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Herman "Herm"  Johnson

Herman "Herm" Johnson

December 10, 2016

Herman Austin Johnson crossed the finish line on Saturday, December 10, 2016. Herm was born and raised in Eau Claire in 1953 to the late Austin & Mildred Johnson. His family owned Austin's White House restaurant with a garage across the street where Herms passions took hold. It was there his father Austin, encouraged and sponsored Herm into professional racing and painting. The garage was also where Herm first met John Menard. Herm painted a 1924 Buick Opera Coupe for John and asked him to sponsor his race car in lieu of payment.Thus began a life-long friendship and Menard's foray in professional racing.

Herm was a race car driver, an artist, a friend to many and his most cherished role, a father to daughter Austin. Herm started racing go-karts while still in elementary school. He rose to prominence in the late 70's by winning the SCCA Super Vee Nationals in 1976 and USAC's Mini Indy championship in 1977. In 1981, Herm qualified for the Indianapolis 500 but was bumped by three-thousandth of a second. Herm raced the 1982 and 1984 Indianapolis 500 finishing in 9th and 8th place respectively. During the 1982 Indy 500, Rick Mears bumped into the back of Herms car during a pit stop. For his next race Herm trimmed the back edge of his rear wing with the message "Rick...if you can read this, you're too close."  Herm had 35 CART starts with his best finish of sixth at Atlanta in '82. His professional racing career ended in 1986 after a horrific crash during practice at Indy.

Herm was also an exceptional painter and artist his entire life with his work featured in Hot Rod Magazine and Auto Week. After retiring from racing, Herm remained involved with the sport via a successful graphics design business specializing in helmets, race cars and motorcycles called Just Herm Designs. He has done work for several Indy 500 winners as well as IRL and NHRA Champions. Herm was the first helmet painter in the country. He was also a driving instructor at Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota.

Johnson remained a regular visitor to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500 and enjoyed taking his daughter there the last few years. "Every year when I go back and the call is for 'Gentlemen start your engines,' it brings tears to my eyes." 

Herm is survived by his devoted daughter, Austin Marie, other family and many dear friends. Special thanks to John Kurtz, Dawn Johnson, Michelle Johnsted, Cary Capparelli and so many more who have helped with Herm's care.

Checkered flag!


Celebration of Life: 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 20, 2016 at Evergreen Funeral Home

Visitation: from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Monday, December 19 at the funeral home

A private interment will take place at a later date

In lieu of flowers, memorials to the family are preferred