Johnny Mantz who was born in Indiana but grew up in Southern California worked on his family’s far...m before he started racing motorcycles. In 1940 he switched to racing midgets with the United Midget Association as a teammate to his car owner Gib Lilly before he enlisted in the military in April 1942.
With the war over Mantz resumed action with the United Racing Association (URA) and posted three feature wins during 1946. In 1947, Mantz finished second in the standings on the URA ‘Blue’ circuit for Offenhauser powered machines with eleven wins and placed eleventh in the ‘Red’ or non-Offenhauser circuit points with nine wins. During early June Johnny won five races in a three-week stretch and in September he won three races over a six-day period. “Joltin’ Johnny’s” 1947 season wins came at tracks in Bakersfield, Culver City, Carpinteria, the Rose Bowl and Balboa Stadiums and the Orange Show Speedway where Mantz won four features and scored six trophy dash wins.
After 1947 Mantz raced a ‘big car’ and championship car for JC Agajanian, won two American Automobile Association (AAA) championship car races, and was crowned the 1949 AAA Pacific Coast ‘big car’ champion. While he retired from racing open-wheel cars in early 1950, Mantz continued to race stock cars – he ran four of the five Mexican road races and scored a best finish of second in class in 1952. On Labor Day 1950, Mantz drove a 1950 Plymouth coupe to victory in the first 500-mile ‘Strictly Stock Car” race at Darlington South Carolina and he was crowned the inaugural 1956 USAC stock car champion.
Johnny lost his left arm after a horrific winter 1962 highway accident, and he died on October 25 1972 in another highway crash near his home in Ojai California. Mantz was inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame in 2004, and since 2009, the NASCAR ‘Southern 500’ has awarded the Darlington race winner the “Johnny Mantz Trophy.”