Tuesday, March 7, 2017

"Indy & NASCAR Legend" Bobby Johns Dies - March 7, 2016

May 22, 1932 - March 7, 2016
Robert James "Bobby" Johns
Born in Miami, Florida, USA.
Johns raced in the NASCAR series in the 1956–1969 seasons, with 141 career starts. He had two wins among his 36 top ten finishes and finished the 1960 season 3rd in the points. Johns was able to race in NASCAR regardless of being conscripted into the United States Army. Bobby Johns is the first NASCAR driver to ever make a competitive lap at Indianapolis. In the early days of NASCAR and USAC, it would not allow it's drivers to race under other racing sanctions. USAC sanctioned Indy, featuring  open-wheel cars. Even NASCAR's 'Big' Bill France couldn't get into Indy. But when Johns got to take his competitive lap in 1964, France was there beaming from ear to ear.

In Bobby's early life his dad, Socrates (known as Shorty), was a midget and later roadster racer and Bobby was virtually born into the sport. He grew up in Miami, chased NASCAR national sportsman points in the early 50's and served in the Army stationed at Ft Jackson, SC. Indy was a long time dream for him and he was finally able to put a deal together with Smokey Yunick to drive the odd looking side car car in 1964 but failed to qualify. He did make the 500 in 1965 and '69. In '65 he hooked up in a Ford Lotus with Jim Clarke and qualified 22nd and finished a respectable 7th place. Jimmy Clark in the #82 Ford Lotus won the '65 race. Ford brought the Wood Brothers in for the pit stops on race day, and to have the starter ready to hand over the wall in case anybody stalled. Bobby Johns, Jimmy’s teammate, did have the engine die on his first stop. 1969 found him  back to a traditional Offy machine with the Wagner-Lockheed folks, starting 37th and finished 10th. A memorable two Top 10's in a row.

Bobby Johns Died on March 7, 2016, in Miami, Florida, USA. Despite two Grand National victories and two Indy 500 appearances Bobby Johns has been largely forgotten by the NASCAR set and some of it may be his own doing.

Thanks to a few close friends Bobby is finally accepting some of the recognition that he should have had years ago and it's wonderful. In 2006 he received the Distinguished Driver of the Year Award from the Living Legends of Auto Racing, based in Daytona Beach, with Club President Ray Fox.

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