Junior Johnson, the son of a North Carolina bootlegger who became one of the first superstars of NASCAR in the 1950s and 1960s, has died. He was 88.
NASCAR announced Johnson's death Friday. No cause was given, but a statement from the racing association said Johnson "had been in declining health and entered hospice care earlier this week."
"Junior Johnson truly was the ‘Last American Hero,'" said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Jim France, referencing the title of a 1965 essay about Johnson by author Tom Wolfe. “From his early days running moonshine through the end of his life, Junior wholly embodied the NASCAR spirit.
"He was an inaugural NASCAR Hall of Famer, a nod to an extraordinary career as both a driver and team owner. Between his on-track accomplishments and his introduction of Winston to the sport, few have contributed to the success of NASCAR as Junior has. The entire NASCAR family is saddened by the loss of a true giant of our sport, and we offer our deepest condolences to Junior’s family and friends during this difficult time."