Courtesy of Johanna Long PR
18-year old Shows Talent by Qualifying 9th; Accident Ends Race Early
Mooresville, NC (November 7, 2010) - Young NASCAR driver Johanna Long, 18, was all smiles for her first race at Texas Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Winstar World Casinos 250k (NCWTS) under the lights Friday night. Her strong qualifying run in the No. 20 Panhandle Motorsports Toyota Tundra of 30.185 seconds at top speed 178.897 placed her 9th on the starting grid on her first appearance at the tough 1.5-mile oval. Plus, after a strong lead-lap finish in Martinsville just two weeks prior, she was in positive spirits and ready to log the miles with trusted crew chief Kevin “Cowboy” Starland. Posting solid practice runs the day prior while working through tough wind conditions and cool temps to try to gain speed, the former Blizzard Series Champion and Pensacola, Fla. native was ready for the night’s challenging 147 lap race.
Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to show her true talent under the lights, as an early shift caused an unavoidable brush with competitor Ricky Carmichael in turn four of the first lap. The No. 4 truck cut the rear left tire of the No. 20 Panhandle Motorsports truck as Carmichael tried to go below Long to avoid a crash, sending Long into the wall as the tire went down. After attempts on pit road to fix the truck, crew chief Starland made the call to bring it to the garage – where excessive damage to key truck components made it impossible to return to the track for laps. Long finished in 36th place.
Texas Motor Speedway was the continuation of Johanna’s “learning year” in one of NASCAR’s toughest Series with her new team – driving the No. 20 Panhandle Motorsports Toyota Tundra. Long had a great practice and qualifying day with a veteran crew, to include crew chief Starland – whose critical coaching relationship has been successful in Long’s progress. Showing a quick study to the 1.5-mile oval, she qualified in an impressive 9th position that night in a good simulation of race night conditions – cool and dark on the track. Her busy race day showed that she could handle the pressure of the on-track learning curve and off-track fan signings early on – spending most of the day at the track signing autographs for Toyota Racing and Texas Motor Speedway fans in an effort to build more awareness. Long hoped to finish with her first top-15 of the season, but those hopes were dashed as turn four beckoned on the backstretch.
Long, ever the racer, keeps her chin up and eyes forward – focusing now on the upcoming Ford 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 19th. The Blizzard Series Champion will also return to late model competition on December 4th at the Allen Turner Snowflake 100, then December 5th at the prestigious 43rd Annual Snowball Derby, both at Five Flags Speedway – days of grueling competition heralded in the stock car community. Competing at some of the NCWTS schedule’s toughest speedways earlier in the season, Long has completed six starts, with two top-20 finishes and top 20 qualifying grid starts at all races started.
“I’m really disappointed that we couldn’t get back out on the track Friday after we worked so hard this week at Texas,” Long said. “We made so many great strides during the practice runs, and I was really comfortable at qualifying time. It must have showed in the qualifying run – even I was surprised we hit that high on the board! I’m really trying to get a handle on the speedways this year. It was heartbreaking for me to be out so early, but I have to stay positive and just focus on Homestead. Every time I get a chance to drive, I have to make the most of it. We learned a lot this week – now we’re going to take that to Florida and see how we can gain ground for a great finish.”
ABOUT DRIVER JOHANNA LONG & PANHANDLE MOTORSPORTS:
Johanna Long, 18, is the youngest driver in the elite NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Her career to
date has included racing in NCWTS in 2010 with family race team Panhandle Motorsports; as well as three starts with Billy Ballew Motorsports in the NCWTS; and two starts in 2009 in the ARCA RE/MAX Series. Former Blizzard Series Champion on the Gulf Coast & driver since the age of five, Long has caught the eyes of many top teams over the years as an “up-and-coming” teen driver. For more information, please visit www.JohannaLong.com, Facebook: http://bit.ly/bglf8H or Twitter: http://twitter.com/JOHANNALONG.