Modified Legend Jumpin’ Jack Johnson, 76

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Jack Johnson (12A) at Ohio's Sharon Speedway in 2009. (Mike Gbur Photo)
Jack Johnson (12A) at Ohio's Sharon Speedway in 2009. (Mike Gbur Photo)

DUANESBURG, N.Y. — Jack Johnson, one of the Northeast’s most accomplished modified drivers, died Thursday after a lengthy battle with ALS. He was 76 years old.

Johnson began racing go-karts when he was 13 and began his modified career in 1966 after being discharged from the Army. He earned his first modified victory in 1971 at New York’s Fonda Speedway. It was the first of his 149 victories at the track.

During his lengthy career he won 11 modified championships at Fonda Speedway, with his first coming in 1975 and his last in 1996. He also earned a track championship at Pennsylvania’s Nazareth National Motor Speedway in 1983.

He was also incredibly successful at the New York State Fairgrounds, winning the Super DIRT Week main event in 1979 and 1984. His 1984 triumph made him the only driver to win every major New York State Fairgrounds event in one season.

His wins at the New York State Fairgrounds were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to major victories. Among his many triumphs were victories in the National Dirt Track Championship 200 at Flemington (N.J.) Speedway, the Eastern States 200 at New York’s Orange County Fair Speedway and the Fonda 200 at Fonda Speedway, just to name a few.

Johnson opened Jumpin’ Jacks Pro Speed Shop in 1980, a business that continues to operate today. His racing career ended in 2009 following a violent crash at Fonda Speedway.

Johnson won 428 times at 35 different tracks in 10 states and two Canadian provinces. He won his final race at Ohio’s Sharon Speedway in 2009.

“I’ve got a lot of good racing memories, too many to even think about unless something triggers them,” Johnson told SPEED SPORT’s Ron Hedger in 2011. “I loved racing. It was my life. I could never say I had a bad time doing it. I loved every night and every minute of it.”

He was inducted into the Northeast Dirt Modified Hall of Fame, Eastern Motorsports Press Ass’n Hall of Fame and New York State Stock Car Ass’n Hall of Fame, all in 2012.

His son, Ronnie Johnson, continued the family racing tradition and won his first Fonda Speedway modified title in 2011.