Junior Johnson was a fixture on pit road for part of fourdecades.
As a six-time Winston Cup championship team owner, no personality in the sport was a bigger thorn in NASCAR's proverbial side than the man Tom Wolfe dubbed The Las American Hero. Now, however, the Wilkes County, North Carolina native is content with his life away from the sport--and he's still speaking his mind. Interview by Michael Paul.
SCR: Tell us what you've been doing over the past 10 years since you sold your race team.
JOHNSON: "When I knew I was going to get out of racing sometime in the near future, I got involved in a lot of other businesses. One of them was real estate, and I had already got involved in the country-ham business a little bit. When I got out of [racing], I got more involved into it. "I've made some investments and stuff that keep me busy in properties and stuff like that, land and stuff. Also have several head of cattle, and I stay busy with that all the time. "It wasn't like I just out of racing and didn't have nothing else to do. I just kind of shifted gears and went a different direction, basically, when I quit."
SCR: What part of the sport do you miss the most? The competition? The day-to-day challenge of fielding a competitive team?
JOHNSON: "I don't think it's either one of the two, competition or the day-to-day maintaining a team. You miss the people you dealt with, the sponsors that you had over the years, that kind of thing more so than you do the day-to-day run of racing. That's the biggest thing I miss.
"Otherwise, I don't have any thoughts of racing down the road or anything like that. I just kind of put it on the backburner and left it there."
SCR: How much do you keep up with what's going on with NASCAR now?
JOHNSON: "A little, but I don't make it a priority. If something is changed and I feel like it is good or bad, I comment which way I think it is. Or if somebody changes from one team to the other or the motor companies switch around, I do comment and basically keep up with what I've been involved in in the past myself. But, don't make it a priority. I just kind of comment and go on."
SCR: Of course, NASCAR recently changed its points system. What do you think about that?
JOHNSON: "I don't see how they're going to better the point system than what they got now. They say they're going try to make the competition more stiffer at the end of the season based on the fact that they have had some guys that went into a kind of stroking mode at the end of the season 'cause they didn't want to lose the championship.
"But who says that won't happen in the last 10 races? Guy goes out and wins two races and gets 300 points ahead, he's gonna be a fool if goes wide open for on up to 10 races. That ain't gonna stop it, I don't think.
"When I was going after a championship, I figured if I won most of the races, I'm gonna win the championship, and I tried to win every race that was out there.
"I just don't think you can fix that. I think they got a good points system. And I'm a firm believer that if it ain't broke, don't mess with it."