It is a curious fact that some individuals spend the formative years of their lives striving to reach a lofty goal only to be disillusioned once they have arrived. With their enthusiasm drained, these unfortunate souls no longer tackle their chosen pursuits with joy, but rather fall back into the ranks of those who are stuck doing a job that they loathe.
Let’s just get right to the point. Wayne Johnson isn’t a kid, and whatever glamourous fantasies he may have held about the life of a professional racer were dashed long ago. That observation simply means he has seen and tasted enough to be a realist. But being realistic does not portend a desire to retreat, nor does it mean that Johnson has lost the thrill of feeling a sprint car respond to a stab of the pedal or a deft turn of the wheel. If your hair is a bit thin and gray at the temples, here is a guy to root for.
At 49 years old, he was the World of Outlaws Rookie of the Year. That’s the good news. It was also a hard season. There were trying times. Frankly, there were fleeting moments when he even wondered if he belonged. Thankfully, those negative thoughts have been relegated to the dustbin.
If there is a lesson to be learned by hitting the road and racing night after night it is this: You have to put the last performance, good or bad, in the rearview mirror.
Additionally, if you want to compete with the Outlaws, you had better be prepared to put in the work, and you had best be in attack mode every time you hit the track.
Johnson had toured enough to know this. He has also been successful at this game, and success is a powerful reserve to draw upon when times get tough. It was the knowledge that he had performed at a high level in the past that left him frustrated.
Before the last wheel of the 2020 season was turned at Charlotte, Johnson needed some answers. He had to know the answer to a basic question: Did the problem reside within the race car or was it the guy holding the wheel? The results of his endeavors, as we will see, produced a sigh of relief. So here is where the Oklahoman is now. He can’t wait to get back to action, and back with the World of Outlaws. He harbors no illusions. He’s not going to vie for the championship. However, he believes he can win, and that provides all the motivation he needs.
There are those who make their way into the sport by the most circuitous route imaginable. It leaves one to wonder about the pattern of chance events that made this even possible. Such speculation is superfluous when it comes to Wayne Johnson. He was born into the sport, with his father Henry and older brothers Bud and Mike showing the way.
Johnson grew up in Tuttle, a suburb on the southwest side of Oklahoma City. Henry Johnson was the proprietor of several junkyards, a wrecker service, and a truck salvage. In his sons’ words, “He was stupid busy.” He also liked to race, and would compete in everything from the classic 100-inch supermodified to a late model.
Wayne can hardly remember a time when he wasn’t at the race track. Henry would race at the State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City, as well as many of the tracks in the surrounding area. “The first race I remember going to,” Wayne recalls, “was in the little town of Goldsby, which is just south of Norman on I-35. If you drive down their right now it would take you 20 minutes, but as a kid it seemed like it took you two days to get there.”
From the very beginning, Wayne loved racing. In fact, it is all he wanted to do. Every ingredient was in place for him to get involved. He had desire, his family was active in racing, and even their livelihood centered on automobiles. This was also Wayne’s problem. Everybody was busy and had little time to focus on him. So, when he looks back on the very early days of his career, he says, “The thing was, I never got to race anything consistently, and they weren’t going to take time for my butt to do it. There was a motocross track out on 59th Street and I ran there a few times. My mom was the one who took me there. And a friend of mine, a neighbor, raced Odysseys. So, I did that, but only when they went.