Robert Lyle “Columbus Bob” Johnson: 1927-2008


Racing legend, Bob Johnson, passed away October 16, 2008 at his home in Columbus, Ohio. He was 81. One of the great independent drivers of his day, his career spanned three decades. He started his career in 1957 driving Corvettes and transitioned to Cobras in 1963, winning the SCCA National Championship in A/Production. The following year he campaigned his first “home grown” Cobra, CSX 2189, to six National wins in a two month period. He did so well–racing in USRRC events with the Factory–that Shelby signed him to a contract to drive with the Team later that season

One of the more pivotal career moments for both Johnson and Shelby was the infamous Cobra/Corvette shoot out at Lake Garnett, KS. in July 1963, when Johnson, along with Ken Miles and Dave MacDonald, summarily drove a stake into the heart of the Corvette Factory Team led by Grady Davis, Dick Thompson and Don Yenko. The Cobras finished 1-2-3 in front of 60,000 fans, with Johnson leading the pack. It spelled the end of the Corvette’s dominance in SCCA racing for the rest of the decade and made the Cobra and Shelby a household name.

After his tenure with Shelby, which included Le Mans in both the Daytona Coupe and the Ford GT, he drove for Jim Hall in 1967, piloting both the Chaparral 2D and the 2F at Sebring, Daytona and Le Mans. After that, he teamed up with another driver who shared his name (The “Other” Bob Johnson). They jointly drove the Doug Bergen Corvette. This Johnson and Johnson Corvette was often referred to as the “Band Aid” Corvette based on the Johnson & Johnson brand name for cuts and scrapes. In the twilight of his career, he raced Camaros for Penske and finished out his racing career driving an L-88 Corvette at Sebring and Daytona.

After retiring from racing in 1970, Bob continued his stewardship of his successful catering business in Columbus, which he had begun after serving in the Navy during WW II. A perennially happy and outgoing person, he was always a hit at Shelby events and reunions. While aggressive and determined on the track, he was equally as generous and kind off the track. He will be missed by all who knew him.

Dan Hampton
Galesville, Wis.


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