NASCAR At Las Vegas: Johanna Long Gets Top-20 Finish In Second Nationwide Start

By her own admission, Johanna Long has a lot to learn when it comes to racing on NASCAR's bigger tracks.

The 19-year-old short-track ace feels comfortable rubbing fenders at places like Bristol and Martinsville, but the 1.5-mile intermediate tracks seem a bit more foreign.

So while Long wasn't thrilled with her 19th-place finish in Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas, she also was grateful for the chance to gain more experience.

"Just to know how these things drive and how to keep the momentum up in the cars on mile-and-a-halfs (is different)," she said. "You get back there and you just try to pass them like at a short track, and it doesn't work."

Long, a Florida native, won the 2010 Snowball Derby – one of the country's most prestigious short-track races. She then raced in 17 of the 25 Camping World Truck Series races last year and is a rookie running a partial Nationwide Series schedule for ML Motorsports this season.

Saturday's race was just her second Nationwide Series event (she finished 21st at Daytona) and her seventh 1.5-mile race in any series.

"It's just about getting the most experience we can each time we're coming to the racetrack," she said. "In practice, (the goal is to) follow guys and learn the best we can. Even in the race, when the good guys are passing me, I'm trying to learn something from them and be better for the next time."

Long said she's determined to race hard – even against the veteran drivers – but give people room.

"Just like any race, anywhere," she said.

Though it'll take time for her to gain the experience she needs, Long said she's taking steps toward understanding what it takes to have a good weekend. For example: Until Las Vegas, she wasn't at all sure what she needed out of a Nationwide Series car (Daytona was much different, obviously) or how to communicate that to the team, she said.

Long plans to have a better idea next week at Bristol.

"It'll feel more like home when we go back there (to a short track)," she said. "When we go back to Bristol, it's like going back to the roots."

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