Team Faith/Yamaha’s Kevin “KJ” Johnson Ascends To New Heights In Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series

“KJ’s” career spans the New Mexico “Mini Mart Locos” gang to Ponca & Loretta’s, AMA Supercross and now AMA Arenacross successes

AURORA, Ill., (Jan. 27, 2006) ¿ Team Faith/Yamaha’s Kevin “KJ” Johnson is coming on like a hurricane these past several races on the Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series tour. So much so that race announcer Tim Cotter says “KJ ¿ without question ¿ has been the fastest guy on the track during the second half of the season.”

KJ, not to be confused with the “other” Johnson ¿ series points leader Chad Johnson ¿ backed up Cotter’s claim with a 1-1 performance recently in Baltimore. In doing so he has moved into third place overall in the premier AMA Arenacross class (formerly 250 class) standings. Baltimore was KJ’s first win on the tour, the pinnacle of a motocross racing career that was born and shaped in one of the recently discovered hotbeds of motocross ¿ Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Brother to pro supercross/motocross racer Keith Johnson, cousin to pro racers Isaiah Johnson and Justin Buckelew, neighbor of Ryan Clark and the Tedesco’s ¿ Gio and Ivan ¿ KJ’s heritage in motocross runs as deep as a cupped-out rut on a loamy national course.

As lore would have it back in Albuquerque, the Tedescos lived in a pretty tough part of town and the young motocrossers adopted a `stick together’ gang mentality that young guys so often do. The leaders were Clark and Ivan Tedesco, pretty clutch acts to follow when you’re the younger KJ.

“Tedeco’s mom taught our bible study class when we were kids,” said KJ. “We all started riding at about five (years old), kind of like the Michigan Mafia. We copied them and ended up calling ourselves the `Mini Mart Locos.’ We had stickers made up and stuff, this little fake gang. We were total dorks.”

KJ continued: “For the longest time we just rode for fun as a family. I won Ponca in ’91 on 50s, but never really took it serious until like 2000. Buckelew won everything on 80s. I never really won any championships, but was always in the top five at Ponca, Vegas (GPs), Texas (Oak Hill and Lake Whitney) and Loretta’s with guys like Brian McGavern, Billy Payne and Billy Laninovich.”

An easy-going KJ was more into the fun than the seriousness of motocross; it became apparent to him and those around him that he was, in fact, lightning fast. In ’98 he broke through with a 125 Mod Intermediate class win at Ponca, which set into his mind that he could actually make motocross racing a career. He transitioned into the pro ranks a couple years later in 2001 with the MotoworldRacing.com supercross team, racing the five West Coast AMA Supercross Lites (then 125 class) rounds and some amateur nationals that summer, finishing second to Laninovich at Lake Whitney. He also got a taste of the AMA Outdoor Nationals ¿ which included a mouthful of the fresh, Upstate New York soil at Unadilla.

 

“That year at Unadilla I was second in the day qualifier on Saturday and was running in the top 20 on Sunday (Lites class) when I high-sided on a fast straight and knocked myself coo-coo,” said KJ. “So I ended up kind of throwing away my shot at the Loretta’s title that summer.”

Undaunted, in 2002 KJ came ripping back. Hooked up with his brother, Keith, and Ryan Clark on the LCR Racing team, KJ took a 4th in the AMA Supercross Lites class at Anaheim 2 and ended up 11th overall in the Western Region AMA Supercross points. Unfortunately, the summer would again provide more crash highlight footage, with KJ stating: “I seemed to always crash a lot more at the Nationals.”

So supercross it was. In 2003 KJ scored a ride with the Star/Yamaha Racing Team, along with brother, Keith, and cousin Isaiah. KJ was the top-finishing Yamaha bike at Anaheim 1 that year and w tied fifth overall in the points chase at Phoenix before he crashed himself out of the season.

