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September 16, 2014

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Junior Johnson still has what it takes

Junior Johnson hasn’t lost his touch. And I’m not referring to his driving abilities.

Tuesday night I watched the broadcast of the opening ceremonies for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The new monument to the sport seems to include many of the things you would expect from a hall of fame. Old race cars, tributes to legendary drivers and displays commemorating the work of NASCAR’s pioneers were featured in the Speed Channel’s coverage. But one of my favorite moments came from Junior Johnson.

Steve Byrnes interviewed Johnson about the new facility. And, of course, no interview of Johnson would be complete without a question or two about the NASCAR legend’s career as a moonshiner. That led to a discussion about the creation of a display in the Hall of Fame recognizing the roll moonshiners played in the birth of the sport.

When the Hall of Fame needed some advice on what a whiskey still should look like, who do you think they called? Junior Johnson, of course. And did the former driver offer a few suggestions on how to build a still? No. He drove over to the Hall of Fame construction site and built the whiskey still himself.

I love history. I majored in it in college. Now if you asked me to rattle off historical stats about the sport I wouldn’t be your best source. I don’t do numbers. Colorful stories and colorful characters are what I like, and NASCAR’s history has plenty of both. It’s about time NASCAR had one centralized location that celebrates all aspects of the sport’s history. My only complaint is that the Hall of Fame is so far from the West Coast.

Brian Vickers has been hospitalized with an undisclosed illness. Here’s today’s story from scenedaily.com.

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