One of the real veterans of dirt-track Modified stock-car racing and a man who is quite modest about his considerable accomplishments, Jack Johnson of Duanesburg, New York, could always be counted upon to do his very best each time out. Right through until his last race in 2009 the full-time professional racer and speed shop owner was still a formidable competitor on the race track in his signature orange No. 12a and a most respected and popular driver.
The son of former Sprint Car racer Rollie Johnson, the second-generation racer started his impressive career in 1966 after he got out of the United States Army at one of the most famous tracks in the East – the half-mile dirt Fonda (N.Y.) Speedway and from the time that he was 27 years old in 1971 all the former body shop worker did to make a living was race.
“Jumpin’ Jack” scored his first Modified victory at Fonda in 1971 and used the low-line around the famed track by the Mohawk River to win an all-time standard of 149 races. He also won a record of 11 Fonda Modified titles (1975, 1980-1982, 1984-1885, 1988 & 1993-1996) and while he had a lock on being named the “Most Modified Popular Driver” at “The Track of Champions” he was honored in 2010 as “Fonda’s Overall Most Popular Driver.”
Johnson efforts on the one-mile New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse were equally impressive as his eight wins there include Super DIRT Week’s 1979 and 1984 main events. His 1984 triumph made him the only driver to ever win all of the NYSF races in one year as he also won races on July 4th and Labor Day, plus Super DIRT Week’s special Winner’s Classic.
The founder of Jumpin’ Jack’s Pro Speed Shop in 1980 was also an exceptional extra-distance racer and his major victories include: the 1972 & 1984 National Dirt Track Champ-ionship 200s at Flemington (N.J.) Fair Speedway; the 1985 Eastern States 200 at Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown, New York; two (1976 & 1979) National Quarter-Mile Dirt Track Championship Southern Tier 100s at Five Mile Point Speedway in Kirkwood, New York; three (1982 & 1993-1994) Lebanon Valley (N.Y.) Speedway 200s; three (1993 & 1995-1996) 200s at Rolling Wheels Raceway in Elbridge, New York; the 1988 Fonda 200; the 1988 Cayuga County 200 at Cayuga County Fair Speedway in Weedsport, New York; the 1997 Small-Block Modified 200 at Susquehanna Speedway in Newberrytown, Pennsylvania; and, the United Speedway’s of North American 200 at Susquehanna in 2000. He also had four wins on the old one-mile dirt Nazareth (Pa.) National Motor Speedway and was the track’s 1983 champion.
However, winning Flemington’s inaugural then-All-Star Racing League-sanctioned 200 in 1972 – which he won in his cut-down No. 12a 1936 Chevrolet coupe without making a pit stop – gave Johnson the confidence to be a professional racer. While he worked very hard at his occupation to be a success, he also knew he could not do it alone and he credits such sponsors and/or car owners as Bob Deming, Gene DeWitt, Jim Bobar, Bryan Goewey, Dan Madsen, Billy Taylor and Alton & Carol Palmer as playing an important part in his exemplary career.
A six-time (1980, 1982, 1984-1985 & 1987-1988) Mr. DIRT Champion and four-time (1979-1980, 1984 & 1988) Super DIRT Series Champion, Johnson won some 425 Modified feature races at 33 tracks. These totals include 90 victories at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, New York, where he was a three-time champion, and 27 wins at Utica-Rome (N.Y.) Speedway where he was the 1982 champion. He also won titles at Brewerton (N.Y.) Speedway in 1972, Cayuga County in 1980, and Rolling Wheels in 1992 where he had 28 career wins.
On July 18, 2009, however, 65-year-old Jack Johnson suffered a hard crash at Fonda and then unrelated health problems eventually sidelined him. But he still makes regular visits to Fonda Speedway to watch and help his son Ronnie, the track’s 2011 Modified Champion.