(SEBRING, Fla.) Nov. 8, 2000 -The quality of future open wheel drivers in North America is very sound. Leading the charge is Patrick Long, 19 of Agoura, Calif. Winner of the $185,000 Barber Dodge Pro Series "Big Scholarship", Long superceded...
(SEBRING, Fla.) Nov. 8, 2000 -The quality of future open wheel drivers in North America is very sound. Leading the charge is Patrick Long, 19 of Agoura, Calif. Winner of the $185,000 Barber Dodge Pro Series "Big Scholarship", Long superceded some incredibly tight competition for the honor. Thus not only is Long fueling the fire of hope for American racing, but so are six other incredibly bright and talented drivers.
So close was the call for the panel of ten judges that an additional session needed to be added in order to select the winner. After the morning's scheduled 30-minute session which was approached as if a final qualifying on a race weekend, the field of seven drivers made up of Americans Curt Andrews, Jon Morley, Ryan Howe, Chip Bryant and Long, as well as Canadian Anthony Simone, and Brazilian Rafael Sperafico, was cut down to Morley, Howe, Sperafico, and Long. From there, the quartet was given a 25-lap run on full tanks of the 1.9-mile Sebring International Raceway test circuit where they would be judged on consistency as well as speed. Long emerged quickest with both the fastest lap and the overall lowest average lap time. >From there, the choice became clear.
"It feels awesome. I think this is the biggest award you can get in junior motorsport. My expectations went up and down over the past two days, but I knew when I took the checkered flag in the last session today that it was mine," said Long.
At 19, Long has already assembled an impressive resume. As the first American in over 20 years to win a European International karting event at the 1998 Winter Cup in Lonato, Italy, Long has a dozen karting titles to his credit as well as numerous other top- three title positions and race wins. In 1999 he won one of four Skip Barber Racing School Karting Scholarships followed by two wins in two starts in the 1999 Formula Dodge Midwestern Regional Championships. In the same year, he took third place in the Elf Series Championship in France. 2000 saw him win six wins races in the Formula Dodge Western Regional Championships and the Rookie of the Year title finishing second overall despite not starting every race of the season. The summer of 2000 witnessed Long's move to England where he battled in the ferociously competitive Slick 50 Formula Ford Zetec Championship. Thus far he has accrued eight Top-10 finishes in 14 starts.
"We had an exceptional field for this year's Big Scholarship. In general, I am incredibly impressed with quality of young racers today. Patrick is brilliantly quick in the car, and represents a tremendous package out of the car as well," expressed Pro Series Managing Director Jeremy Dale. His sentiments were echoed by the entire panel of judges.
Not only is Long standout as the complete package, but he is enormously committed to the sport.
"When we took the Human Performance Institute test on Monday, One of the questions was, 'How committed are you to your racing?' The first thing that went through my mind was, 'Is there anything I would put before racing? Is there anything I wouldn't give for my racing career?' I put down '9' which is the highest level of commitment. I'd give my left arm for a top drive," said Long earnestly.
For his efforts, Long now receives a fully funded year of racing in the 2001 Barber Dodge Pro Series. He takes his customary methodical view of the 2001 Pro Series, and his relative chances in it. Long claims the championship is an ambition for next year, but winning the rookie of the year title is. Long, however, is a racer through and through, and it's unlikely he settle for anything less than the top.