Bittersweet Finish for Johanna Long in Texas

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (June 11, 2011) – The last lap of Friday’s WinStar World Casino 400k at Texas Motor Speedway brought a host of emotions for NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) driver Johanna Long. While she was elated to score her career-best NCWTS finish, Long also was upset she was involved in a wreck coming to the checkered flag.

Long was excited to get back to Texas Motor Speedway after having some unfinished business from her first trip there last November. After qualifying ninth, Long was unable to finish the race after being involved in a first-lap incident when she cut a tire. This time, the young driver continued to get better throughout the race but got caught in a last-lap accident.

Long first took to the track Thursday morning for practice. She ended the first session in 27th, struggling in turns 3 and 4. She let the crew know that the truck was loose-handling entering the corners and tight-handling off. Final practice followed and Long felt more comfortable with her truck, finishing final practice with the 16th-quickest time. In qualifying, held Thursday evening, Long laid down the 18th-fastest lap with a time of 30.537 seconds.

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After taking the green flag in 18th, Long settled into 20th place under the first caution flag on Lap 5. The 19-year-old started to struggle with her No. 20 Panhandle Grading & Paving Toyota Tundra, as her problems from practice returned. Under the second caution on Lap 21, the Panhandle Motorsports team called her to the pits for fuel. She restarted in sixth but fell back through the green-flag run as many of the trucks behind her took on tires under the previous caution.

The caution flag was shown again on Lap 50, and Long came to the pits for four tires, fuel and adjustments for her tight-handling truck. She restarted in 20th position and continued to lay down laps on the fast, high-banked Texas Motor Speedway. On Lap 67, Long returned to the pits under caution for fuel. After restarting in 14th, Long radioed to the crew that her truck was now loose on entry. On lap 88, the caution flag waved again, and the Panhandle Motorsports team brought Long in for four tires and fuel.

Long restarted in 18th and began working her way toward the front. Under the next caution on Lap 110, Long pitted for fuel only, as her No. 20 Panhandle Grading & Paving Toyota Tundra was coming alive. She took the green flag in fourth, her highest position of the night. Caution flags continued to wave, but Long was able to stay out of trouble and keep hitting her marks. On Lap 136, Long made her final pit stop for four tires and fuel.

Long restarted in 20th position on Lap 142 and began her march forward. Three laps later, the Pensacola, Fla., native was in the top-15. By the final caution on Lap 161, Long was up to 11th. After taking the white flag, Long was just 1.5 miles away from her career-best NCWTS finish. Coming to the checkers, the No. 5 of Travis Kvapil and the No. 77 of Justin Lofton made contact, sending the No. 5 through the infield grass. Kvapil spun back up the track, collecting Long as she crossed the stripe. Although her No. 20 Toyota Tundra suffered significant damage, Long did take the checkered flag in 11th, scoring her best NCWTS finish.

Following Friday night’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, the NCWTS has a few weeks off. They will return to the track on Thursday, July 7 at Kentucky Speedway for the UNOH 225.

Johanna Long Quote:

“I had a blast racing at Texas Motor Speedway! It’s unfortunate that we got involved in a wreck on the final lap, but nothing could take away how well our whole team did throughout the entire race. The team has worked really hard all year, but we haven’t had the results to show it. I finally got a finish that the team deserves, so I’m extremely happy with that. Panhandle Motorsports made huge gains this weekend; hopefully, we can keep the momentum and progress going at our next race. I can’t thank my team and everyone who supports me enough.”

About Johanna Long:

Johanna Long, one of the youngest drivers in the elite NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, races the No. 20 Pan Handle Grading & Paving Toyota Tundra for family-owned Panhandle Motorsports. The 19-year-old began racing at the age of eight, quickly moving from go-karts to Legends cars to a Late Model. She made history, becoming the youngest driver and only female to win a track championship at Five Flags Speedway. She went on to win the prestigious Snowball Derby at the track in 2010. For more information on Johanna, please visit www.JohannaLong.com http://www.johannalong.com/ .

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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