Jumpin Johnny McGill; One Class Act...!
Written by: AJ Payne (The Dirtracer Insider!)
Hello, I want to say thank you to everyone that stuck by me while I took some time off and finished my college classes. Even though I did run into some problems with my main computer I got my classes done and finally got this article completed and I sure hope you enjoy and give me some feedback. Oh and I am glad that John was not an old man in a wheelchair before I got this article done...lol
Therefore, in preparing this article on what has to be one of the top racecar drivers around the country that I have had the pleasure to get to know in what has to be some time now, and I have to thank a good friend of mine named Liz who not only help me bring to you who I believe is one of the classiest dirt track racers around today but provided the photos used in this article about Jumpin Johnny McGill from Plattekill, NY. Now the first thing that I would have to point out from our chat that I noticed about John is the fact; he is truly one dynamic personality, who has a true passion for any form of auto racing. This was the next thing that came across to me as we talked. However, I will say the chat was an experience that was one of those special ones for me anyways and no doubt will stand out for me for some time to come.
I know for me at least, as he was talking about things like his adopted parents taking him to the old historic asphalt track at Danbury, CT where many legendary drivers like Randy LaJoie raced in those days. John pointed out to me that even though his adopted parents enjoyed taking him to the race, that they themselves had not ever be involved in auto racing, but rather just going to enjoying a day at the races. Nonetheless the seeds were sown for his love of auto racing thanks to his adopted parents taking the time to take a young John McGill to the races, which clearly hook a young John McGill on the sport of auto racing for life.
However, it was not until he first climb behind the wheel of a racecar that he had an outlet for this passion for auto racing that was within him. John talked about how he raced in a spectator race in 1984, which he won, and as they say the rest is history. Therefore, soon after the experience, John decided it was time to go out and get his own racecar and thus begins Johnís race career.
John had early success in the street stock class by winning fairly regularly, with four wins and third in points in his first year. However, the thoughts of running a big-block modified was just to great for a young John McGill as he moved up into a big-block modified after three years in the street stock division. Although, John pointed out it was a longer learning curve becoming completive in the big-block division, which was not made any easier, because of the fact that John was not always able to put the budget together to compete in the big-block division.
Nevertheless, he was able to stick around the track as a track announcer at a few different tracks in between being able to race his mod. Oh and trust me John is someone that is able to do both with no problems, because as I listen to John, he I know with the right equipment in the big-block class, there is no telling what he could do, behind the wheel. However, I believe even if he wasnít able to continue to drive, that some track promoter needs to get him as their track announcer and I know he told me there are tracks wanting him to announce for them, although in my mind we need to keep popular talents like John around, since the fans at the Accord Speedway love him so much.
Furthermore, as we were talking he talked about to me about how he was out golfing with a long time friend Charlie Dangalos, which was the former crew chief of one Brett Hearn, which I will admit is one of my racing heroís. Well anyways back to the article, John was telling me how Charlie talked to John about getting back in to racing five years ago and of course John did not have to take long to give his long time friend a reply about getting back behind the wheel and compete at Accord Speedway.
Sadly this new partnership was not one that lasted long due to Charlie passing away right after the first night together. Which would cause most people to just give up, but as I notice from John he did not feel that Charlie would have wanted John to continue. Therefore, after five years of being consistence in the points as well as on the track, and this came to a head as he visited victory lane this year for only the second time in his racing career. Oh and he was telling me how he ran through the grandstands waving the checker flag and given high fives to the crowds delight. This is something that I believe anyways is one thing which is missing in the dirt track racing today overall and this is what I truly thought was awesome to hear from John.
The above are just a few of many of reason why John is such a fan favorite at the Accord Speedway In Accord, NY and with two wins, along with top 5ís, and 10ísfinishes on his resume over the past ten years he has raced in the Northeast Modified division is why he is at least thinking it is time to go out on top. Although, my hope is that John will continue in someway within the sport of auto racing. Since it would be a shame to loose such a great asset to the sport of auto racing completely like John has become over the past few years.
Oh yea, I would be a miss if I did not add as I was talking to John he brought up a couple things that stuck out to me, which I believe is a good way to end this article. The first item he talked about was the heartwarming and inspirational story of SST. Eddie Ryan, who was injured pretty badly over in Iraq and was overwhelmingly greeted at the Accord Speedway, This was later described by SST. Ryanís parents as the best welcome home greeting, that SST. Ryan had gotten since he had been back home. The other item that stuck out for me in the chat was his time at a pavement racing school after he had sold out the last time he had gotten out of dirt track racing. John also talked about his time with one young Dale Earnhardt, Jr. before he was a popular household name across the country. John, talked about all of the different NASCAR drivers he met while he was at this driving school, and one can only imagine it meant more than the cost of the class to get to meet some of the NASCAR drivers he was able to meet on this trip. It has to be what the credit card ad would call priceless.
Lastly, I must add, John reminds me in many ways of a Will Rogerís for auto racing, because of how he is able to recall the history that he has seen, in the stories that he tells in that classic New York way. This gives the older generation the chance to remember those special moments of the past, and helps the younger generation have a better understanding of the sports past. Therefore, since people like John do not come around everyday it is important that we take the time to listen and understand the history of this sport through someone as gifted in the art of commutation of the stories he tells in the funny and exciting way that only he can tell them.
Now I would like to thank the marketing partners of my articles: