Auto Racing: Johanna Long can cope with girl talk
By Tina Akouris firstname.lastname@example.org July 18, 2012 7:34PM
Nationwide series driver Johanna Long. Supplied photo
NASCAR in Joliet
What: Camping World Truck American Ethanol 225 and Nationwide STP 300
Where: Chicagoland Speedway
Tickets: Call (888) 629-7223
or visit www.chicagolandspeedway.com
ARCA qualifying, 9:30 a.m.
Nationwide practice, 11:10 a.m.
Nationwide final practice, 1 p.m.
Camping World Truck qualifying, 2:35 p.m.
ARCA Ansell ActivArmr 150, 4 p.m. (Speed)
American Ethanol 225, 7 p.m. (Speed)
Nationwide qualifying, 10:35 a.m.
STP 300, 2 p.m.(ESPN)
Updated: August 20, 2012 11:21AM
Johanna Long wasn’t racing at Loudon, N.H., when Amber Cope and Kevin Harvick created a minor firestorm after the NASCAR Nationwide Series race July 14.
Long made sure to watch the highlights — partly for the inevitable questions that go along with being a female in the male-dominated world of stock car racing.
With 21 laps to go, Harvick was sitting on a nice lead when he came up behind Cope, who was about 33 laps down. Cope didn’t get out of Harvick’s way, as NASCAR protocol dictates for lapped drivers when approached by the lead cars. Harvick wasn’t able to get around Cope, Brad Keselowski sped past the two cars to win the race and Harvick finished second.
After the race, Harvick referred to Cope as an “it” and Cope fired back on Twitter that she wanted Harvick to apologize.
“It’s hard for me to say anything (about the incident), and he did the best he could to get around her,” Long said. “You have to have respect on the racetrack and give those guys respect. I try not to put myself in those situations.
“When you’re in that position, sometimes you don’t know what to say.”
Long, 20, is the youngest female driver in the Nationwide Series. In this her rookie year, Long’s best finish was 12th at Daytona on July 6 after wrecking at the end. She’s hoping to finish higher in her No. 70 Foretravel Motorcoach Chevrolet at the STP 300 Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet.
Chicagoland Speedway is one of the tracks Long is familiar with on the circuit, since she first raced there in 2011 when she drove in the Camping World Truck Series. It was her first foray on a 11/2-mile track, and she had a blast.
“It is fast and big and there’s a lot of room, but you have to hustle it hard and drive it like a short track,” Long said.
Long comes over to the Nationwide Series from the Trucks Series, where she ran in 17 races last season and seven in 2010. Going from trucks to stock cars was quite an adjustment, especially at tracks like Daytona where excelling at drafting takes time.
Racing on different tracks isn’t just the only challenge for Long. She’s also driving for ML Motorsports out of Warsaw, Ind., and it’s the first time Long isn’t racing for a team owned by her family. Long’s car owner, Mary-Louise Miller, is one of the few female team owners in NASCAR. The pair don’t necessarily see themselves as the “lone wolves” of the sport.
“Except for one race (Daytona), she’s stayed out of trouble and has learned how to handle the equipment,” Miller said. “When I first met her, I felt a special bond and it was like magic — like we needed to be together.”
Long has been and will continued to be compared with Danica Patrick, who is racing a full Nationwide schedule this season and a partial Sprint Cup slate. Long said she admires Patrick, 10 years her senior, and that the two have talked — pleasantries such as “Hi, have a good race.”
However, being the next Danica isn’t necessarily her goal.
“She is a trail blazer and a good driver and she markets herself well, but I try to do my thing and give 110 percent,” Long said. “I hope someone will look at me like that.”
NASCAR Nationwide driver Parker Kligerman will sign autographs and meet fans from 8 to 9:15 a.m. Saturday at Discount Tire, 785 E. Boughton Road, Bolingbrook.