Johanna Long First Woman to Win Blizzard Series Championship at Five Flags Speedway
Five Flags Speedway
Johanna Long, the 17-year-old Pensacola driver, continues to run with the big boys of racing.
Make that win against the big boys.
She became the first woman to clinch the Blizzard Series Super Late Model points championship Friday night at Five Flags Speedway.
Long finished fourth to win the title by just 5 points over Augie Grill, who won his second straight Blizzard race.
A year after winning the Pro Late Model championship, she's now the Blizzard Series champion.
"It's awesome, a dream come true," Long said as the fans roared their approval. "I never thought I'd be here. My family and my crew have supported me all season. It's just great."
It wasn't great for Bubba Pollard, who entered the race with a 23-point lead over Long.
But his poor qualifying position (12th) put him in the middle of the pack and it proved disastrerous on the opening lap. He was involved in a big spinout on the frontstretch that damaged several cars, including his own.
Pollard ran to the pits to get into a backup car, but since he had already completed a lap, he could not use a second car.
Pollard returned to the track on Lap 30, but that eliminated him from the points battle, which was now left to Grill and Long.
Grill was the fastest qualifier and dominated the race, leading all 100 laps. Long started second and stayed in that position until Lap 69 when Casey Smith passed her.
The deciding move came on the restart of the final caution on Lap 87. Hunter Robbins had beaten Grill out of the pits, but he was running on only seven cylinders and Grill quickly passed him.
Robbins actually triggered the caution when he tapped Mercer trying to take over fourth place.
Long restarted fourth and kept that position for the final 13 laps to clinch the title.
"I told my crew on the radio that I wasn't going to do anything to lose one more position," Long said. "My whole goal this whole race was to stay out of trouble and win the championship."
Grill, the two-time defending Snowball Derby, couldn't have done anything more.
"I couldn't have got any more points," he said. "I hate it that Bubba couldn't race for the championship. I'm happy for Johanna, but I feel pretty good going into the Snowball Derby. I wish it was next week."
Smith finished second, while Robbins took third. Chris Davidson was fifth and Eddie Mercer sixth. Pollard finished 20th and still finished third in the point standings.
That could make a big difference come Snowball Derby time. Should Grill and/or Long make the starting field on their own, the provisional spots go to the next drivers in the point standings.
Long's father, Donald Long, didn't even race Friday night so they could focus on Johanna's performance.
Next up will be the ARCA race at Rockingham, N.C., for her on Oct. 11. She will attempt to become the second woman driver to win the Snowball Derby after Tammy Jo Kirk won in 1994.
But on Friday night, Donald and his family and crew celebrated a championship with his daughter.
"We had some good fortune," Donald Long said. "It's good when a plan comes together."
A great pit stop put Robbins in front of Grill for the restart, but Robbins knew it probably wasn't going to last.
"We were down to 7 cylinders on lap 45, so we knew we were a sitting duck," he said. "We were trying to do all we could to just stay up there."
Smith finished fourth in the point standings.
"We just had some bad luck earlier this season," he said. "I wasn't going to be able to beat Augie tonight."
Chris Cotto won the 35-lap Super Stock finale, while Shannon Jackson clinched the points championship.
Cotto started on the pole and jumped out to a comfortable lead.
Jackson, who entered the race with a 20-point lead over Randy Thompson, was running fourth, while Thompson was seventh, but going nowhere.
He got a boost, however, from the two cars in front of him. Jody Henderson was on the bumper of Greg Young and the two spun out.
That put Thompson up to fifth, just behind Jackson.
Tommy Rollins caught Cotto with five laps to go, while Jackson moved to third when Earl Polk faltered.
But Rollins could never make a run on Cotto and took second. Jackson finished third and Thompson fourth.
"I was getting wore out," Cotto said in Victory Lane. "We came in with a new setup and it worked."
It was the second track title for Jackson.
"We had a great year, but it was a little harder this year," he said.
Stevie Mercer won the 20-lap Sportsman feature, his second of the year. Brannon Fowler was second and points leader Randy Thompson was third.
Pete Kitchen won the Bomber feature, while William Goulet was second and third went to Michael Kitchen, who has a 12-point lead over Goulet going into the final race in two weeks.
Blizzard Series Super Late Model -- 1. Augie Grill; 2. Casey Smith; 3. Hunter Robbins; 4. Johanna Long; 5. Chris Davidson; 6. Eddie Mercer; 7. John Bolen; 8. Scott Carlson; 9. David Rogers; 10. Chuck Barnes; 11. Stephan McCurley; 12. Josh Hamner; 13. Cecil Chunn; 14. Jeremy Colangelo; 15. Tyler Millwood; 16. Danny Bagwell; 17. Colt James; 18. Dennis Schoenfeld; 19. Keith English; 20. Bubba Pollard; 21. Chase Elliott; 22. Troy Mitchell; 23. Dwayne Buggay; 24. Stanley Smith; 25. Allen Krause; 26. Jimmy Garmon; 27. Matt Smith; 28. Max Gresham; 29. Wayne Niedecken Jr.
Super Stock -- 1. Chris Cotto; 2. Tommy Rollins; 3. Shannon Jackson; 4. Randy Thompson; 5. Jody Henderson; 6. Earl Polk; 7. Sean Goodwin; 8. Greg Young; 9. Darryl Rudd; 10. Mike Austin; 11. Scott Wicker; 12. Mike Moore
Sportsman -- 1. Stevie Mercer; 2. Brannon Fowler; 3. Randy Thompson; 4. Steve Buttrick; 5. Jim Pokrant; 6. Bubba Winslow; 7. Freddie McCall; 8. Thomas Warren Jr.; 9. William Kitchen; 10. Chris Pike; 11. David Poole; 12. Marty White; 13. Wayne Burkett; 14. Charles English; 15. Eddie Craig Jr.
Bomber -- 1. Pete Kitchen; 2. William Goulet; 3. Michael Kitchen; 4. Mike Goraum; 5. Bo Hancock; 6. Eddie Hobbs; 7. Rick Thompson; 8. Brandon Burks; 9. Dayton Sidner; 10. Leonard Craig Jr.; 11. Tony Boyd; 12. Devron Brooks; 13. Tracy Soles; 14. Daryl Lynchard; 15. Courtney Rodrigues; 16. Sam Mellema; 17. Michael Nelson; 18. Cameron Adams; 19. Michael Johnson
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