Para Indy Car Racer Michael Johnson


On August 13, 2005, 12-year-old Michael Johnson took part in a dirt-track motorcycle competition at Hiawatha Horse Park in Sarnia, Ontario.

While making his move into the lead going into the last lap at the half-mile track, Michael ran out of tear offs and was wiping his helmet shield when he hit a rut, and veered off the track. His 250cc bike went between hay bales and crashed through a fence, sending him over the handlebars.

Michael broke his collarbone, right ribs, left ankle and left leg. He had also fractured the T5 and T6 vertebrae in his back that caused paralysis from the mid chest down.

Michael was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Sarnia, and then transferred to Children Hospital in Detroit.

Two days later, he underwent an 11-hour surgery, and he still has four rods and 15 screws in his back. In 2009, Michael had stem cell surgery and currently follows an aggressive physical therapy program in hopes to improve his condition. Nevertheless, he resolved to resume racing, setting a goal to become the first paralyzed driver to participate in the IndyCar Series.


Racing again!

Michael spent nearly a year engaging in treatments, including skin grafts for pressure sores, before doctors gave him the okay to again participate in physical activities.

His father purchased a go-kart and secured hand controls originally developed by CRG for CART champion Alex Zanardi, who returned to competition after a crash in 2001 that resulted in the amputation of his legs. On Christmas Eve in 2006, Michael got into the go-kart and drove it around the parking lot of the paint-coating business that his father owns.

As a result of a successful parking lot test, Michael raced the go-kart in 2007 at the East Lansing (Mich.) Kart Track, taking first place in the Junior SuperCan class and earning "driver of the year" status at the track.

The following year, he finished first in the Rotax Junior class in Michigan and qualified for the Rotax nationals in Wisconsin. Then in 2009, Michael moved up to the Great Lakes Pro Series and scored six first-place finishes in the Rotax class, as well as twelve podium finishes in the Tag and Pro classes.

Michael says his experience with motorcycles helped him adapt to hand controls. "It's not too different, since I had to use my hands for the clutch and throttle on the bike. I can feel some parts of the kart, but I can't feel the front when it starts to push. I have to get extra seat time in the kart, and then I usually figure things out."


Michael Johnson: "I'm never going to give up. Racing is my life."

2009 was the first year Michael started to race in the Skip Barber formula car series, which were modified to be driven with hand controls. After a partial schedule in the Skip Barber series in 2010, Michael ran the entire Skip Barber summer series in 2011, scoring three wins, seven podium finishes, thirteen top five finishes resulting third in the overall championship.

In 2012 Michael will drive the # 54 Universal Coating / Coloplast / / RedLine Oil JDC Motorsports entry in all rounds of the 2012 Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda Series.

The series is the firts steps in the "Mazda Road to Indy" development ladder system that was introduced by the IndyCar Series in 2009 and is designed to advance career-minded drivers to the IZOD IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500.

Michael is inspired by Danica Patrick, who broke the gender barrier by winning an IndyCar race. Michael's goal is to bust barriers by becoming the first paralyzed driver in the IndyCar Series and to run the Indy 500, one of the most prestigious races in the world.
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