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Legendary Race Car Headed To Sports Hall Of Fame

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Mike Easley has announced the loan of Junior Johnson's No. 3 Chevy Impala to the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

Johnson built the car at his home near Wilkesboro 45 years ago. He then went on to drive the car during the 1963 NASCAR season, during which he won seven races, captured 10 pole positions and earned the fastest qualifying lap at the Daytona 500 that year.

"I can't tell you how many times ... that kids and grown-ups alike have imagined themselves behind the wheel of this legendary car," Easley said.

Johnson was the first driver to win at each of the four original super-speedways: Darlington, Daytona, Charlotte and Atlanta. He won 50 NASCAR titles before retiring from the sport in 1966, and went on to become a successful team owner. He was inducted into the state Sports Hall of Fame in 1992.

"Since my induction into the Sports Hall of Fame, I have wanted to have my No. 3 Chevy on exhibit for sports fans to see," Johnson said. "I hope others will enjoy the car as much as I have."

He also is credited for discovering "drafting," an aerodynamic phenomenon that makes two nose-to-tail cars run faster than either could go alone.

In a way, the No. 3 car paved the way for how race cars are built now. The chassis, the engine, the innovation helped make it a legend.

"This is definitely a piece of racing history you'll never run into again," said Johnson's friend William Casey. "This car, if you look at it, is a masterpiece."

The car is on loan to the Sports Hall of Fame indefinitely and will remain on display in the lobby of the North Carolina Museum of History.

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