For Jerick Johnson, racing is more than a passion. It is also an avenue to raise awareness for veterans and first responders, as they did throughout Florida Speedweeks while competing at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway.
Johnson has long competed in Late Model events in the No. 76 POW/MIA “Freedom Car.” The team frequently participates in events raising awareness and funds for veterans and first responders.
“If you see us around the country, we often take part in the National Anthem, doing POW ceremonies and that kind of stuff,” explained Johnson. “MyComputerCareer, the last few years has stepped up their sponsorship of the POW/MIA Freedom Car. They’ve added a new element to what we do by creating a non-profit called Helping Heroes.”
Through Helping Heroes, Team Johnson Motorsports has been able to extend its outreach and expand its impact.
“Not only do we do a lot of stuff with POW and MIA, but now with Helping Heroes, some of the newer-day problems of our veterans like mental health issues, PTSD and finding jobs, Helping Heores was created to help with that aspect of veterans and service members, as far as police and first responders, people like that.”
Throughout the World Series, Helping Heroes raised money for veterans. Furthermore, Johnson donated his winnings from the World Series to Helping Heroes.
“It was a little over a couple thousand dollars over Speedweeks,” said Johnson. We were able to give the first responders and the people that come to the New Smyrna track and take care of us a ceremony and presented them there at New Smyrna, the ambulance and the first responders gift baskets to show our appreciation with Freedom Car t-shirts and hats and food. Something to let those people know we appreciate what we do.
“We were also able to do an event with AMVETS Post 911 in Port Orange where we did a flag replacement ceremony, as well as a table reading for the veterans over there. We were able to present them a new POW/MIA flag.”
The group also sponsored the Pro Late Model portion for Night Three of the World Series, and worked in conjunction with New Smyrna Speedway to invite 30 veterans to the speedway for the night of racing.
“We had Helping Heroes Pro Late Model 35 night on Sunday at New Smyrna and we were able to bring 30 veterans and disabled people to the race track to get away from life and enjoy the races. We met with them, the Helping Heroes founder and I, and that was pretty cool.”
Events like that make this sponsor different than many others in racing, which adds another rewarding aspect to Johnson’s racing experience.
“It’s different than any kind of race sponsor out there,” said Johnson. “When we’re out there, most people don’t normally get thanked by veterans for what we do. We’re doing what we enjoy doing, but it’s a lot more than just racing for us. We’re competitive and we want to win, but whether we win or not, for veterans to be able to come to the Helping Heroes booth and know someone is thinking about them, it’s a different kind of special for us.”
Fans interested in joining Johnson in his efforts to assist veterans are encouraged to visit freedomcar.org to see Team Johnson Racing’s upcoming schedule of events, as well as helpingheroes.org for resources for mental health suicide prevention, PTSD and more for veterans who need assistance.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo