Stories Of People Who Make A Living In Motorsports
BY STEVE JOHNSON
Steve Johnson is the current president and CEO of Champ Car, the body that sanctions the Champ Car World Series and the Champ Car Atlantic Championship. Steve is coming up on his second anniversary as Champ Car president and CEO, and during his tenure he has introduced two new race cars, reinvigorated Champ Car’s ladder series and reintroduced the Champ Car World Series to the European market.
Like most fans of motorsports, my passion was born at the first race I attended.
There is nothing that compares to the combination of thundering sounds, exotic smells and bright, but blurred colors as the cars race by.
For me, the introduction was at an NHRA drag race while I was working for a company looking to increase its sponsorship. From the moment I attended my first race, I knew that was where I wanted to be. My career move into auto racing began with the NHRA where I was vice president of Sales and then I moved on to the Sports Car Club of America where I was the first person to serve as the president and CEO of both the club and professional organizations.
When I came to Champ Car in September 2005, both the Champ Car World Series and the Champ Car Atlantic Championship were getting ready for major changes that would help restore both series back to where they once were.
Over the last two years, I cannot be more proud of what we have accomplished with the Atlantic Series. We introduced a more cost-effective Swift chassis, with a Mazda engine that has seen our field continue to grow. Another factor in its significant growth from 2005 is the $2 million prize awarded to the series champion, giving them the means to climb up to and compete in the Champ Car World Series.
The success is already showing as Graham Rahal and 2006 Atlantic champ Simon Pagenaud have both been competitive in their rookie seasons.
And when Atlantic drivers graduate to the Champ Car World Series, they get the opportunity to drive on a level playing field thanks to the DP01 chassis introduced this season.
Putting the control in the drivers’ hands, the design of the DP01 allows for close competitive racing without driver aids, there is no traction control or power steering, and the drivers must muscle the car through the streets of Long Beach or Toronto or finesse it through the carousel at Road America.
So far this season, the DP01 has performed admirably. Though there were teething problems at the start, the new chassis has produced closer, more exciting racing as 11 different drivers have been on the podium this season. We are coming off a great stretch of races that saw Champ Car triumphantly return to Europe for events in Belgium and The Netherlands.
Boisterous crowds at both venues showed we truly are a World Series. As our season begins to wane, we are already looking to a tremendous 2008. We are excited about our television package with the ESPN family of networks. We have a consistent television partner that is bringing our great racing and festival atmosphere to everyone in the United States who can’t make it to our outstanding events.
Though we have had some struggles in the Champ Car World Series, we are continuing to grow and continuing to host the best open-wheel racing in the world.
(Original Print Date: September 12, 2007)