MOUNT MORRIS, MI. - Like dozens of other young drivers competing on the Mazda Road to Indy, 20-year-old Michael Johnson of Flint, Mich., is working hard to make it to the top of the U.S. open-wheel ladder and, ultimately, to compete in the world famous Indianapolis 500.
The fact that the former flat track motorcycle champion is paralyzed from the mid-chest down is both compelling and ground-breaking in equal measure. Johnson races a revolutionary hand-controlled car and his efforts over the last 18 months have now been recognized by Mazda who has named him as one of the “Game Changers” featured in its national advertising and marketing campaign.
Johnson was on his way to becoming a professional motorcycle racer, having won races and championships at regional and national levels, when, on August 13, 2005, he was involved in an on-track racing accident which left him paralyzed. After several years of recovery, Johnson has started racing and, thanks to his unique hand control system, winning again. His goal is to become the first paralyzed driver to compete in the Indianapolis 500.
Mazda’s year-long “Game Changers” advertising campaign will showcase various historical figures that have developed a new way to excel at their respective disciplines. Through courage, creativity and conviction, these individuals have defied convention and changed the “game” in which they “played”.
“For me to be included amongst cultural icons like Laird Hamilton and Dick Fosbury is kind of mind-blowing,” Johnson explained. “While I’m absolutely thrilled to be thought of by Mazda in the same class as two personalities who absolutely revolutionized their chosen pursuits, it’s hard for me to think of what I do in those terms. That is for other people to decide; my goal is to simply be accepted as a fast young driver just like all of my counterparts on the Mazda Road to Indy.”
"The Game Changers campaign will be a different approach to creative advertising from Mazda," said Harvey Marco, Creative Director, Garage Team Mazda. "Telling the story of Mazda's past and the historical things they have done, the Game Changers campaign uses similar ground-breaking stories from individuals in history who did things differently, which resulted in them rising above their competition,"
Johnson’s portion of the campaign can be seen in publications such as Popular Mechanics, Esquire, Car & Driver and Road & Track throughout 2013. It will feature full-page advertisements with web and online versions also linking to a two-minute video where Johnson outlines his amazing story in his own words.
Johnson will next compete in the 2013 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda on the streets of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on July 13th and 14th.
To watch the Game Changer ad campaign video click here.
About Michael Johnson: Twenty-year-old paralyzed racer, Michael Johnson, is the first and only paralyzed licensed INDYCAR driver. Johnson was on his way to becoming a professional motorcycle racer, having won races and championships at regional and national levels, when. on August 13, 2005, he was involved in an on-track racing accident which left him paralyzed from the mid-chest down.
After several years of recovery, Johnson has started racing and winning again and now has set his goal to become the first paralyzed driver to compete in the Indianapolis 500.
Johnson drives his specially modified race car with hand controls and he became the first paralyzed racer to win in an open-wheel formula car during round two of the Skip Barber Summer Series at Watkins Glen International Raceway in 2011. Johnson went on to claim two further victories at Road America, and finished the 2011 season with three wins, one pole position, four third place podiums and several top five finishes.
In 2012 Johnson moved up to the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda with championship-winning team JDC MotorSports. This is Step One of the “Mazda Road to Indy” program.
In his first year as a professional licensed INDYCAR driver Johnson had several top-ten finishing positions in qualifying and races on his way to 15th position overall in the series. Johnson is, once again, competing with JDC MotorSports in the 2013 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
Follow Michael on Facebook@michaeljohnsonracing, Twitter @racer54iscool and Instagram @johnsonracing54.
For more information, please visit: www.MichaelJohnsonRacing.com.