Flipping Through The Scrapbook With
Johnny Anderson how are we doing!
Johnny: Just great Gary nice to chat with you!
I've got the Bob Seger music going in the background for this
one. Thank you so much, are you ready!
Johnny: Sure lets go!
What have you been up to these days?
Johnny: I have to do what most retired race drivers do and
that is go to a 9 to 5 everyday.
I'm a big mean ugly looking dude, but I will admit, when we
talked the other day, I had tears rolling off the cheeks. The
inner child was reminiscing about those days gone by......
Johnny: Hey the inner child in us and is what makes life
I think I can say this for a lot of people out there, you were
Johnny: I don't think I was. I just tried to go out and put
on a good show for the fans.
Car owner Mike Sala, Norm Bogan and myself took in the races
that Saturday after we talked. I of course was on cloud 9, so I
asked them who were some of the best Sprint Car drivers they have
seen, both these guys have been around a long time. Guess who's
name pops up? That's right, yours........
Johnny: I'm flattered that people would remember me in that
Can you share with us how and when you got started in racing?
Johnny: Well when my dad came home from the auto auction
with one Quarter Midget and four boys, it wasn't long until he was
out buying a couple more. We traveled to Byron and to San Jose,
did Little Wheels and Capitol Quarter Midgets out in Rio Linda. I
moved up to Half Midgets and then to Micro Midgets. Then at 16
years old, I was running Hardtops at West Capital Raceway.
Hardtops evolved into Super Modifieds. Then I moved into my real
love, and that was Sprint Cars. My first one is the one I restored
and have now, but I was only 17 and N.A.R.C. wouldn't let me run
because their age to run was 21. So I towed it down to Ascot and
ran there. N.A.R.C. changed the rules, so I was able to stay home
You were an Outlaw before the word "Outlaw" became a
household name. A true Outlaw!
Johnny: I did join the Outlaws the first year they began
and still visit every time they come to town. I like to see my old
friends that I ran with.
I gotta say you look "tough" in those cowboy
Johnny: A white one means the good guy!
A lot of people associate you with the Sprint Car, but you were
great in a Midget too...
Johnny: I enjoyed running Midgets, but I was only 17. Again
they had an age limit, so I stayed mostly in Sprint Cars. I liked
the Midgets because they were quick for their size. After my
accident, I returned to them just because they helped me to react
quickly, and help get my reflexes back.
National and local wins on asphalt and dirt. Whether it was in
a winged or non-winged car it didn't matter, you were a threat to
win anytime and anywhere you showed up.....
Johnny: I just like to compete, I liked the challenge. I
found out that smooth on pavement made you smooth on dry slick
tracks, and smooth made you fast. I wanted to be the fastest!
Guys like yourself, Wayne Sue, Opp, LeRoy, Jimmy Boyd, Ron
Horton, Gary Patterson, John Viel and all the other heroes from
that era, provided me with some of my fondest memories in racing.
I'm sure others out there would agree with me.......
Johnny: Me to, running against them! All of them you named
I was racing against at one time or another. A lot of good
Can you share something special from those days gone by?
Johnny: What comes to my mind right off is the Championship
between Wayne Sue and myself in 1974 that I won. It took the last
race, with one point ahead of him to win! Wayne and I still
reminisce over that one. I ran a lot with Opperman at Vallejo in
the Midgets, and Sprints at Calistoga and back East. The first
time I drove DuWayne Starr's house car #18, it was at Calistoga. I
remember Patterson and I banged wheels so much going for the lead,
that it ground off a piece of metal from the rim that DuWayne kept
all those years. And before he passed away he gave it to me. By
the way I won that race! Leroy and I ran all over California
whether pavement or dirt and he was an awful hard, but clean
competitor. I liked racing against him.
You've won a lot of races Johnny. Can you share a couple more
that are special to you.....
Johnny: The Calistoga Classic when I was running against
Rick Ferkel, Bobby Allen, Doug Wolfgang, Steve Kinser, and Sammy
Swindell in the Kenny Woodruff #21. These guys were the best in
the United States, and by beating them I felt grrrrrreat! The
second, I think would be the 1980 Gold Cup with DuWayne Starr. I
really don't remember it, but have been told it was good. Right
after that was my accident at Corona, and it wiped it out of my
memory. I guess that one doesn't count!
What drove you night after night to race so hard and never give
Johnny: Will power. Race to race, it was hard competition
and I wanted to win. Nothing I would rather do than be in a race.
Each race was a new challenge.
Which tracks did you really enjoy gettin' after it at and why?
