Long, 22, hopes to build on her solid record at Richmond.
RICHMOND, VA. – Johanna Long is thrilled to be at a track – any track – but Richmond International Raceway is one of her favorites.
But it’s good to be back at the race track. It feels great. Just being in a car.
On Friday, Long will attempt to qualify for the Toyota 250 XFINITY Series race in the No. 03 Mike Affarano Motorsports Chevy. While the team worked diligently to get to the track and provide the 22-year-old Pensacola, Fla. native with a solid chance, getting through inspection was a challenge. Once Long made it on the .75-mile track, she was two seconds off the pace in Happy Hour. She finished 15th here in 2013.
“We missed the first part of practice, which was a struggle,” Long said. “But we got back out there and had about 45 minutes to get back in the car and get used to everything again. Getting comfortable. We made a lot of changes in practice to get ready for qualifying – hopefully we made some gains and it will be enough to make the race.
“But it’s good to be back at the race track. It feels great. Just being in a car. I haven’t been in a car since December. It felt great to be back in a XFINITY car and to be back at Richmond. Hopefully, we can improve a bunch and qualify and keep working on it so I can make the race tonight. “
Due to a lack of owner and driver points, Long will have the difficult task of trying to qualify in the top 33 with 42 cars making the show.
“I’m definitely not giving up,” Long said. “We’ve made a lot of changes to the car. I’m getting more comfortable in the car, just going to have to get up on the wheel and qualify and try to be precise on things we need to change for the second round.”
Down the road
Long’s last start in a stock car was at the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway on Dec. 7. Long, who has won a pole and the event in 2010, led 59 laps in the 2014 race before finishing 17th. Still, she hopes a solid run will attract opportunities.
For now, Long doesn’t have any additional races scheduled. She said her prospects are on a race-to-race basis.
“Sponsorship is difficult for everybody right now,” Long said. “Just finding that right person that will take a chance on you, get you to that next step and to where you can be competitive. That’s where a lot of teams are struggling right now – not just me. There are drivers that have never had the opportunity – and might never get it. You just have to keep working at it.
“Just being at a race track is really big for me. Racing my Late Model helps me mentally and keeps me prepared for the next opportunity that comes. I feel I’ll be ready. I hope there are good things to come from here on out.”