Tell us about your racing background and how you came to race at the Lucas Oil Regional series:
Racing has been in our family’s blood for years. I am a 4th generation racer following in the footsteps of my great grandpa Bill Johnson, and great Uncles Jack Johnson and Scott Harden who are both AMA Hall of Famers and legends in off-road racing. I got my first motorcycle on my third birthday. My family raced motocross for years until my dad got hurt and required surgery. During his recovery he bought me and my brother BMX bikes and we began racing. I turned expert at 5 years old and at 6 won the CA state championship.
One week before my 6th birthday I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes which turned our lives upside down. I continued BMX racing for a year and finished N.A.G #7 that year. It became too difficult to manage my diabetes so we decided to take a break. Once we got my diabetes “semi” under control and my dad recovered from his injury, we decided to start racing motocross again. I raced several different motorcycles for a couple years and loved every minute of it. Things changed significantly for me after my 8th birthday. I had a horrific accident while practicing on my home track, going over the handle bars and landing on my head. I ripped all my muscles and ligaments off the base of my skull and fractured C1 and C2 vertebrae. The surgeon attached titanium rods and hardware to my C3 vertebrae and base of my skull in order to stabilize my head and neck. It was a true miracle I survived especially without permanent paralysis. We were told that I could never ride again or play contact sports. I was extremely fragile and would remain that way for the rest of my life according to the doctors. The pain in my neck became excruciating over time. After a couple years the doctor went in to do exploratory surgery. He found that my muscles and ligaments had reattached so they removed the rods and hardware. After several months in a C-collar and several months of exercises to strengthen the muscles the doctor said my neck was 100% back to normal. Once again I was blessed with a true miracle. After a while we bought a play razor, I liked it so much that last year we decided I was safe enough to race again. Instead of going back to motorcycles, this time it would be a Razor on a short course track. My dad bought me a RZR 900 and we headed to the Lucas Oil Southern California Regionals. Not knowing what the season would hold for me, I finished second overall in the class. After careful consideration, we decided to purchase a Pro-buggy this year and begin racing in both the Southern California and Arizona Lucas Oil Regional series. Racing both series this year has helped me to work on my driving skills and prepare for my dream of racing the Lucas Oil Nationals next year.
Your family seems to be a big part of your team. How important are they to your success and what roles do they each play on race weekends?
Racing would not be possible without my family. Our family bond is so strong because of all of the obstacles we’ve been through. Through every tragedy we’ve become stronger. My parents work very hard to support my racing financially and physically. They devote all of their time and money so I can continue to race. My dad is always working on the car and figuring out what we need to make progress. My mom plays a big part in managing my diabetes, which is more than just at race time. She has to make sure I am eating right and that my blood sugars are within good range around the clock so that I am at my optimal performance. My brother is part of our team, he spots for me as well as helps in the pits and prepping of the car. I have Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents and cousins who all come out on race weekends and help make my it a success. My Uncle Jake helps in the hot pit and Aunt Pattie with food prep and the cheer squad. It seems like everyone jumps in and helps wherever needed. Since we have come from a large racing background, it is no surprise that my family enjoys helping and watching me race.
You moved from a RZR900 to a Pro buggy, how did this require you to adjust your driving style?
Moving out of a RZR 900 to a Pro buggy was challenging. I was lucky to get experience driving my dad’s prerunner. Driving a pro-buggy, you have to adapt to the car and become familiar with shifting, the turning break and knowing how to work the car around the track. You must learn patients in order to have a good outcome.
We’ve seen your team listed as Type 1 Motorsports. Tell us about this name and what it means.
As you may know, I am a Type 1 diabetic. I was diagnosed at 6 years old and have struggled with many obstacles. Most people diagnosed with diabetes are told they cannot race and/or participate in certain activities. But with good diabetes management, family support and the right equipment anything is possible. There are so many people with disabilities in the world today and I want to show them that when you work hard you can achieve the impossible. My goal is to get awareness to people that Type 1 Diabetics are just like everyone else and I am proud to be a diabetic. When choosing my race number I even decided to go with the number 11 as it represents National Diabetes month.
What is your advice to start out in short course off road racing?
My advice would be to come out and watch a few Lucas Oil races before deciding which class to race. I would suggest the UTV class being that it’s the most affordable class. It’s an awesome experience with competitive drivers. You will meet a lot of great people and have a lot of family fun. The Lucas Oil crew provides a great venue for all.
Any goals for the next few years and beyond?
My goal is to race the Lucas Oil Nationals next year and continue to show type 1 diabetics and people with disabilities that you can achieve the impossible. I am hoping we can pick up some additional sponsors that will help me stay competitive in the Nationals within the next couple of years. Someday I hope to race a Pro2, but for now I hope to keep racing while I continue High School and off to College next year.
It obviously takes a lot of support to race. Is there anyone you would like to thank for their support?
I would like to thank my mom and dad for their hard work and always supporting me in my journey through life. I would also like to thank my brother for all his hard work and always being there for me. Thank you to my extended family (Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents and Friends) for all your support. Finally, I’d like to thank my sponsors: Dave Parsons Fabrication, Empire Destructive, Sturgeon Construction, SNM Media, Fortin, Summers Brothers Racing, Racetech Seats, OMF Performance, Undaunted Apparel, Vagabond Welding Supply, King Shocks and DC Shock Services . Thank you again to all the above mentioned, racing would not be possible without all of you!