Johanna Long and the ML Motorsports team had a strong showing under the Friday night lights of Richmond International Raceway for the Virginia 529 College Savings 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series event. In just her first start at Richmond, the Rookie driver adapted quickly to the .75-mile oval and brought the No. 70 Grand Springs Chevrolet to a solid top-20 finish.
The 19-year-old driver had her first turns behind the wheel at Richmond early Friday morning for a two-and-a-half hour practice session. The No.70 ML Motorsports Chevrolet cut extremely well getting into the corners and through the center of the corners but was tight on exiting the corners, so the team went to work making adjustments. At the end of practice, Long was happy with the handling of the car and was optimistic going into the race.
After laying down a fast lap of 22.46 seconds, Long and the ML Motorsports team began the 250-lap event from the 24th position. She dropped back several spots at the start of the race and was running in the 31st position by lap 40. She radioed her crew chief Mark Gutenkunst saying that the car was snappy loose through the center of the corners and off.
During the first long segment of the race, Long reported to the team that the car continued to get better the longer she ran. When the caution flag displayed on lap 68, Long prepared to bring her Grand Springs Chevrolet to pit road for service. Two laps later, she pitted and the team went to work bolting on four Goodyear tires and filled the car with Sunoco racing fuel.
Restarting on lap 75 in the 27th position, Long went back to work picking off cars one by one. At the halfway point in the race, the young driver had driven her way up to the 21st position and was extremely pleased with the handling of her Grand Springs Chevrolet. The ML Motorsports team made their final pit stop of the night under green flag conditions on lap 198. The team went to work once again bolting on four Goodyear tires and Sunoco racing fuel.
Long made her way back on the track at lap 203 into the 26th position and continued to race hard during the last 50 laps of the race registering a strong 20th-place finish.
“I had a blast racing at Richmond International Raceway. Our Grand Springs Chevrolet was really good on long green-flag runs. I would’ve liked to have finished better for the team, but I’m extremely pleased with our performance as a whole. We raced hard all night and we have continued to progress at each race that we attend, and it’s showing. I look forward to getting back in the car next weekend for some superspeedway racing at Talladega.”
ML Motorsports will be back on track next Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway for the Aaron’s 312. The NASCAR Nationwide Series event will be aired live on ABC with race coverage beginning at 3 p.m. EST. Fans can also listen live on MRN Radio as well as Sirius Satellite Radio, channel 90.