Michael Johnson, 22, is currently the first and only paralyzed driver who is licensed by INDYCAR to compete in the series' developmental ladder program, which prepares drivers for the VERIZON IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500.
In 2005, Johnson went from being an up-and-coming motorcyclist, with 14 national titles to his name, to being paralyzed from the mid-chest area down.
He was only 12 when he was involved in an accident, as he moved into the lead, going into the last lap at a half-mile dirt track, while racing his motorcycle. He broke his collarbone, right ribs, left ankle and left leg. He also fractured the T5 and T6 vertebrae in his back, which caused paralysis. He currently has four rods and 15 screws in his back, after undergoing an 11-hour surgery. In 2009, he had stem cell surgery in Portugal and currently follows an aggressive training program.
Johnson considered the incident a bump in the road, and has continued his mission of being a professional racing driver. Today, he drives his specialty-equipped racecar with hand controls, and turns heads when he rises from his racecar to climb into his other set of wheels – his wheelchair.
If you take anything away from meeting Johnson, or hearing his story, it's that anything is possible. Johnson took the cards life dealt him and is doing things most able-bodied people only dream of.
For his impressive career and athletic determination, Johnson was inducted into the Athletes with Disabilities Hall of Fame and received the Spirit Award in 2012.
In 2015, Johnson will compete in his second season in the PRO MAZDA series before completing the final step in the Mazda Road to Indy in 2016, in the Indy Lights series. The final two steps will complete Johnson's quest to turn pro, and attempt to qualify for the famed Indianapolis 500 in the following years.
While lining up for the Indianapolis 500 as the first paralyzed driver to compete in the 100-year history of the event will, undoubtedly, make headlines around the world, Johnson isn't a disabled young man in the racecar. He's as motivated and capable as any racing driver to compete, and is determined to prove how deserving he is of success.
Hobbies: Hanging out with friends, watching movies, playing video games, traveling, training at the gym
Racing goal: Race in the Indy 500
Racing hero: Sebastian Vettel
My fitness routine includes: Work out with my trainer two-three days a week and therapy twice a week
Any pre-race rituals or superstitions: Always hope and pray for the best!
The one talent I wish I had: To be super flexible
An interesting note about me: I’m paralyzed from the hips down