News & Media

Hall of Famer Johnson launches new racing team

January 03, 2011, Dave Rodman,

Hopes for Junior Johnson Racing to propel son Robert into the Sprint Cup Series

Junior Johnson has launched a race team that he hopes will propel his son, 17-year-old Robert, eventually to the Sprint Cup Series.

The elder Johnson, who was enshrined in NASCAR's Hall of Fame as a member of its inaugural 2010 class of inductees, will run Junior Johnson Racing from shops on his 278-acre estate in Hamptonville, N.C.

Keith Barnwell, JJR's executive vice president and general manager, said Monday he was standing amid 800 head of cattle outside one of the two buildings the elder Johnson -- who scored 50 victories as a driver, 132 as an owner and six Cup championships in his legendary career -- had converted into his son's race shop.

Barnwell, a noted NASCAR spotter who worked every lap of Jamie McMurray's breakout 2010 season and will move to the spotter's stand to work with Martin Truex Jr. in 2011, said the younger Johnson -- who finished fourth in the 2010 UARA late model series championship and won the UARA Rookie of the Year Award -- would contest about a "28- to 30-race schedule in 2011."

"We're going to run the full K&N Pro Series East and maybe the West Series' finale at Phoenix," Barnwell said. "On some of our off weekends, we'll be running some UARA and Whelen All-American Series late model races.

"My role is going to be to oversee the business end of the operation and help Junior and Lisa [Johnson] manage Robert's path, we hope, eventually to the Sprint Cup Series or whatever the natural progression would be."

Barnwell said Robert Johnson's plan is to attend Duke University and that his education would take the short-term priority over racing. Johnson is currently in his high school junior year at Forsyth Country Day School in Lewisville, N.C.

Johnson has hired two veteran mechanics with K&N Series experience, Craig Hermann and Robbie Harrison, to work on the operation. Barnwell said some Toyota stock cars have been purchased from the Red Bull Racing team and that he and Johnson were in the process of making a final decision on what manufacturer they would align themselves with.

Barnwell most recently worked as general manager of TriStar Motorsports' three-car Nationwide Series team in 2010, while also serving as McMurray's full-time spotter in a season that included victories in the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and fall Bank of America 500 at Charlotte.