Long ready to move up to Nationwide
Jan 5, 2012 at 12:00a ET
Johanna Long is looking to take the next step in stock cars.
Long, 19, has signed a two-year deal to drive the No. 70 Biomet Chevrolet for ML Motorsports in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
“I’m really excited about it,” said Long, who visited the Warsaw, Ind.-based shop last week to have her seat fitted in the car. “We’ve been looking forward to an opportunity like this. We’re just glad that it all came together.”
Long ran limited seasons in the Camping World Truck series in 2011 and 2010. Her best qualifying effort was fifth at Daytona International Speedway last February. She scored a career-high 11th-place finish in the Truck race at Texas Motor Speedway last April driving for her family-owned Panhandle Motorsports.
The Pensacola, Fla., native, who became the youngest female to win the Snowball Derby in 2010 (and acknowledges she still glances at the trophy every night), is looking forward to acclimating with crew chief Mark Gutekunst and her new team on Monday and Tuesday during a test at Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
“It’s going to be different,” Long said. “I have a new crew chief, a new car and new team. I’ve never tested at Disney World, but they have great equipment and they definitely know what’s going on over there. I’m really looking forward to a great year.”
ML Motorsports was founded by Mary Louise Miller 13 seasons ago. The team started in the ARCA Series and has run a limited Nationwide Series schedule with a variety of drivers since 2006. Last year, Miller fielded cars for seven drivers in the No. 70 Chevrolet. David Stremme scored the team’s first top-10 finish, at Richmond International Raceway in May.
“We’re very excited,” Miller said. “She’s going to bring a lot to our team. I’ve always been interested in racing. We started in ARCA. We took the steps from there to move to the Nationwide Series. And if things work out and we get the right sponsorship, we’ll be able to move up to Sprint Cup next.
“We would like to give Johanna the ability to grow with us and be a part of our team. We have been able to improve our abilities with all the other drivers we’ve had, and we think we’re ready to make her the star she can be.
"In any sport you need a new face and someone that can give the team an extra boost to see how we can improve ourselves and help to improve her. We know she’s going to do great things.”
With the spotlight focused on another female in NASCAR — Danica Patrick — Long expects there to be comparisons. Long, however, has raced since she was 8, so she knows it’s best to concentrate on her own program.
“I’m just going to run my race and worry about me and my team and what we need to do to make the cars better,” Long said. “I’m going to try to get as much experience as I can, to learn along the way and run real well.”