18-year old makes first run at Daytona International Speedway in February; Hopeful for Full Season as She Represents the Face of ‘NASCAR’s Next Generation’
18-year-old NASCAR driver from the Panhandle stable, Johanna Long – fresh off a successful learning season in the NCWTS and a confidence-building historic win at the 43rd Annual Snowball Derby – will pilot the No. 20 Panhandle Motorsports Toyota Tundr at Daytona International Speedway this Friday. Long, the youngest female Derby champion and only the second to win the prestigious “Superbowl of Short Track Racing” trophy, is returning to the NCWTS with two goals in mind – to continue to gain experience at the 25 Series tracks, many of which are a first time for the young driver; and to race for the Rookie of the Year in 2011.
“I’m a little nervous, but I’ve talked to a lot of the veteran drivers and racers who have been here. I’ve also paid attention to the tests and the ARCA race last week. This is the race everyone dreams about winning, and I’m racing in it at 18 years old. When I think about that, it can be a little overwhelming, but then I remember Cowboy (my crew chief’s) advice to think like I’m back racing my home track in Pensacola – Five Flags Speedway. It puts me back in my comfort zone and reminds me that I belong here. So even though I’m learning, I’m still going to race as hard as I can to be competitive.”
ON ROOKIE OF THE YEAR CONTENTION:
“We have a talented class of Rookie drivers in the Truck Series, and it’s going to be exciting racing. My main goal as a Rookie is to gain respect from other drivers in the garage, just so when they see me on track they know I’m learning from them but also earning my spot on the starting grid. I’m proud to be in the mix of so many hardcore racers this year. Trucks will be a ton of fun.”
ON RACING A FULL SCHEDULE IN NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES:
”We’re putting ourselves out there, getting to every race track, and still knocking on every door we can to help with partnership marketing dollars to continue the momentum. It’s a little scary, but it’s what you have to do if you want it badly enough. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to drive every week. It’s great to see NASCAR really encouraging the next generation of fans to either watch our Series on TV or come to the track. I hope, being 18, that I can be a driver many of these new fans can identify with this year.”
CREW CHIEF KEVIN “COWBOY” STARLAND ON JOHANNA IN THE 2011 ROOKIE CLASS:
”I see the drive in this girl’s eyes every day,” he said. “The level of drive, determination and preparation she goes to in the quest for someday going Cup racing – I wish I could bottle that for every driver. The combination of her hunger and passion to learn and get better, paired with her innate ability and natural-born talent at 18, is really a recipe for good things in 2011. Watch out for this young driver – even though she’s still learning this year on the tracks she’s never driven – she’s going to be a competitor.”
Long will make her first start at Daytona International Speedway on Friday. Long made seven starts in the NCWTS in 2010, in addition to 18 starts in late models and the famed Snowball Derby. In 2010, she made another major jump in the racing ranks, moving to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with Panhandle Motorsports – running a limited schedule to gain track knowledge and experience on the Speedways. Her season-best finish of 17th came at Indianapolis Raceway Park. She also has qualified among the top 20 in all seven of her starts, with a top qualification of 9th at Texas Motor Speedway in November 2010.
The 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series kicks off with the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway on Friday February 18th. The first practice is a 3 hour + 20 minute session scheduled for 4:40 P.M. on Wednesday February 16th, with the final 50-minute session slated for Thursday February 17th at 12:10PM. The 36-truck starting field will be determined in two-lap qualifying runs at 6:05 P.M. on Thursday evening. The tweltfh annual NextEra Energy Resources 250 will go green shortly after 8 P.M. on Friday night; it can be seen live on SPEED and heard live on select affiliates of the Motor Racing Network and on Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 128.