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Quail Hollow’s soon-to-be newest resident: Junior Johnson

Quail Hollow, site of this week’s Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament, is getting a famous new resident.

Junior Johnson, the NASCAR legend and Hall of Famer, plans to leave his native Brushy Mountains for a mid-June move to Charlotte’s upscale neighborhood.

“Yeah, my wife Lisa and I have bought a home at Quail Hollow and look forward to living there,” Johnson, resting on a sofa at his farm shop in Yadkin County, told The Observer on Friday.

Johnson scotched rumors that his farmland and expansive home atop a hill had been bought by the nearby Raffaldini Winery. “It’s still for sale,” he said.

Johnson never lived far from where he was born 80 years ago in Ronda, in Wilkes County.

A stretch of the U.S. 421 that runs through his property between Winston-Salem and North Wilkesboro is officially named “The Junior Johnson Highway.” That’s ironic, because it was on old Highway 421 that Johnson made many runs in a souped-up car loaded with moonshine in the late1940s and ’50s.

That ability to drive fast on the highway led Johnson to NASCAR. His stock car racing career produced 50 victories as a driver and 132 more, plus six championships in what is now the Sprint Cup Series, as a team owner.

The move to Quail Hollow comes as Johnson recovers from a life-threatening staph infection he contracted after back surgery at Duke University Medical Center in March.

“The infection almost got me. I came close to not making it,” Johnson said. “For 35 minutes or so I was essentially dead. The doctors worked desperately with me and finally I came back around.”

Johnson was isolated in the hospital’s intensive care unit for five weeks. He was released two weeks ago.

“I’m still pretty weak and I can’t walk very far right now,” Johnson said. “But I seem to be getting a little bit better each day.”

Johnson re-injured his back several months ago while working with a fork lift on his cattle farm. He’d undergone two previous surgeries on his spine.

“I’m staying off those things from now on,” Johnson said jokingly. “I doubt they would let me keep one at Quail Hollow anyway.”

Among Johnson’s new neighbors will be two NASCAR team owners, Rick Hendrick and Felix Sabates.

Johnson said many factors played into the decision to leave the farm he loved.

“Working the farm and cattle had just got to be too much for me,” he said. “It was a 24-hour-a-day job.

“I will miss having the big breakfasts here at the shop five days a week with my friends and farmhands, but at the same time I look forward to all the things that will be available to me and Lisa in Charlotte. For example, we’re really looking forward to going to the Panthers’ games.”

Since boyhood Johnson always has maintained a vegetable garden at his homes. Will he do so at ritzy Quail Hollow?

“I’ve already picked out a spot for my tomato patch,” Johnson said.

And will he wear overalls, his favorite attire?

“Lisa told me that I was going to have to throw them away,” answered Johnson. “But that ain’t going to happen.”