Editor’s note: I had planned on posting a few pic’s with this but have been having internet issues this week so I am posting part 1 of the interview and will get the pic’s for part 2 coming later next week.
Some call him John John, others call him Johnny, some even call him JJ,he has even answered to smiley, but me, I call him Superman, because when you sit and talk to him he is just as calm and mild mannered, but let him strap a helmet on and he transforms in to Superman!, but most call him Johnny Cloer Jr.(hint it is pronounced Clure)
I have had the honor of knowing Johnny and his dad for almost 20 years, and he is one of the nicest, most honest, young men I have ever meet. Johnny and I talked about tracks, people, races, and racing in general. He gave me his views on things in racing, tracks and drivers. Here is bits and pieces of our talk.
The dr.: How did the thing with Clint Smith come about?
Johnny: Well I was working where I work now at Accurate Mechanical, and you know how it is working in them kind of places and I was getting burned out, well Eric Cables with Racetek and I was talking, he knew I was looking to change, and Clint’s crew chief was going to get married so he was going to have to quit, so Eric who also does Clint’s motors, mentioned it to Clint, so Clint and I talked and I told him what I was looking for and I would like to help him but I still wanted to race too, well I just kind of forgot about it,and about a month later he called me and asked if I was still interested, I told him yeah, and he asked if I could start that weekend, so Eric drove me up to Hagarstown Maryland, where they were on a road trip, and Eric dropped me off, I finished out that road trip and we came home, but it was in Fargo N.D. the first time I drove for him, and it was a 2 night show, he was going to let me run the first night,but he didn’t, I mean it was here he had this big hauler, and spare car, and all this money invested, and he had this kid who wanted to race and he didn’t know if I would crash or what, but Dale and Shane McDowell were out there, and they told him I would do a good job and not be stupid,
the dr.: Didn’t you out qualify him that night?
Johnny: I out qualified him, he ran 4th in his heat and I ran 3rd in mine, and boy the other drivers gave him down the road for that, letting his new crew chief jump in a back up and out run him! At the end of the race he was 5th or 6th, and I was 8th or 9th, but he was pleased with that and kind of impressed. It was more income for the team, I gradually got to race more and the more I ran the better I got, I made the show me 100, made the topless thing, qualified for the shootout, and got to race in Canada, several World of Outlaw shows..
the dr: Of all your time with Clint what stands out in your mind,?
Johnny: as far as a racing moment, it would be… me getting to race , in the topless race run 9th in it, almost won the heat race and Terry Phillips passed me on the last lap,lots of people recognized me and got the exposure, but on a non race, it was getting to meet all the people I have always read about and looked up to, you know, I would of never believed that I would be hanging out at a water park with Rick Eckert hanging on your head or Billy Moyer walking up and sitting down to just shoot the breeze, and getting to have Clint Smith as a friend, doing things with him riding bikes and just hanging out.
The dr.: what did you take away from your time with Clint?
Johnny: just being on the opposite of racing as a crew chief, learning to read the car and tracks, Clint and I have similar styles so it helped us out a bunch, it was different from what I was used to.
The dr.: from all your time with Clint who is the one person who stands out in your mind,
Johnny: I am not really a starstruck person, we did the deal with Jeff Gordon at the prelude, and all that, it was neat to be around those guys,but they put their pants on just like I do but as far as people who I was glad to meet, one of Clint’s friends Bob Moskey, who bought cars from Clint’s dad, we would stop by Bob’s house in Ohio and use his shop, I really felt at home there, all they done for me, and they are just really great people.
The dr.:I have known you since way back when, we worked together and spent lots more time together sometimes than we wanted, but I got to say I took you to Hooters for the first time in your life,
Johnny : I hadn’t ever even been out of Chatsworth then til you took me down there.
The dr: if you could take a fan out of the stands and let them know about Johnny Cloer and tell them anything you think they should know about you….
Johnny: I guess that I try to race as hard as possible every lap but as clean as possible every lap, when your on the race track your pretty much dealt a hand and you have to race the best you can.
The dr,: when you first started racing what did you want to more than anything,besides winning.
Johnny: I guess a big thing ……. at that time my dad’s dad was still alive and they had raced forever, to see him happy, to hear him say, “son you done good this week” it was seeing him happy, if I needed something he would do all he could, my Grandma had passed away, and he kept his money in the freezer and he took me out there, and would tell me” let me get you some of this cold cash I got here, “ and it was 4 or 5 hundred but then it was like a zillion Dollars, and I would try to pay him back and he would tell me that he gave it to me not to be paid back but to help you, he was then and still is a very big part of what I do.
The dr:How many years you been racing now,?
Johnny: started when I was 17 years old and I am 32 now…. so yeah about 15 years,
the dr:Now how many races have you won?
Johnny: I have no idea……. I guess it would be 30 something,
the dr: where did you win your first race?
Johnny: Sugar Creek, I won at sugar creek on Friday night my first race and come to North Ga and won on Saturday night so I won my first 2 races back to back on consecutive nights, it seemed like forever we would win the heat races then run second time after time, but when you win that first one it comes easier then.
The dr.:So what are you gonna do racing wise?
Johnny:I got one of Clint’s old GRT cars that ‘s what I am putting together right now. The guys from the Parker stores, Donnie Davison and his son Josh he is the the one who really likes racing, they are the only sponsor I got, except momma and daddy, probably do a steel head motor and run Boyd’s on Friday night and down here on Saturday nights, if there ,….. you can build a pretty good motor,to run some late model stuff, you just have to choose where you go with it,like TST with a weight break and a big spoiler, and boyds you don’t need any motor there,
the dr. What is the most fun race track you ever drove on,
Johnny:Talledega is fun, it may be just because I was always pretty good there,and we just get rained out and run down there, start like 14 or 15th and run up and won it, Batesville Ark is a drivers track, it is fun it gets slick, Rome is fun, NGS because it is like home….
The dr.: track you hate the worst?
Johnny: when I was driving for steve Ramsey, we went to southAlabamaa and run a crate race, Idon’t remember the name……but it was a little hole in the wall, track one lane, no passing……
the dr.: Nicest race track, you have ever been too,
Johnny: Charlotte, is really nice, but it is rough bad rough, I actually got to race there,in a ,we built a swing arm car,at GRT they had never built one and they were getting wore out by the Rayburn stuff up north,so Clint and Joe decided to build a swing arm car and I got to drive it the first time anyone ever drove it, we had sent a motor out there and they put it in, and it would run, but it wasn’t right, it was misfiring, really bad, Eric Cables said the MSD had been wired with the wrong polarity and killed the motor, but I got to race the swing arm car the first time it was ever driven.
The dr.: favorite car?
Johnny : guess it would be a GRT since I have been around them so much and just used to them.
the dr.:What car would you NOT drive again>?
Johnny: None of them…laughs.
It was fun talking to Johnny and there is lot’s more but it will come next week! stay tuned!