Johnny: Calistoga because it taught me to respect a race
car. No just kidding, what it really did was polished me to race
the tracks back east like Knoxville, Springfield, Illinois,
Florida, and Pennsylvania to name a few. They were a lot like
Calistoga. I liked West Capital because it was a tacky and a hook
'em up track. It was a fast little bullring! Pavement tracks, I
liked San Jose, and PIR in Phoenix. The Manzanita 1/2 Mile was fun
too. Heck I liked them all!
What were some of the things you enjoyed most about your racing
Johnny: Traveling all over the United States, and meeting
people whether it was racers or fans. I won't lie I liked to win
too. It was also an honor to be invited to race in Australia with
Mel Kenyon, Bob Tattersal, and Larry Rice. That was a pretty big
thing to do in those days.
A walk in the dark to settle things was a common occurrence
back in those days.....
Johnny: I remember flipping Ken Nicoles in a Midget once,
and a fight where I was tackled in the infield at Chico by Orvile
Whitson. So I guess I never took too many of those walks in the
dark, we did it right out in the open. So much for the white hat!
Billy was super tough wasn't he, I mean he was a really good
Johnny: Yes he was. He was a 2 time N.A.R.C. Champion, and
also won a Championship in Australia. He was smooth, and when I
raced against him I had my hands full. His career ended in turn
one at Calistoga, in a bad crash in the main event. We were in the
trophy dash together that night.
Two other Anderson Brothers raced too, Wendell and Bob....
Johnny: Wendell owned all his cars he ran (Super Modifieds
and Sprint Cars) with my brother Bob Anderson. Bob ran too, but
soon found out that the mechanic end of racing was his fortay. He
was, and still is an excellent engine builder. Wendell raced from
1973 to 1981.
How did you meet your #1 fan and wife Brenda. She really is a
special lady ain't she Johnny....
Johnny: Yes she is special, and not only is she my wife,
but my best friend. We went to C.K. McClatchy H.S. together in
1963. She always tells the story that she had a crush on me in
school, but never knew where I hung out on a Friday and Saturday
nights. I wasn't cruising K Street like everyone else. I was at a
race track somewhere. We met at our 25th High School Reunion. It
took 25 years for us to get that first date, but it was a good
one. I had a head injury and she was a Counselor with helping
people like me. I think it was some kind of destiny that God put
You do realize it's just a matter of time before you get
inducted into The National Sprint Car Hall Of Fame. I'll say it,
it's long over do! But, when that day does come, what are some
of the thoughts that might be going through the great Johnny
Johnny: I don't see myself as the Great Johnny Anderson.
But through my mind, I guess I would think of what an honor it
would be to be counted among that elite group that is already in
the Knoxville Hall of Fame.
Bobby Gerould pops in my mind when I think of preserving our
past in California. He is a nostalgic dude like myself, as are
many others out there. Without guys like yourself banging it off
the cush, we obviously would never re-live some of the greatest
times and stories in our sport. In your opinion do you feel like
the guys from the past are somewhat forgotten?
Johnny: Not forgotten in the fans minds, and actually that is
where you want to be preserved. I think Bobby Gerould is awesome
in his work in preserving the history of the past. Of course with
Bobby up in the announcers booth at West Capital with his dad Gary
Gerould, you would know he would grow up to be one of the best
announcers around. But he turned out to be a great writer too, and
a Champion of preserving this great racing history. We are so
fortunate to have him doing this.
Speaking of Bobby, his website HammerdownUSA.com conducted a
poll. The votes came from the media, fans, historians, mechanics
and veteran NARC observers. Yourself as well as your brother Billy
were chosen as 2 of the 40 bravest and exciting drivers in
Northern Auto Racing Club history!
Johnny: Boy that was an honor for sure. I was really
surprised to be counted with the 40 bravest. That was something,
and to think that it was a group of people and not just one or
two, makes it that much more special to me.
You still take a ride in a Sprint Car on occasion......
Johnny: All Brenda will let me play with now is my restored
Sprint Car. Remember the one I talked about earlier when I was 17?
She traced the history back to 1953 when Leon DeRock built it, and
ran I.M.C.A. against legends like Bobby Grim, and Jud Larson.
Johnny Pouelsen and Bill Hofelt owned it before I got it, and they
won a ton of races. I took third, behind Jerry Blundy, at the old
California State Fair Grounds in the 100 mile Open Comp show.
Brother Bill won his first main event win in the car at the first
N.A.R.C race at Chico. I raced it in the early days, and won in
Reno, Carson City, Calistoga, Washington, Oregon, Capital Speedway
and Champion Speedway. I also took it to Ascot, and Vallejo but
never won with it there. Since I restored it, I take it to the
Walt James gathering and race with it there. The first time I took
the car out after restoring it, I was shaking it down. I mean all
these parts on it are 35 years old, and I wanted to be gentle at
first to see what was or was not going to hold together. Then
along side of me comes this orange Sprint Car edging me...Oh I
don't think so!, and I mash it a little and get past him, and whoa
this guy mashes it a little bit harder, and gets ahead of me. So
in turn 1, I go faster and the next thing you know we are throwing
dirt and racing like it was a Friday night race! Later when we
came in, I had to see who this nut was. To my surprise it was my
old friend Jimmy Oskie. I hadn't seen him in years. We had a good
laugh on that one. Now every time I go down there, I look for him
to run against. I took it to Merced and raced with the W.R.A. and
won there. Then took it to Oregon and raced against Golden Wheels
and won there too. Feels like the good ol' days. I really enjoy
taking it out and opening it up. I also like to do P.R. work with
the Shriners Hospital for children. The kids sit in it, and get
their picture taken. I enjoy seeing the race fans hearing it fire
up. A few times I even led the Outlaws on their parade lap when
they come out West. It is a lot of fun to strap in and open it up!
Yourself and Brenda are actively involved in The West Capital
Hall Of Fame....
Johnny: Yes. One night about 7 years ago we were returning
home from a Yolo County Motorsports banquet, and Brenda said we
should do something like this for West Capital Raceway and that is
how it began. Our main goal is to preserve the history of West
Capital Raceway, and bring together the old gang. The first year
we had a banquet we sold out at 350, and more people were wanting
to come. The next year we got a bigger place, and 550 people came,
so we knew the need was there. Seeing all these old timers getting
together after 35 plus years and then sharing the memories is an
awesome sight to see. Legends of the past once again meet up with
their fans. It is as if it was a Saturday night at the track. We
have Crazy Wheels Wally Baker, Wayne Sue, Larry Burton, LeRoy Van
Conett, The Tiners, Joe Hill, Mike Andreetta, John Viel, Art Boune,
Jimmy Sills, Gene Welch, etc, etc, etc,. It is great getting
together and bench racing. In 2003 the association erected a
historical monument at the sight of the old West Capital Raceway.
It is a fitting tribute to all. To Those who either raced
there, car owners, pit crews, or fans, for the 33 years it was
open. We send out a newsletter and keep everyone up on the
happenings, and we have a Hall of Fame every year to honor all
those elite people who made up West Capital Raceway. This year we
are meeting at the All American Speedway in Roseville, July 16th.
Is their anything else you would like to share?
Johnny: Just thank you to all of the people who remember
Brenda Anderson: I would like to add that in 1960 Johnny was
Rookie of The Year in Micros. In 1961 he was rookie of the year
for C.S.R.A. hardtops. Also in 1961 he was Rookie of The Year in
Modifieds at Capital Speedway. 1969 he finished third in N.A.R.C.
points, and then was assigned a Champ Dirt car ride by Ernie Ruiz
in the famous Travelon Trailer Offy
later that year. Even though the car was 15 years old, Johnny
qualified for the Golden State 100. Even after loosing his brakes
on the 69th lap, he still placed eighth racing with Al Unser,
Bobby Unser, Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Johnny Rutherford, Gary
Johnny was soon picked up by the Leonard Faas/J.C. Agajanian
team. He was teamed up with Billy Vukovich in an Indy Car. While
driving steadily on the U.S.A.C. Championship circuit, Johnny
earned a reputation as a lead foot driver. Johnny was the first
one to introduce Sprint Car racing down under, as he was the first
one to take a Sprint Car to Australia. 1974 brought him the West
Capital Raceway Championship, and the Motor Sports Press
Association Oval Track Driver of The Year award. That same year,
he won the 1974 version of the Gold Cup (the last Super Modified
to win a Gold Cup). 1976 Johnny was the N.A.R.C. Champion, Copper
World Classic winner, Calistoga Champion, San Jose Cavalcade
winner. He is also one of the original World Of Outlaw drivers. He
was the 1980 Gold Cup Champion. In 2001 he was inducted into the
West Capital Hall of Fame. He also was inducted into the B.C.R.A.
Hall of Fame in 2004. When I started uncovering this remarkable
mans history, all I could think of was what a legend he really is.
I could go on and on, not because I think so highly of him, but
because there is so much history about him. He is a true gentleman
with so many race fans. I have never heard anyone ever say a bad
thing about Johnny, but how much they respect and admire him. No
matter where he goes they remember him.
I have a thousand and one questions for you, so I better stop
myself. To be honest this interview would never end with all the
questions I have for you Johnny. But I would like to take this
time and thank you and Brenda. You both are great!
Johnny: It is a privilege for you to ask!
I wish you both the best and a healthy 2005.....
Johnny: Same to you Gary!
*A special thanks to Brenda Anderson, Cheryl Starr and The
Anderson Brothers. I couldn't have done it without your help!
To contact Gary email@example.com