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Monday Motivation - The Last American Hero

Tagged under: Off-Topic USA
By Expeal on December 14, 2015.

A picture of Junior Johnson from 1985.

NASCAR legend Robert Glenn Johnson, Jr., better known as Junior Johnson, is the greatest example of NASCAR's roots. While most fans of NASCAR probably know this already, others may not – NASCAR actually started from "runners" showing off during Prohibition.

The people put in charge of driving the cars that would distribute alcohol would be constantly working on and modifying their vehicles to beat government agents. Once Prohibition ended, bootleggers' moonshine was still popular and many of the DIY distillers were not exactly happy to pay taxes. As a result, drivers "runnin' shine" were still needed, so the cars kept getting faster. As the vehicles improved, so did the desire to gain recognition for the skills of the driver and the crew that souped up the cars.

A picture of a stock car race from the 1920s.

Races were held between the best of the best, mostly in the Appalachian region of the United States, particularly focused on Wilkes County, North Carolina. But like many "behind-closed-doors" events, the promoters would take advantage of the racers. As a result, in a meeting that took place on February 21, 1948 at the Streamline Hotel located in Daytona Beach, Florida, NASCAR was created. It was developed to serve as a formal sanctioning organization with standardized rules, a regular schedule, and an organized championship.

It is fitting that the first race won by Junior Johnson, a son of Wilkes County, was the Daytona 500. Junior Johnson was also a "runner" that came good as a race car driver. He wasn't just any race car driver, though. He was the first to use the drafting technique that is now a standard practice in stock car racing.

Junior Johnson's mugshot.

Junior Johnson was the fourth of seven children born to Robert Glenn Johnson, Sr., a lifelong bootlegger that spent nearly a third of his entire life behind bars. With the family home a frequent target for raids by revenue agents, Junior also spent eleven months in jail when he was caught up with his father's illegal still. One thing he never served time for, though, was anything he did as a "runner".

At the age of 24, Junior started his career as a race car driver. He won 5 races and finished sixth. By 1960, when he achieved his first win at a "superspeedway", he was regarded as one of the best short-track racers in the sport. This innate ability came in use during the Daytona 500.

A picture of the Daytona 500 logo.

Junior's car was 22 miles per hour slower than the cars in the top positions. During a test run, Junior noticed how much faster he became when he was in a vehicle's slipstream. By sitting behind the faster car, he could quickly slingshot himself in front. He stayed behind the car in first place until the very end, when he did exactly this to win the race. From the very next race, other drivers started doing the same thing.

Today, Junior lives in Quail Hollow, just south of Charlotte, where he spends time with his wife, kids, and grandkids. He has one special memory stored away – his presidential pardon from 1986 that he received from President Ronald Reagan. From a dirt poor upbringing to a mansion off the 77, from a man with a moonshine conviction to a man pardoned by the most powerful man in the world, Junior is Monday Motivation at its fastest.

Need some motivation of your own? Take a look to see if anything listed on CONfidence can help and hang out over at /r/ExCons. Don't forget to share this post with your friends – nothing is better than being motivated by each other. Who knows, maybe one of you will qualify for a pardon of your own

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