March 28, 2012 | By Tom Surber
Grand-Am's Rojas, NASCAR's Long Excited For Super Weekend
GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series driver Memo Rojas and NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Johanna Long will be primed and ready to hit the track this summer when the Super Weekend at the Brickyard makes its debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
History will be made when the inaugural Super Weekend at the Brickyard features the NASCAR Nationwide and GRAND-AM Road Racing series for the first time at IMS as they join the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for an unforgettable four days of on-track activity featuring four races in three days.
Rojas, from Mexico, drives for 2011 Rolex Series champions Telmex Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. He is in his sixth year as a driver in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, which will make its competitive debut at IMS on Friday, July 27.
“We had a test here in 2009, which was the first approach from the Speedway to the GRAND-AM Rolex Series to see the possibility of having a race here,” he said. “It was a great test, and obviously that opened the doors for us to be able to put the Speedway on our schedule.”
Rojas is the first Mexican driver to win a major U.S. road racing championship with his three Daytona Prototype series titles with Ganassi Racing in 2008, 2010 and 2011. Rojas has experienced a wide variety of road circuits in his career, and he thoroughly enjoys the Indianapolis Motor Speedway course.
“I can say it’s a really fun track, especially going around Turn 1 on the oval, on to the front stretch,” he said. “It’s an amazing feeling because the straight is so long, and it’s the fastest speed that we get on any road course at close to 200 mph. We expect that again this year, and we’ll put on a great show for the fans.”
Rojas believes the IMS track is conducive to highly competitive racing with more opportunities for drivers to pass than most road courses.
“It’s a different story especially, I think, with this track because the road course allows for really good racing because the long straightaway allows us to be able to draft cars in front and to overtake at the end of the straightaway,” Rojas said. “It’s going to be a hard race with lots of overtaking, and hopefully we’ll be able to have a good race here.”
Long, from Pensacola, Fla., drives for ML Motorsports based in Warsaw, Ind., in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. That series is racing for the first time at IMS on Saturday, July 28 during the Super Weekend. Long appreciates the history and traditions at IMS and looks forward to competing on the famed 2 ½ mile oval this summer.
“I’ve watched a lot of races here, and I’m really looking forward to it,” Long said. “For me to run the Nationwide Series for the first year it’s going to be here (at IMS) is pretty awesome. I’m really thanking for ML Motorsports for giving me this wonderful opportunity and let me be a part of this race.”
Long, 19, started racing at age 8. She competed in super late model series competition before debuting in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2010. She posed her career-best 11th place finish last year at the Texas Motor Speedway.
“It was a great learning curve for me and it was a lot of fun,” she said. “I learned a lot about different racetracks that I had never been to, so it was definitely a learning curve for me, especially going from late model to a big, heavy truck. I learned a lot, and it helped me get to the Nationwide Series.”
Long is in 24th place as a rookie in the Nationwide Series standings, with a best finish of ninth March 10 at Las Vegas.
“We’ve definitely had our ups and downs this year,” Long said. “We feel that Daytona went really well. We got caught up in a wreck, which wasn’t our fault. We got up to 12th, and I felt really good about that.
“At Vegas, we did good, and I felt good about it. We finished 19th, which wasn’t bad, but we have a lot of work by the time we go back there, and I’m looking forward to it. In going to Bristol, if you’re just a little bit off, you can be off a lot, and it showed in the race. We qualified really decent, but we just missed it by a little bit. I’m looking forward to going back and bettering ourselves.”
Long knew when she entered the Nationwide Series that the challenges would be great and the competition fierce.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy because all these guys race really hard and have been running for four or five years,” she said. “Me, in my first year, you just got to know you belong and never give up, and just keep on striving for what you want.”
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