By Shawn A. Akers HARRISBURG, N.C. (March 31, 1998) Jim Long, who spent a year-plus as crew chief for Ricky Rudd's No. 10 Tide Ford NASCAR Winston Cup Series team, has been hired in the same capacity for the Stavola Brothers'...
By Shawn A. Akers HARRISBURG, N.C. (March 31, 1998)
Jim Long, who spent a year-plus as crew chief for Ricky Rudd's No. 10 Tide Ford NASCAR Winston Cup Series team, has been hired in the same capacity for the Stavola Brothers' No. 8 Circuit City Chevrolet team, effective Tuesday. Long, who was released by Rudd Performance Motorsports less than two weeks ago, was at Bristol Motor Speedway to help the Circuit City team and driver Hut Stricklin during last weekend's Food City 500 in the absence of Ross Freisinger, who stayed home due to his wife having a baby. Freisinger, the team's regular shop foreman, was filling in as crew chief for the team until a permanent crew chief was found.
Long and team owner Billy Stavola came to an agreement on Tuesday morning. Long will try to come in and help a program that has been trying to work its way up the NASCAR Winston Cup Series ladder the last few years.
"I'm really looking forward to this opportunity," Long said. "Their deal is that they needed to make races, and our first priority is to make races and to finish them. Once we get that, we can start trying to improve upon that and just keep getting better from there."
"We're tickled to death to have Jim on board to help us with our program," team controller Donnie Johnson said. "He and Hut worked together well at Bristol and I think we had a very good car, but Bristol is just Bristol. What happened to us this weekend wasn't anybody's fault."
Stricklin got together with another car and spun into the Turn 1 wall on the fast .533-mile oval, then was t-boned by Kenny Wallace. He completed only 204 of the scheduled 500 laps and wound up finishing 41st overall.
Long said he's anxious to continue working with Stricklin and the Stavolas.
"Hut is an excellent driver and you couldn't ask for nicer ownership," Long said. "I like Hut's style, and I think we'll be able to click and make this race team better than it has been so far this season."
Stricklin and the No. 8 Circuit City Chevrolet team have failed to qualify for two out of the six races this season. Stricklin is 44th in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series point standings and does not have a top-10 finish in 1998.
Long was the crew chief for Kyle Petty at Team SABCO in 1994, and then for Lake Speed at Melling Racing in 1996 before joining forces with Rudd. While at RPM, Long combined with Rudd to win two races in 1997, including the Brickyard 400, but a horrendous start to the 1998 campaign, by Rudd's standards, saw the two part ways recently.
"Ricky and I had our ups and downs, and we didn't click all the time," Long said. "I don't have any hard feelings toward Ricky, although it really took me by surprise (when he was let go). I've been in the sport long enough to know that it's a tough business, and Ricky was the owner, and that's what he wanted."
In essence, the two teams, Stavola Brothers and RPM, made a swap. Bill Ingle was the crew chief for the Circuit City team, but left there and became general manager at RPM. Long then took over the duties vacated by Ingle.
"We know that Jim's going to bring us a lot of experience," Johnson said of Long. "He's very good with shocks, and that's very important in Winston Cup racing these days. Plus he brings good organizational skills to the table, and that's going to be a plus for the Circuit City Chevrolet team."
Source: NASCAR Online