Wild youngster Junior Johnson drove an Oldsmobile to his first career NASCAR Grand National victory at Hickory Speedway in North Carolina.
Robert Glenn “Junior” Johnson Jr. began racing early in the 1950s, moving up to NASCAR’s Modified division in 1953. His first full year of racing came in 1955 when he found the #55 D&L Motors’ Oldsmobile ride with team owners Jim Lowe and Carl Beckham.
In his first full season, he won five races and finished sixth in the 1955 NASCAR Grand National points standings. One of the highlights of Johnson’s Hall of Fame career came early in 1955 when he won his first NASCAR Grand National Race at Hickory Motor Speedway on May 5, 1955.
Hickory Motor Speedway is often called “The World’s Most Famous Short Track,” given that it opened in 1951 as a half-mile dirt track and featured drivers like Gwyn Staley, Ned Jarrett, Ralph Earnhardt, and Junior Johnson as track champions.
The speedway became a regular part of the Grand National schedule starting in 1953. After winning his track championship in 1952, Junior Johnson became the most successful Grand National driver at Hickory, winning there seven times.
Junior had a great 1955 NASCAR season but is missing from the 1956 racing record books as the driver was serving a one-year prison sentence in Ohio for having an illegal still. Johnson may have been caught checking the still, but he was never caught transporting bootleg liquor on the roads.
Johnson retired from NASCAR as a driver with 50 wins. He went on to work with many drivers as a team owner, collecting six Winston Cup Championships as an owner (three with Cale Yarborough and three with Darrell Waltrip).
His winning ways led to the driver being named as one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998, enshrinement in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame (1990), Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (1991), and the NASCAR Hall of Fame (2010).
This all started because of a win on May 5th, 1955.