Bobby Johns was born into a racing family on May 22, 1932.His
father, Socrates "Shorty" Johns, was a top-notch race mechanic and ran midget cars in Miami, Florida, in the '30s.He
son how to race as soon as Bobby
was old enough to walk.Early on, he
was exhibition-racing his
very own Pontiac
dad built with enough horsepower to make Bobby
a pint-size hero at the tracks.
At age 18, he
competed in the Sportsman Class in NASCAR
, the junior leagues to the Grand Nationals.It's where he
met Fireball Roberts for the first time, and where he
decided to make racing his
career for life.After two years in the U.S. Army, Bobby joined the NASCAR Grand Nationals Division, campaigning a father-son-built '57 Chevrolet for the '58 and '59 season.
On February 14, 1960, Bobby held First Place at the Daytona 500 with the Smokey Yunick-built No. 3 '59 Catalina. The Ray Fox car was unable to pass him. His
commanding lead was lost, however, when his
rear window released at high speeds, forcing him into a spin with nine laps to go.On February 14, 1960, Bobby
held First Place at the Daytona 500 with the Smokey Yunick-built No. 3 '59 Catalina.
came back to Smokey
for two more races in 1960, both behind the wheel of the No. 3 Pontiac Catalina: the Firecracker 250 at Daytona (July 4, 1960) and the '60 Dixie 300 at Atlanta (July 31, 1960).Bobby
started Third, dropped to Thirtieth with axle problems at the first mentioned race, but earned a strong Fourth Place finish at the second.
The next month, on August 14, 1960, Bobby
led an astonishing 168 out of 500 laps at the Western North Carolina 500 and finished in Fourth Place, driving for Cotton Owens behind the wheel of the No. 5 '60 Pontiac Catalina.It was this first pairing with Cotton that led Bobby
to both tragedy and victory later that season.
Bobby prepares to take on Darlington on September 5, 1960, in the Cotton Owens-prepared No. 5 '60 Catalina.Bobby
prepares to take on Darlington on September 5, 1960, in the Cotton Owens-prepared No. 5 '60 Catalina.
Race No. 35 of the NASCAR
Grand National season, on September 5, 1960, in Darlington, North Carolina, saw Bobby
behind the wheel of the No. 5 Catalina.On lap 95, he
was involved in a crash that fatally injured three pit-crew members and left Bobby upside down in the destroyed race car.Despite the devastating accident, he
and Cotton carried on.
As we learned from Bobby
in this exclusive interview, Ray Nichels offered a delegate car to Cotton, which was reentered into NASCAR
racing just in time for the Atlanta 500 on October 30, 1960.
...In 1961, Bobby left Pontiac-against his wishes-as he was forced to drive a Ford under sponsorship just so he could continue racing.
But in 1962 he
came back to Pontiac with a passion, competing in 13 races-all of them behind the wheel of a 421 SD Pontiac Catalina.His
top accomplishment was a First Place win on April 29, 1962, at Bristol International Speedway, where he
led 430 of 500 laps.
Bobby drove for Pontiac again in 1963, in 11 of 12 races.
was one of the few racers to continue with Pontiac after the AMA ban.In 1964, he
drove a '64 421 Catalina at Augusta, Daytona, Atlanta, North Wilkesboro, and Martinsville.For 1965, he
campaigned a '64 421 Catalina in five races late in the season.His
last race with Pontiac was in Augusta, Georgia, on November 14, 1965-once again driving a '64 Catalina.
is 75 years old and operates Bobby Johns Enterprises
, where he
wholesales and exports Goodyear & Phoenix race tires, American Racing Wheels, Ultra Custom Wheels and automotive parts.He
is based out of Miami, the very same Florida metropolis where he
To this day, Bobby
affectionately calls Pontiacs "Tin Indians" and says that they are still his
favorite cars.Our interview with Bobby Johns
begins with his
first Pontiac race car.