Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon
Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon • While your great granddaddy was firing up a pipe, Junior Johnson’s was firing up a copper still. Few family recipes carry a jail sentence, but to the Johnson family, it was a way of life. With whiskey in his trunk and the law on his heels, Junior ran the finest moonshine in Appalachia to the dry Rural South.
Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon follows the Johnson family’s moonshine recipe. Every batch is handcrafted in very small batches, made from corn and born in a copper still. Midnight Moon is triple-distilled to deliver an ultra-smooth, clean-tasting spirit that is often preferred over the world’s best vodkas. Enjoy Midnight Moon straight over ice or in a variety of cocktails.
Midnight Moon Apple Pie, Cherry, Strawberry, Blueberry & Cranberry spirits each begin with the handcrafted, ultra-smooth Midnight Moon recipe. Real fruit and Midnight Moon are then placed in mason jars by hand (just like moonshiners have done for generations). Apple Pie, Cherry, Strawberry, Blueberry & Cranberry age in the jar for several weeks, to ensure each bottle reaches the peak of all-natural fruit flavor before it leaves the distillery.
Robert Glen Johnson, Jr., born June 28, 1931 in Wilkes County, North Carolina, is known as Junior Johnson. He grew up on a farm and his family would distill part of their corn harvest to make whiskey. The family began distilling their corn as a means of survival. The corn was worth more distilled than it was as grain. The taxes were so high that the Johnsons could not afford to pay them and make a living, so they decided not to pay the taxes—making them moonshiners.
The Johnson family moonshine was considered to be the best. Junior would tend to the family’s stills and began bootlegging moonshine at the age of 14. He consistently outran and outwitted local police and federal agents in chases, and was never caught while running ‘shine. Johnson quickly became a moonshining and bootlegging legend. He is credited with inventing the now-famous “bootleg turn”, in which the bootlegger escapes the revenuers by cutting the wheel sharply to the left, dropping into a lower gear and putting the pedal to the floor. This slides the car into a 180 degree turn—making the bootlegger long gone before the law could turn their car around. Johnson was also known to use police lights and sirens to fool revenuers who had set up roadblocks into thinking that he was a fellow officer; upon hearing his approach the police would quickly remove the roadblocks, allowing Johnson to drive right on through.
In 1955, Johnson decided to give up delivering moonshine for the safer and more lucrative (and legal) career of being a NASCAR driver. He found that he was able to easily translate his “moonshiner” driving skills—hard-won on mountain roads—to the highly-pitched racing tracks of NASCAR. In his first full season, he won five races and finished sixth in the 1955 NASCAR Grand National points standings. If NASCAR had a “Rookie of the Year” award at the time, Johnson surely would have won it.
In 1956, federal tax agents found Johnson working at his father’s moonshine still in Wilkes County; they arrested him. Many local residents believed the raid was done in revenge for the agents’ inability to catch Johnson delivering moonshine on local highways. Johnson was convicted of moonshining and was sent to the federal prison in Chillicothe, Ohio. He served 11 months of a two-year sentence.
On December 26, 1986, President Ronald Reagan granted Johnson a presidential pardon for his 1956 moonshining conviction. Johnson called the pardon “one of the greatest things in my life.”
Johnson returned to the NASCAR scene in 1958 and picked up where he left off, winning six races. In 1959, he won five more NASCAR Grand National races; by this time he was regarded as one of the best short-track racers in the sport.
His first win at a “superspeedway” came at the Daytona 500 in 1960. Johnson and his crew chief Ray Fox were practicing for the race, trying to figure out how to increase their speed, which was 22 miles per hour slower than the top cars in the race.
During a test run a faster car passed Johnson. He noticed that when he moved behind the faster car his own speed increased due to the faster car’s slipstream. Johnson was then able to stay close behind the faster car until the final lap of the test run, when he used the “slipstream” effect to slingshot past the other car. By using this technique, Johnson went on to win the 1960 Daytona 500, despite the fact that his car was slower than others in the field. Johnson’s technique was quickly adopted by other drivers, and his practice of “drafting” has become a common tactic in NASCAR races.
He retired in 1966. In his career he claimed 50 victories as a driver, and 11 of these wins were at major speedway races.
As a NASCAR team owner, he worked with some of the legendary drivers in NASCAR history, including Darel Dieringer, LeeRoy Yarbrough, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Neil Bonnett, Terry Labonte, Geoffrey Bodine, Sterling Marlin, Jimmy Spencer, and Bill Elliott. In all, his drivers won 139 races, which is third only to Petty Enterprises and Hendrick Motorsports. His drivers won six Winston Cup Championships—three with Yarborough (1976-1978) and Waltrip (1981-82, 1985). Until Jimmie Johnson’s 2009 Sprint Cup Championship, Johnson/Yarborough were the only team in NASCAR history to achieve three consecutive Championships.
Junior Johnson lives with his family in Wilkes County, North Carolina. He stays busy working on his farm and cooking breakfast every morning for the family and anyone else who happens by. In addition, Johnson is helping his son Robert begin his own racing career, which has been very successful to date. Seems racing really does run in the blood.
An entrepreneur at heart, Johnson is involved in several businesses. He is part owner of Piedmont Distillers, as well as two foods companies; Suncrest Farms, which produces Junior Johnson Brand Country Ham, Pork Rinds and Bacon and Yadkin Valley Foods, which produces Junior Johnson Brand Sweet Tea, Lemonade and Breakfast Sandwiches. Johnson is actively involved in each of these companies.
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