Paralyzed racer Michael Johnson will be part of JDC Motorsports team's lineup for this season's Cooper Tires USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda. The 19-year-old will become the first paralyzed driver to compete in the Mazda Road to Indy program, piloting a car specially equipped with hand controls.
The Michigan native will get behind the wheel of a Mazda-powered Van Diemen that has been converted to hand controls by JDC MotorSports with input from IndyCar and USF2000 technical staff and officials. The Skip Barber Racing front-runner will partner fellow series rookies Neil Alberico, Scott Hargrove, and Zac Silver under the JDC awning, having already accumulated more than nine full test days in the specially modified car.
"I cannot even tell you how excited the entire team is to add Michael to our 2012 roster," said JDC MotorSports team principal John Church. "Obviously, this is a unique program and, during testing, Michael has shown us that he will be up to the task and be competitive in our run for the championship in 2012."
"I'm so psyched to be competing in the USF2000 Championship with John Church and JDC MotorSports!" said Johnson. "My journey to compete in open-wheel racing has required unique attention, and I want to thank all the people who supported the efforts to get us on the Mazda Road to Indy. IndyCar and the USF2000 series have been supportive in working with us to make this happen. Many thanks to John and the entire JDC Motorsports team who made a miracle happen with the preparation of the car, and when we go racing next week in the Winterfest it will be a dream come true."
Johnson was an extremely successful amateur motorcycle racer, winning 14 national championships by the age of 12. In 2005, he was involved in a dirt track racing accident, which left him paralyzed from the mid chest down. After a long recovery, he received the green light from his doctors to again participate in physical activities.
In 2007, Johnson returned to motorsports competition, racing karts which were modified to be driven with hand controls. Not surprisingly, it was not long until Johnson started winning again, capturing the Junior SuperCan class championship, earning Driver of the Year honors. Continuing his winning ways in the Great Lakes Pro Series – scoring six victories in the Rotax class – the teenager elected to make the transition to car competition in 2009. Johnson, piloting a car modified to be driven with hand controls, made his debut in the Skip Barber Racing series. After running a partial schedule in 2010, he ran the Skip Barber Summer Series in 2011, scoring three wins and seven podium finishes en route to third place in the title fight.
JDC MotorSports and Johnson will officially commence their 2012 season on Feb. 6-7, when the No. 54 Universal Coating/Coloplast/FlatOutNation.com/Red Line Oil/JDC MotorSports entry takes to Sebring International Raceway for the opening triple header of the Cooper Tires Winterfest. The chase for Cooper Tires USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda supremacy gets under way on March 16-17, with rounds one and two at Sebring as part of the 60th Anniversary Mobil1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.