Michael Johnson aims to become first paralyzed driver in Indianapolis 500
The first thing Tim Johnson remembers hearing from the son who had gone unexpectedly airborne that dreary August afternoon seven years ago in southern Canada, a 12-year-old bucked from his 250cc motorcycle like a clueless bull rider, was that he could not feel his legs.
|USF2000 driver Michael Johnson|
Michael Johnson could not feel his legs, he later learned, because there was no way of feeling them. At the moment his chest, hurtling toward a wooden fence at almost 80 mph, met the handlebars of a dirt bike that refused to go any farther, the paraplegia was immediate. His back was broken. The T5 and T6 vertebrae, like the panels of the fencing in his wake, were in pieces.
Johnson knew none of that when he found the next few words to say to his father. He knew only that the race was over, and that he had lost, and that half of his body was now failing him.
"But immediately after that," Tim Johnson recalled earlier this week, "he made the comment that he didn't want to quit racing."
Neither father nor son could have known then how possible that dream was, nor could they guess it would ever get much grander. But it was, and it did.
On Tuesday, having signed the last of several dozen autographs as the sun's fading rays splashed across the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, Johnson sat in his wheelchair and explained what he hoped this weekend's Grand Prix of Baltimore would bring. Of course, there was the possibility of a win today, the first of his USF2000 season and a sure-fire salve to an uneven campaign in the lowest rung of IndyCar's Road to Indy ladder. But a win would only feel good, he knew, if it meant he was one step closer to the Indianapolis 500, a mecca of motorsports and a racetrack no paralyzed IndyCar driver has ever before circled.
"The zone I'd like to be in right now would be a zone where, when we're out on the track and we're waiting for something to happen, the light bulb just clicks and you really get into that rhythm where you're quick in the good laps, you're at podiums, you're winning races," Johnson said. "That's what I'm waiting for right now." More at Baltimore Sun