, Cotton Owens, Junie Donlavey, Jim Hunter and Glen and Leonard Wood.
Tickets for the Oct. 14 Bank of America 500, round five of the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, start at $39 and are available online or by calling 1-800-455-FANS.