Shuster Johnston (second from left) and his No. 77 driving team of Don Fletcher (from left)

Shuster Johnston (second from left) and his No. 77 driving team of Don Fletcher (from left)

After 40 years, Johnston calling it a career

Stock car driver Wayne “Shuster” Johnston is going out his way, by the numbers.

Stock car driver Wayne “Shuster” Johnston is going out his way, by the numbers.

After all, 77 was the number that graced the side of his multiple legendary winning cars and, after 40 years in the racing business, at age 77 with countless track records and titles under his belt, Johnston figures it’s time to hang up his racing suit.

“I’m already going goofy,” Johnston said of not racing this season. “But 77 years (old) is a start. It’s not like we can’t do it. I’ve toyed with the idea of getting another car but my wife doesn’t seem to like that very much.”

A room filled with trophies from 23 championships in more than five different classifications, a rookie of the year title from Thunder Mountain Speedway in 1973, a gold medal from the BC Games in 1974 and a scrapbook overflowing with newspaper clippings both good and bad highlight a career full of memories to remind him of his glory days.

Johnston moved from Lulu Island (Richmond) to Riske Creek in 1948 when his parents bought the general store. He then came to Williams Lake to look for work and, eventually, found himself a career in excavating — a business he’s worked in for the past 60 years.

His foray into the racing world began when he was literally dragged to a track by a friend.

“I didn’t even want to go,” he said, noting he was 38 years old at the time.

As he watched a racer, Larry Bulitsky — the racer to beat in the early 70s — beat the pack in a 1957 Chevy, he was unimpressed.

“I went out and thought: ‘I can do a better job than those guys,’” he said.

His friend convinced him to prove it.

“My first year I never won a race but finished second and was hooked. I’ve done it ever since.”

The stories about his many victories, more often than not, aren’t his favourites. Johnston is the first to admit the sport of racing is a team effort.

“It’s all camaraderie is what it is,” Johnston said, pointing to his team of dedicated racing crew members over the years.

“The guys hang out and win, lose or draw it is what it is. It’s a team sport all the way. It’s a pricey sport to hang in there and my guys, they’ve been around so long.”

He said Andy McCallum, his early crew chief who moulded the No. 77 team into what it is today, plus crew members Murray Driver, Terry ‘Rusty’ Rust, Vince Lafek, Don Fletcher, Darren Bailey, Larry ‘Sparky’ Bethune, Grant Overton, Brian Nicholson, Dan Prins, Gerry Fluttert, Wayne Randall, Peter Becker, Bryan Desilets, Derrick Berry, Dale Stickle, Barrie ‘the tire guy’ Brown, Fatty Fellows and Billy Nelson all helped him succeed in the sport.

He also thanked his many sponsors from throughout the years for making it possible for him to afford to race.

Asked why more young people aren’t getting into racing, Johnston said the sport requires some deep pockets.

“I’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on race cars,” he said.

“The young guys coming into the sport just don’t have the money and it’s a shame. I got fairly good and you get sponsors because you win. The young fellas are a little rambunctious. They wreck a lot of stuff before they learn.

“It’s more of a challenge to beat the rookies than the good guys, though. You try to school the rookies. I always said, ‘lad, you don’t win every race. Wait to pounce. You wait ‘til there’s an opening, you don’t make one.’”

Johnston has one final piece of advice for those coming into the sport: refuse to lose.

“I’m not leaving on a sour note,” he said. “I love the sport.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chief Joe Alphonse
OP-ED: Williams Lake municipal, regional councils lack awareness on historical trauma

Systemic racism isn’t always obvious to those that are not experiencing it

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
36 new cases of COVID-19, one death in Interior Health

The number of active cases in the region is at 366

The City of Williams Lake is asking for public feedback on whether it should explore the opportunity to host a Greater Metro Hockey League team in Williams Lake. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake GMHL expansion questions, concerns, to be discussed later this month

If approved, the team would begin play in the fall of 2021

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Second death reported in Kelowna General Hospital COVID-19 outbreak

A total of seven cases have been identified at the hospital: six patients and one staff

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

(File photo)
Kamloops Mountie bitten while arresting woman

The assault on March 1 is the latest in a string of incidents that have left local officers injured

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

Most Read