Saturday, September 13, 2008

Bobby Johns' Rookie Year At Indy

Rick Johnson Photo

Bobby Johns Follows In Father’s Tiremarks

Driving Yunick Creation

By Rick Johnson-Indianapolis Star, May 11, 1964

Photo courtesy

Bobby Johns of Miami, Fla., cut his teeth on the bottom rail of a Speedway fence.

He’s been racing since he was 16 years old, and is making his first bid this year for the 500 Mile Race field in the revolutionary side-car-rear-engine creation built by Smokey Yunick.

Smokey and his sidecar (IMS Photo)

Johns, now 30 years old, got his racing desire by following his father, Shorty Johns, through Midget and Sprint Car campaigns all though the Southland.

As soon as he’d picked up all the tricks his father could teach him, he began to drift around, picking up rides in roadsters and stock cars.

It wasn’t long before he had built up a reputation as a fierce competitor and a real contender in every race he drove.

Johns got his big break in 1960, when he teamed up with Smokey Yunick on the NASCAR circuit.

Photo courtesy

Smokey and Johns promptly cleaned house with a Pontiac; ending up in third place in the NASCAR point standings, and in second spot in money earned racing.

So far this month, Johns has passed the first three phases of his drivers test, and is real pleased with his ride.

Rick Johnson Photo

“I’ve got a big job to do,” Johns said. “And I know it. The car handles well, and I know it is well built. But I’m not accustomed to the terrific wind in my face,” the stock car ace said.

“But,” Johns continued, “I have a lot of faith in Smokey, and I know he’ll bring me along.”

Rick Johnson Photo

As Johns left the garage to be interviewed by a radio announcer, Smokey Yunick lit his pipe, took a long drag, and said, “That boy will go great…he’ll race the tails off of the best of them.”

Photo courtesy

Johns ran into a momentary setback yesterday at the Speedway, when he began running too slow while attempting to complete the 135 miles per hour and final phase of his drivers test.

Bobby was timed for three laps at less than 134 miles an hour, and was brought in by his mechanic. According to USAC rules, a rookie may run one mile an hour under the 135 mark, or four miles an hour over, and still gain credit for the laps on his test.

The observers noted that Johns had been very smooth through the first parts of his test, and agreed that some of his trouble yesterday could have been laid to the lack of a tachometer in his car. Without the tachometer, Johns could not judge on how consistently his car was running down the straightaways and through the turns.

Smokey received permission from USAC for Johns to run several practice laps yesterday, and intends to send Johns back out today to complete his drivers test.

“And then we’ll really go,” Yunick said.

IMS Photo

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