Daytona II: Football star joins Synergy Racing

From Gridiron to Starting Grid: Former NFL player to race at Daytona on Thursday DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 28, 2006) -- NFL figures have dabbled in the world of auto racing for years. Redskins coach Joe Gibbs owns a successful NASCAR team, and...

From Gridiron to Starting Grid: Former NFL player to race at Daytona on Thursday

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 28, 2006) -- NFL figures have dabbled in the world of auto racing for years. Redskins coach Joe Gibbs owns a successful NASCAR team, and football all-stars Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach recently created Hall of Fame Racing. However, former New England Patriot and Dallas Cowboy Steve Johnson is one of the few NFL players to slide behind the wheel to compete as a driver in the world of professional auto racing.

Johnson, who lives in Bristol, Va., will race Synergy Racing's No. 81 Comfort Systems USA Porsche at Daytona International Speedway this Thursday night in the Brumos Porsche 250, round 10 of the Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve. The six-foot six-inch, former tight end enters this week's race tied with his Synergy Racing co-driver Robert Nearn, of London, England, for sixth place in the series' GT driver standings, and he's second in the running for the Bob Akin Award, given to the top sportsman driver at end of the season.

Johnson was a football standout at Virginia Tech during his college years, putting up some impressive numbers during his tenure as the team's top tight end including:

* Team's leading receiver with 38 receptions in 1987,

* Held record for most touchdown receptions by a TE (record broken in 2005),

* 84 career receptions, the second most in school's history by a TE and 10th overall among all receivers,

* Two-time All-South Team and All-American Team Honorable Mention.

In 1988, Johnson was selected by the New England Patriots in the sixth round of the NFL draft and played with the team for two years. He moved to the Dallas Cowboys in 1990, joining well-known names like Aikman and Emmitt Smith under the direction of Jimmy Johnson. But in his first year with the Cowboys, Johnson suffered a career-ending knee injury.

After leaving the game, Johnson began working in real estate, and, in 1995, he created Johnson & Associates, specializing in commercial real estate development. The company has grown into one of the largest commercial development firms in the region with more than two million square feet already complete and projects currently represented in nine states in the South.

Even though he was successful in business, Johnson never lost his competitive drive from his years of football and began to explore recreational sports. While other businessmen were playing golf or fishing in their spare time, Johnson opted for something with a little more of an adrenaline rush.

He began racing in amateur Porsche Club of America (PCA) events in 2003 and found he was a quick study--something he credits to the good hand-eye coordination developed during his years as a receiver. As his skills improved, Johnson sought more competitive venues in which to race and moved to the Rolex Sports Car Series in 2005, garnering a sixth-place finish in the GT class at his debut event--the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona. Johnson ran only a partial season last year, competing in eight additional races.

This year, the former football all-star has teamed with Nearn for the entire season and will compete in this Thursday's Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona International Speedway. The race is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and will be aired LIVE on SPEED.

Through a special ticket offer from the Speedway, fans can attend both the Brumos Porsche 250 and the Crown Royal IROC Series race for only $20. Tickets are available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 800-PITSHOP or 386-253-7223.

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Robert Nearn , Steve Johnson
Teams Hall of Fame Racing