"Racing within INDYCAR has been a dream come true and I still have aspirations to compete in the Indy 500 one day," said the Michigan-native and former motorcyclist. "I will deeply miss the wonderful people in open-wheel racing and will continue to follow from a distance. Driving in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge was too good of an opportunity to pass up as I look ahead for longevity in my career. This will be a great foundation for me, as a paralyzed driver, to be groomed for a professional career in sports car racing. I couldn't be more excited for the challenges ahead."
The Continental Tire Challenge is the foundation for grooming amateur drivers to compete, professionally, in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship (to become the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship beginning in 2016). Johnson will drive in the Street Tuner (ST) Class, with a car prepared by JDC Miller Motorsport, for which he spent the previous four seasons with competing within INDYCAR's developmental ladder program.
His racecar will be specialty-equipped with hand controls provided by GuidoSimplex. Due to Johnson's paralysis, his car is a complicated brake and throttle system-he presses a ring on the front of the steering wheel to control the throttle and on the backside of the steering wheel, he pulls a separate ring towards him to apply the brakes.
Sports car racing has the highest automotive brand participation and promotion of any racing platform in the world, and the Continental Tire Challenge attracts a highly-desirable, affluent and educated fan-base. Sports car racing has an annual cumulative television audience of 10 million and all of the 2016 Continental Tire Challenge races will be televised on a tape-delayed basis by FOX Sports, and will be streamed, live, on IMSA.com.
"I've known both Michael Johnson and Stephen Simpson for a number of years and believe this team will be a great addition to the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge," said Beaux Barfield, IMSA race director. "Michael has demonstrated tremendous ability in open-wheel cars, which I expect will translate very well to sports cars. Paired with Stephen's natural talent, I think this team will be impressive. We're proud to have them in IMSA."
A 10-race schedule will showcase the 2016 Continental Tire Challenge, opening at Daytona International Speedway on Fri., Jan. 29, 2016, as part of the Rolex 24 At Daytona weekend. Participation also includes the annual three-day Roar Before the Rolex 24 test session, scheduled for Jan. 8-10, in Daytona Beach, Florida. The season will conclude Oct. 1, 2016 at Road Atlanta.
In addition to primary backing from Universal Coating, Johnson's racing efforts are also supported by: BraunAbility, Arai Helmets, and Adidas Motorsport.