Tyler Johnson: Rookie 15-Year-Old Leads National IMCA Points

Tyler Johnson: Rookie 15-Year-Old Leads National IMCA Points

Sport mod driver Tyler Johnson just turned 15 on Wednesday. This year is his first racing sport mods. And he leads the IMCA national point standings for Northern SportMods.

What helped him get acclimated so quickly to the division? His racing family undoubtedly didn’t hurt. His oldest brother, Jesse Jr., 17, won the 2023 sport mod track championship at Deuce of Clubs Thunder Raceway in Show Low, Arizona.

“My dad [Jesse] and my older brother have supported me through my racing career, helping me and teaching me,” said Tyler, who raced .25 midgets and 600 sprints before getting behind the wheel of a sport mod this year. “Driving those cars helped me by giving me experience.”

Virtual experience also counts, according to Tyler.

“iRacing has helped me out immensely,” Tyler said. “It taught me how to trail brake in the corners. I learned to control wheel spin and oversteer.”

Tyler and Jesse compete at a trio of Arizona tracks promoted by Brad Whitfield. Central Arizona Raceway in Casa Grande. Cocopah Speedway in Somerton. Deuce of Clubs Thunder Raceway. Whitfield coordinates the schedules of the tracks to give Arizona races an ample amount of racing.

“We have more than enough local races to maintain the point lead,” said the patriarch of the family, Jesse. “We are shooting for 60 races this year.”

If Tyler Johnson maintains his lead to the end of the season, he’d become the youngest IMCA national champion ever. Garrett Rech, of Davey, Nebraska, won the 2009 sport compact title at age 16. Only four drivers under the age of 20 have won an IMCA national championship.

“Do I feel the pressure? Only sometimes,” Tyler said. “I’m racing with older drivers, with a lot more seat time and experience. There’s a lot of competition. For me, it is important to finish and finish well. I’ve had 16 top-five finishes this year.”

His stiffest competition might come from close to home.

“The brothers are competitive with each other, which pushes both of them to the limit,” said the elder Jesse. “They are usually racing side-by-side in the top five.”

Regardless, the family hopes a Johnson finishes on top, and hopefully the other Johnson will be right behind.

“We are a low-budget team, and we don’t need to wreck each other,” Tyler said. “My brother is a great driver and a great person. We respect each other on the racetrack.”