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July 09, 2012  |   By Johanna Long

Johanna Long: All Access Part 2

First and Foremost, I want to thank everyone for reading my blogs and for your continued support of me and the entire ML Motorsports team! It means so much to all of us!

It’s the day after the Subway Jalapeno 250 powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway and I’m on the road headed back to my hometown, Pensacola, FL for a week since I have a little downtime before our next race. For those of you who watched the race at Daytona, you probably already know that it was one crazy and exciting race. The ML Motorsports Wish for Our Heroes team did an awesome job preparing our No. 70 Chevy because it was a rocket all week long, and I couldn’t be more proud of the guys for all of their hard work.

We are now 11 races into our 21-race schedule. As you all know, this year has been a huge learning curve for me as I take to new tracks, cars and a new team. I feel like I’ve had some really strong races this year, but as a perfectionist on the track, I can always be better. The last several races have been our team’s best performances thus far starting at Michigan, Kentucky and then Daytona.

I had my second-best NASCAR Nationwide Series finish of 16th at Michigan International Speedway. Our No. 70 ML Motorsports Chevrolet was sporty from the time it hit the track and we ran competitively in the top-15 all day before the very end of the race. Kentucky was a different story. If you know anything about me and my racing background; you probably have picked up on the fact that I’m really good at qualifying. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been able to pull off a good lap time whether the car is handling well or not. It’s just been a strong point of mine. However, Kentucky was not the case.

I drove into turn one extremely too hard during qualifying, especially for the mid-day heat. I got into one and then slid up the track sideways coming off of turn two. I must say, experiences like that are definitely humbling because that has NEVER, I repeat NEVER happened to me before. Luckily, our team was locked in, so we started the 200-lap event from the rear of the 43-car field. Even though it was a rough start, our team overcame adversity and we had one of our best races. We ended up finishing inside the top-20 in the 19th position. It was a race to be proud of for sure.

Last but not least, Daytona…this race was extremely intense! From the drop of the green flag there was a lot of 3-wide and 4-wide action going on. All I could do is try to race smart while holding my breath as my spotter worked his tail off all night in order to keep us out of the wrecks. Our car was strong throughout the race as we got up as far as 6th on the charts. The green-white-checkered finish hurt us the most as teams started to team up on the restart. We got left out to dry on the last stretch, but was able to salvage a strong 12th finish. All in all, it was a great run for us and I couldn’t be prouder of our team.

Now that I've looked back, it’s time to look forward. I’m so anxious for the next two races on our schedule including Indianapolis Motor Speedway. If you’re in the pits at Indy, you should come to the ML Motorsports pit stall before the start of the race. My dad said he will probably be in tears. That shows you how special and sentimental racing at this track really is. I’m so excited! I hope you all enjoyed this blog and I can’t wait to share more of my experiences leading up to the most anticipated race of the year, the Indy 250!!! I’m smiling ear-to-ear just thinking about it! =)

-Johanna