For 21-year old Johanna Long, racing has always been a part of her life. She grew up watching her father race and when she started racing at age eight, it didn’t take long for her to realize that her destiny was in NASCAR. I sat down with the driver of the No.70 ML Motorsports Chevrolet on Friday at Kansas Speedway to see just what makes this Nationwide Series driver tick.
-What has been the hardest thing about breaking into the upper levels of NASCAR?
Johanna Long: The experience level. These guys out here have been racing for a very long time and they’re the best of the best. Just coming to these racetracks that are mile and a half’s that I don’t have a lot of experience on was a little bit of a struggle but I’ve definitely taken it on and gotten a lot better.
-Was there any pressure at the beginning of the season, not being locked in to races?
JL: I put pressure on myself because I know I want to do good and I want to get these ML Motorsports guys the finishes that we deserve. So I just put pressure on myself every time I get to the racetrack because I want to do well.
-Do you have any prerace rituals that you have to do before you get in the car?
JL: Not really, I guess if I run good one weekend I try to do the same exact thing just in case that was it but other than that no. I just go to race the race and do my deal.
-Are there any specific drivers that you go to for advice or that come up to offer their advice?
JL: A lot of the (Richard Childress Racing) guys, they help me out a tremendous amount. Austin Dillon, I can go to him any time and he would help me out. Guys like that are a big help because they do have a lot of experience on these cars and on these racetracks. So before you come to these races it’s always good to have someone like that to talk to.
-Okay, lets do a fun one. If you could pick any two drivers, dead or alive, to be your teammates. Who would you pick and why?
JL: Teammates? Hmm…that’s a hard one. I don’t know. I think Kurt Busch would be pretty cool. Having him because he’s an awesome driver but also because he seems like a cool person. But also, you know, I think Austin would be really cool to be a teammate with. He’s a great driver and he helps me out a lot. He’s a fun dude also.
-He seems like he would be fun and I love the cowboy hat
JL: Oh yeah!
-Who has been the biggest influence in your career, racing wise or personally?
JL: I would have to say my dad. I watched my dad race when I was a little girl and being around the racetrack with him. He helps me out to this day. Not a lot of people can say that their family has gotten them all the way to the NASCAR level and my family has definitely pushed hard to get me to where I’m at today and it means a lot to me and kept me in the right line. Even when I race the Nationwide cars, my dad is always here every race, helping me out and giving me all of the information that I could possibly need.
-What is your biggest strength on the track and looking to the other side of that, your biggest weakness?
JL: I think my biggest weakness would be…gosh that’s hard. I think its when you go to mile and a halfs like Kansas Speedway, just learning to keep your momentum up in the center of the corner and how to drive these racetracks. You know, I’m a short track girl so I have some bad habits that I am trying to break. I come from the short track ranks and I have trouble here on big racetracks. I feel that my biggest strength is when I’m in the car I’m mentally focused and I know what I want when I’m in the car and passing people and just staying mentally focused and just knowing what I need to do to better myself.
-What is your goal for this weekend?
JL: My goal for this weekend is just for this team and me to just give 110% every time we are out on that racetrack and come home with a good finish. We ran decent at Kentucky that last time we raced so hopefully we can finish in the top-15. Just getting those finishes that we deserve and working on the car every time we get a chance to make it better.
-Okay, now I just have some random ones! What is your favorite thing to wear?
JL: It’s fall! I would have to say, I like leggings and I like boots.
-I hear you on that one!
JL: Yes! I love leggings and boots. Also, I like big sweaters.
-If you weren’t racing, what would you be doing?
JL: I don’t know. That’s a tough one. I would probably go insane because I eat, sleep and breathe it. If I’m not at a racetrack racing I’m there watching or watching it online or something. I like to go home. I like to hang out with my friends and be by the beach.
-Favorite Music artist?
JL: I like Scotty McCreery.
-That’s a good one! Favorite movie?
JL: I like Soul Surfer. That’s a good movie. I like it.
-That’s an emotional movie.
JL: I know, right?! I’ve probably watched it like 15 times. No lie.
-Final question. What advice would you give to young female racers trying to make it into the upper levels of NASCAR?
JL: Just never give up. You know, in anything you do. I’ve had a lot of roadblocks and it’s not easy. People think that you don’t belong here and you just have to show people. You can’t worry about what people say or think about you. You just have to keep on going.
After talking to Johanna Long, it’s easy to see that racing truly is her passion. Long’s story shows females can be successful among the men and in just a few years, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her turning heads in the Sprint Cup series.