Chattanooga Racing History: Joe Lee Johnson

Thursday, August 28, 2014 - by Steve Hixson

Joe Lee Johnson began racing in Chattanooga at the Alton Park and Warner Park Speedways in the 1950's. Born in Cowpens, South Carolina on Sept. 11, 1929, he moved to Tennessee living and maintaining a garage close to these tracks.

He began to run select NASCAR races from 1956 through 1962 and broke into what is now the "Sprint Cup" series in 1957. On June 6, 1954 at Lakewood Speedway (in Atlanta), he was victorious and nearly won many more at the Fairgrounds track. He gave every driver a challenge that raced against him and he was victorious at many other southern tracks where he became a dominating force. In 1957 he raced in the Daytona Beach Road Course, he won twice in Charlotte and also won the "Nashville 300" in 1959.

Driving in the NASCAR Grand National division he won the inaugural World 600 in 1960. He was a pioneer in the early days of NASCAR. Johnson also competed in the NASCAR Convertible Division in both 1958 and 1959, taking a pair of victories in 16 starts. In 1959 He was the NASCAR Convertible Division Champion and held numerous other racing titles. He made his last NASCAR start in 1962.

He was the owner of Cleveland Speedway in Cleveland Tennessee, where he and his wife Jean watched their son Ronnie develop into one of the Top Dirt Late Model racers of his generation and eventually a two-time Dirt Track World Champion.

Joe Lee passed away on May 26, 2005, with cancer. He was a Chattanoogan and a racing legend. He has no relation to NASCAR racer/former car owner Junior Johnson or to current multi-NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson. Remanents of Johnson's historical World 600 trophy from Charlotte Motor Speedway were confined to the Press Box building of the Cleveland Speedway which was sold at absolute auction this past July.


Lookies Lose Second Straight Sunday At Smokies, 5-2

A four-run fifth inning broke a deadlocked 1-1 game and the Smokies went on to a 5-2 win over the Lookouts Sunday afternoon at Smokies Stadium. Inning-by-inning game  r ecap . Smokies starting pitcher Frank Batista tossed seven solid innings of one-run ball, while four consecutive run-scoring singles from right fielder Almora Almora Jr., designated hitter Kyle Schwarber, ... (click for more)

Lee Women Complete Three-Game Sweep of Christian Brothers

Lee scored a single run in the top of the 10th inning after holding off a Christian Brothers rally in the bottom of the ninth inning to secure a three-game sweep of the Bucs on Sunday afternoon. The Flames completed their Gulf South Conference (GSC) schedule with a 17-13-1 record. They will take a 29-17-1 mark into a non-conference game against visiting Tusculum College on ... (click for more)

Woman Injured, Man Dead After Shooting Outside Collegedale Walmart

One man is dead and a woman injured after a shooting near the Collegedale Walmart on Sunday afternoon. The man apparently shot the woman in the lower extremities prior to taking his own life. The incident was at the Game Stop in Ooltewah around 2:20 p.m. The woman was taken to the hospital with gunshot wounds to the legs. (click for more)

Anonymous Facebook Posters Pose Possibility Of Signal Schools Separating From Hamilton County School System

"Should Signal Mountain Schools separate from the Hamilton County School System?"   That’s the question posted on a Facebook page titled, simply, Signal Mountain Independent School District.   The creators of the page do not identify themselves. “(W)e certainly don’t want our kids dragged into the issue or targeted for special treatment by any ... (click for more)

The Heart Of A Teacher Makes A Difference - And Response (2)

In less than four weeks, I expect to be one of 216 graduating seniors from East Hamilton School. One could say all possible variables help a student rise to the highest levels in school; but a student is more than his environment or genetic code. He is a mixture of his own propensity and dedication to academics, coupled with a systemic team of mentors who give their all as a student’s ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: FBI To Study ‘Lickers’

About 25 years ago there was a terrifying movie called “The Silence of the Lambs.” It was so good it won the Academy Awards in all five categories – Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Adapted Screenplay. Further, Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster were brilliant, but do you remember the third “star?” Scott Glenn played a character named “Jack Crawford,” the ... (click for more)