Johnson (left) takes in a Chicago Bears game at Soldier Field.
Hi, my name is Mike Johnson and I was born and raised in Chicagoland. I guess you could call me a Thoroughbred Chicagoan.
I grew up a short trip down the road from Arlington International (formerly known as Arlington Park) and was introduced to the sport, like many, at a young age and through a family member.
Throughout the summers of my youth, I spent the days trying to emulate local baseball great Sammy Sosa on the diamond. However, when the final out was made, my dad would swing by Arlington and we’d catch a few twilight races.
That’s how young Mike learned the game — strolling around the paddock wearing baseball spikes, practicing his math skills by reading the program and continually asking his dad “Why is this Earlie Fires guy so good?”
Did I forget to mention that while this quality father-son leisure time was taking place, my three older siblings were working at the track? Whoops! Yes, Tim, Dan, and Gillian all spent their summers employed at Arlington in the sales, dining, and guest services departments, respectively.
JOHNSON'S ALTER EGO
After graduating from Saint Louis University, I pounced on the opportunity to work as a marketing assistant for Arlington’s 2013 meet. My responsibilities included planning special events, venturing out into the field as a part of our “Street Team,” and executing promotional days.
This position also meant that my mom could claim to hitting an Arlington employment superfecta. She had four children and all four worked at Arlington. How many handicappers can boast that?
Looking forward, America’s Best Racing has the correct mentality for how to build a younger fan base. The touch-and-go approach of the 2013 tour was effective for making a splash in the first year, but now our energy has shifted to creating a meaningful presence in each of our primary markets.
I am well aware that most of my peers did not grow up with racing as a staple in their lives, but I hope to convey that there’s at least one segment of the sport that can pique anyone’s interest and that it’s never to late to get in the game.
JOHNSON (left) ENJOYING A DAY AT THE RACES WITH FRIENDS