Taking a year off serious supercross racing brought KJ to last year’s AMA National Arenacross Series. His first year racing arenacross in 2004/’05, KJ got lined up with Team Faith ¿ a ministry-based motocross team running Yamaha bikes. Success came quickly to KJ as he scored a number of podium finishes and came in 4th overall in the points at the end of his first year on the National AX tour.

With his mind set on entering the 2005/’06 Toyota AMA National Arenacross season “in shape and with some more experience,” KJ instead came into the arenacross season limping. He decided to race the East Coast 250 Canadian Nationals this past summer and was running in the top five overall in points when he cartwheeled bad off a jump and right into a hospital bed and traction. Out of action for five months, KJ had ridden for only two weeks before arriving in Albany (N.Y.) for the season opener.

“My goal was to come into the season in better shape and with some more experience,” said KJ. “Things obviously didn’t quite go as planned, but I feel I’ve learned from the incident and feel now I’m back into my speed and without the stupidity that goes with throwing myself onto the ground.”

To open the second half of the Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series season, KJ was leading Dallas when he swapped in the whoops and gave the lead to Chad Johnson. He came firing back the next weekend at Baltimore and went 1-1 for his first arenacross win and sweep ever. Last weekend at Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Okla., KJ had the fastest lap times on both nights, sketched on Friday, but bounced right on Saturday with a 2nd in the premier AMA Arenacross class.

“Everything’s going well now,” said KJ. “Those two wins gave me the confidence I needed. I knew I had the speed and could run with anybody in our series. And now I know that not only can I run with them, I’m healthy enough now to beat them at the end of 20 laps.”

The tour stops in Hampton, Va., this weekend and fans of Toyota AMA National Arenacross have three more races to catch the impressive Kevin Johnson show. He’s in third place right now in the overall standing, a ways back from Brock Sellards and Chad Johnson, but on the overall podium nonetheless. And when the series culminates at the Denver Coliseum on Feb. 10-11, KJ and Team Faith pick it right back up the following weekend in St. Louis (Edward Jones Dome) for the opening round of the Amp’d Mobile AMA Supercross Series’ Eastern Region Lites competition.

Tickets are available online at www.arenacross.com, www.ticketmaster.com, www.tickets.com.

For more information on the Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series log on to www.arenacross.com.

About Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series and Arenacross

In its 22nd year, the Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series is the premier indoor motocross series in the U.S. playing to sold-out arenas nationwide.  In addition to the marquee national tour, the Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series is supported by a regionally based Arenacross tour which provides both professional and amateur motocross riders the opportunity to race in front of sold-out arenas.  Information on the Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series and other Arenacross events may be found at www.arenacross.com

About AMA Pro Racing

AMA Pro Racing is the leading sanctioning body for motorcycle sport in the United States. Its properties include the Amp’d Mobile AMA Supercross Series, the AMA Motocross Championship presented by FMF, the AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited, the AMA Ford Quality Checked Flat Track Championship and the AMA Supermoto Championship. For more information about AMA Pro Racing, visit www.amaproracing.com.

About HPPR

High Profile Public Relations, LLC is a multi-faceted communications agency specializing in strategic media relations ¿ both industry and mainstream ¿ for the powersports and action sports communities. Dialed in with all forms of power and action sports, its participants, manufacturers and live event promoters, HPPR’s Pat Schutte can be reached at (734) 369-2170 and pat@highprofilepr.com. For more information, please visit www.highprofilepr.com.

 

United States. Its properties include the Amp’d Mobile AMA Supercross Series, the AMA Motocross Championship presented by FMF, the AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited, the AMA Ford Quality Checked Flat Track Championship and the AMA Supermoto Championship. For more information about AMA Pro Racing, visit www.amaproracing.com.

About HPPR

High Profile Public Relations, LLC is a multi-faceted communications agency specializing in strategic media relations ¿ both industry and mainstream ¿ for the powersports and action sports communities. Dialed in with all forms of power and action sports, its participants, manufacturers and live event promoters, HPPR’s Pat Schutte can be reached at (734) 369-2170 and pat@highprofilepr.com. For more information, please visit www.highprofilepr.com.