Story by Jonathan Ingram
A comprehensive look at NASCAR history told through photos, captions and brief features. It includes lengthy, exclusive Q & A interviews with Junior Johnson, Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Bill Elliott and Jeff Gordon. Outstanding photos from a variety of photographers.
Q:. What were the cars like that you drove while hauling moonshine?
Johnson: You know, I had the fastest cars they had. Because you know when NASCAR was running pretty much that factory-made stuff, we was modified on the highway. We was big motors, three and four carburetors, sometimes five, six, whatever it took to make a fast run, superchargers and turbochargers back in the forties. I’ve had cars that run so fast on a straight road that it looked like it was two foot wide, on down the road, you know. And I never had anything like that on the racetrack.
Q.:Were you better than David Pearson or was he better than you?
Petty: When they had the top 50 in the 50 years of NASCAR history, you never seen me on top of anybody’s list as being a good driver. The only list I was on was I won more than anybody else. That was all that I was interested in. I was never interested in being the best at anything other than being the best winner. The bottom line, you know what I mean? What is your criteria to say whose better than anybody else? There’s no way you can say whose the fastest gun. Different eras, different circumstances, the whole deal.
Q.: What about the race versus Donnie Allison at Daytona in 1979 that did so much to change NASCAR history? Before you guys crashed your cars and went to fighting in Turn 3, it appeared you got underneath him cleanly at Turn 2 and he pulled down to block you after you were alongside.
Yarborough: Right. That was the slingshot. I had him beat. If I had known it was going to turn out the way it did, I’d have passed him several laps before and gone on and won the race. I wanted to do it on the last lap, which was kind of a trademark for me. I don’t think he could have come back and made a pass on me, because I had already made up two laps on him.
Bill Elliott Interview:
Q.: It must have been satisfying for you guys to figure out what you needed to come back and win the championship in 1988 after Earnhardt and the Childress team had won the title in 1986 and 1987.
Elliott: It was. I still look back on those days and the biggest, proudest thing for me is that we did it our way. It was all of us down there in Dawsonville. We didn’t buy into the deal, we put it all together. Somebody made the comment the other day when I was coming into a track on race day that he’d never seen a driver up so early. I told him, ‘You didn’t see me back in the eighties.’ Sometimes they let you go in the garage at 5 a.m. and I was right there at 5 a.m.
Q.: To what extent do you consciously try to build an image for yourself?
Gordon: I’m really doing what my heart and mind is leading me to do. I didn’t plan the image. OK, I want to be this, this and this. I didn’t do that. I’m a nice guy. I’ve always been clean cut and my parents taught me not to swear and to respect people. To me, it’s my personality, not an image. As a race car driver, I’ve always said I’ll do what it takes to win. If on a given day it takes patience, I’ll be patient. If it takes aggressiveness, I’ll be aggressive.
As a race car driver, I don’t want people to be able to predict what I’m going to do. I want people to doubt what I might do in any given time other than give everything I’ve got in order to win. If a guy hits me and thinks I’m not going to hit him back, he’s mistaken. I’m not some kid that was handed things on a golden platter. I’ve worked for my respect.