Throwback: NASCAR Driver Junior Johnson Puts Out a Fire in His Car With His T-Shirt Mid-Race

Published 05/07/2021, 7:15 AM EDT
AVONDALE, ARIZONA – NOVEMBER 10: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Toyota, and Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, lead the field to turn one after taking the green flag to start the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)


This weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series visits the Darlington Raceway. The track ‘Too Tough to Tame’ is one of the most notorious ovals on the calendar, and many have failed to conquer it. Back in 1953, NASCAR legend Junior Johnson found this out the hard way, but he definitely made a show out of it.

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Sometime during the race, he spun and hit the barriers, even flipping over once. Luckily, the car managed to land on all four wheels, ensuring an easier time getting out. The bad news was that the mangled car caught fire, but Johnson did something quite daring. He actually took off his shirt and tried to put out the fire himself.

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During those days, NASCAR drivers did not have access to proper fire suits, and NASCAR was a lot more dangerous in those days. Any motorsport in its infancy is always dangerous until it finds the balance between achieving top speed and preserving safety.

Who is NASCAR legend Junior Johnson?

Robert Glenn Johnson Jr is a North Carolina native and the fourth of seven children. His father was a bootlegger and it is also worth noting that Jr was also convicted for bootlegging in 1956. Luckily for him, the NASCAR Hall of Famer received a presidential pardon from Ronald Reagan in 1986.

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May 2, 2021; Kansas City, Kansas, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski (2) leads the field at the start of the race at Kansas Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Through his NASCAR career, Junior Johnson took part in 313 races. During that tenure, he amassed 50 Cup Series wins, including the 1960 Daytona 500. As a team owner, he snatched six Winston Cup championships, courtesy Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip.

Other accolades include the honor of being one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers. In 1990, he earned a place in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. A year later, he was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. Finally in 2010, Junior Johnson was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Tragically, he passed away in 2019 at the ripe old age of 88.

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Dhruv George

11625 articles

Dhruv George is a senior Formula One and NASCAR analyst for EssentiallySports, having authored nearly 12000 articles spanning different sports like F1, NASCAR, Tennis, NFL, and eSports. He graduated with a PG Diploma in Journalism from the Xavier Institute of Communications. Dhruv has also conducted interviews with F1 driver Pierre Gasly and Moto2 rider Tony Arbolino.

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