Herm Johnson, who had two starts in the Indianapolis 500 and placed within the top 10 both times, died Dec. 10 from liver and renal failure. He was 63.
A lifelong resident of Eau Claire, Wis., Johnson placed ninth in the 1982 Indy 500 and eighth in 1984, sponsorship coming from a family friend, John Menard, who just happened to live across the street. The sponsorship in those days was from the Menard Cashway Lumber Company, predecessor to the Menards home improvement store chain.
Johnson was a Sports Car Club of America road racer who won the SCCA 1976 Super-Vee championship “runoffs” at Road Atlanta. In 1977, he and Tom Bagley were joint champions of the inaugural United States Auto Club-sanctioned Mini-Indy series for the Robert W. Bosch cup, a four-race start-up series for Super-Vee cars on oval tracks. This was the series, which for the next several years was to produce such Indianapolis regulars as Josele Garza, Geoff Brabham, Howdy Holmes, Pete Halsmer, Dennis Firestone, Michael Chandler and others, in addition to Bagley and Johnson.
Johnson had a total of 36 Indy car starts between 1979-85, scoring nine top-10 finishes, topped by a sixth-place finish at the one-and-a-half-mile Atlanta International Raceway in 1982.
His tenure at Indianapolis lasted from 1980-86, but resulted in just the two starts, a last-minute “bump” to first alternate starting position in 1981 and engine problems sidelining him in 1983. Accidents, both resulting in injury in 1985 and 1986, brought his driving career to a close.
A very soft-spoken and gentle individual, Johnson was able to parlay his talents as an artist into a sideline, painting helmets for other drivers. He also willingly returned to IMS each year, including just this past May, to sign autographs for the fans on the day before the 100th running of the race, along with many of his retired colleagues.
Donations to help pay for Johnson’s medical care can be made by clicking here.
Auction ends soon for autographed prints to benefit Wilson Children's Fund
The silent auction of specially autographed prints to benefit the family of Justin Wilson ends at 1 p.m. ET Christmas Eve.
Paul Zimmerman, owner of racing memorabilia store The Motorsport Collector, is offering the silent auction of eight 16x20 prints depicting the start of this year’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen. Each print is signed by all 22 starters from the season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma – including Sonoma winner and season champion Simon Pagenaud, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and past Indy car champions Sebastien Bourdais, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power. Also signing each print were greats Mario Andretti, Dario Franchitti, Rick Mears and Roger Penske.
It’s a unique set of autographs for race fans, considering the elite driver group has totaled 24 season championships, 17 Indianapolis 500 triumphs and 300 Indy car race wins. And those numbers don’t even include the 14 championships and 16 Indy 500 wins achieved by Penske as a car owner.
The silent auction for each 16x20 print starts at $500, with Zimmerman accepting bids by email through 1 p.m. ET Dec. 24. Get more information and place a bid by clicking here.
All proceeds go to the Wilson Children’s Fund, set up to help care for the widow and two daughters of Justin Wilson, who died in August 2015 from injuries sustained in a crash at Pocono Raceway. Winning bidders will be able to pay through the fund’s PayPal link and receive free shipping of the prints.
Anyone wishing to donate directly to the Wilson Children’s Fund without bidding on a print may click here.