Johnny Vassh: The 1968 Dodge Super Bee

Johnny Vassh: The 1968 Dodge Super Bee

The 22-year-old Johnny Vassh races a car that’s more than twice his age. He campaigns a 1968 Dodge Super Bee in vintage and hobby stock classes. Vassh took it this week to the Bristol Dirt Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee. It’s been a rough go for Vassh at the place dubbed “The Last Great Colosseum.”

“The first night, in practice, the freeze plug popped out of the engine,” said Vassh, of Racine, Wisconsin. “It dumped water on my back tires, spun me sideways, and I put the front fender into the wall.”

Vassh incurred mostly cosmetic damage to the car. However, the Tuesday hobby stock feature was far less kind.

“After I took the checkers, the car died and wouldn’t restart — the engine locked up,” Vassh said.

That ended Vassh’s Bristol Dirt Nationals. Vassh and his father, John Vassh, do all their own work to the car, including building the engines. They’ll take a more detailed look at the Chrysler 360-cid LA V-8 when they return home to the Badger State.

Vassh bought the 1968 Dodge Super Bee as a white car from David Blair, of Perris, California. Blair raced it near where he lived, but the car also made appearances away from the track.

“It was in the Dodge Ram commercial [during the] 2012 Daytona 500,” said Vassh. “It was in a Vanity Fair magazine shoot with Chris Pratt.”

Some cringe at seeing an antique car, especially one with so much history, compete in conditions where it could get seriously harmed.

“It’s kind of polarizing,” Vassh said of the reaction about racing the Super Bee. “People think either I’m an asshole and it’s super cool.”

During the Bristol Dirt Nationals, Vassh said the reaction has been one-sided.

“They have been loving it,” said Vassh. “I feel like Richard Petty. If I’m there, with the car, people are always walking up, taking pictures, and talking with me.”

Coincidentally, Richard Petty, who’s best known for racing Mopar products such as the Super Bee, made an appearance during the event. Johnny Vassh would have loved to meet him. While one can question racing an antique car, there’s no question about Vassh’s respect for history. Vassh has a tattoo of vintage cars raced by his grandfather, named John Vassh as well, his father, and himself.

“I was disappointed,” Vassh said. “[Richard Petty’s] my hero. It killed me to know I was there, with my car, and he was also there, but I didn’t get to see him or sign my car or helmet.”

Johnny Vassh has a tattoo of vintage cars driven by three generations of “John Vassh” — his grandfather’s 1957 Ford, his father’s 1971 Dodge Charger, and his 1968 Dodge Super Bee.