Johanna Long, 18, driver of the No. 20 Panhandle Paving & Grading Toyota Tundra, finished in 32nd position at the Nashville Superspeedway Bully Hill Vineyards 200 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on April 22nd. Starting the race in the 18th position at her second appearance in Nashville (first in 2010), Long fought extremely loose conditions the entire race with a new truck - the fourth in the Panhandle Motorsports NCWTS fleet.
Earlier in the week, Long had a chance to visit the Gibson Guitars Custom Factory with NASCAR, press and other drivers to see where the Gibson Nashville "trophy guitars" are made. For a rookie gunning for the Rookie of the Year honors, she recognized the mystique of the famed trophy. "What an honor to be able to see how that guitar is made - it really makes you value what workmanship goes into designing and crafting one. It's hundreds of hours - kind of like preparing and running NASCAR races! I hope to have the chance to win one someday, it is the one trophy we all as drivers have on our top list to hopefully put in the trophy case."
In the first 30 laps, Long radioed to her crew that "it feels like I'll spin out at any moment. Really loose, loose, loose here." At the first pit stop on lap 52, crew chief Cowboy Starland ordered four tires and fuel as well as two rounds of wedge in the left rear to tighten it up. Maintaining 32nd position for forty laps, Long communicated that it was just getting "freer, freer, freer" as she drove.
Starland put an additional pound of air pressure in the right front and a round of wedge in at the next pit on lap 99 under caution. At lap 129 under another race caution, the No. 20 Toyota came in for its last round of four tires, fuel and a last round of wedge adjustments to help Long wheel home in the 32nd position at the checkers.
"It's disappointing that we didn't have a better finish here in Nashville, but last year I didn't have the chance to run this race," said Long. "At lap three, I was taken out in a wreck that wasn't my fault that year. So this was a good chance to finish what I started here. Practice felt great with the new chassis, and qualifying 18th was right about where we were during the day. Making the show is our first priority, and we had a big field come out to Nashville. This year continues to be a huge learning experience, and we're going to focus on Dover, as well as finding sponsor support for the 20 truck. We're always looking for the right company that I can represent in the NCWTS for their advertising message. Dover is a track I've always wanted to race, so I'm excited to get there for the first time. I'll keep working with Cowboy, driver coach Mario Gosselin and spotter Mike Herman, Jr. over the next few weeks off to really study that track and its lines."
Starland was proud of the team's preparation for the race with a brand new truck. "The guys were burning the midnight oil the last two weeks, because we had our fourth truck (chassis 004, used in Nashville) delivered a week after Martinsville. So between fixing our Darlington truck, and preparing the Nashville truck in two weeks to a solid practice and qualifying performance - the guys did a great job. We pride ourselves on putting out really quality equipment with just three full-time guys in the shop this year and working to save money and get to as many races as possible. We're working on the intermediate truck program for Panhandle, so we'll be focused on giving JoJo some muscle for Dover. I'm proud when we can put out great trucks with a lot of horsepower next to the big shops."
Johanna Long/Panhandle Motorsports PR