Phil Allaway · Wednesday August 22, 2012
Recently, Patrick Long made his Sprint Cup debut in the No. 30 Toyota for Inception Motorsports at Watkins Glen. Unfortunately, it didn’t last very long — the team was out of commission well before the halfway point — but that was just one more series in a long list that he has competed in over the last decade or so.
In addition to Sprint Cup, Long has competed in the Nationwide Series, ARCA and the K&N Pro Series. That speaks nothing of his volumes of experience in sports cars, having served as a Porsche factory driver since 2004. Long recently took a break from his very busy testing schedule in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin to talk to our own Phil Allaway.
Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com: So, you’re testing/practicing up at Road America today. How has that been going?
Patrick Long: Good. We haven’t been on the track with the American Le Mans Series yet, though. We’re going out on track for our first session later this afternoon, but I’ve been here since [Wednesday] morning working in the driver development area with one of the series here called the IMSA GT3 Cup. I work with up and coming drivers in the different series and try to coach them through road course racing and what it takes to get to the professional level.
Allaway: If I remember correctly, those are Porsche GT3 Cup cars, sorta of like a spec class, right?
Long: Yeah, they’re spec 911 GT3 Cup cars, which are race-ready cars produced by Porsche in Germany. They run in one-make series all around the world. I think there’s seven or eight championships all around the world, with the U.S. being one of the markets. (Editor’s Note: There are actually ten one-make series that race the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car with the Porsche Supercup being the highest level) Its actually a place that I first raced for Porsche back in 2003 racing in the Carrera Cup Germany.
Allaway: So, this is the equivalent of Porsche Supercup?
Long: Yeah, its just like the Porsche Supercup, but it is its own series here in the United States. It runs in conjunction with the American Le Mans Series.
Allaway: You’re officially a Porsche factory driver and are currently in your ninth year with them. How did you end up becoming part of the Porsche factory?
Long: I was racing overseas in single seaters, series like British Formula Ford and Formula Renault. I was teammates with Lewis Hamilton in 2002. I was picked up for the inaugural Red Bull Driver Search where they took 16 of America’s best young talent and tested them for a scholarship. Guys like AJ Allmendinger, Scott Speed, Ryan Hunter-Reay, they were a part of it that first year as well as myself. I met the people from Porsche during that scholarship process, which was a couple of months long. I went and tested for the factory and things went well. They offered me a position in their driver development program, which was sponsored by UPS. They signed me to a contract to race for them in Europe in 2003 and I’ve been with them ever since.
Allaway: In ALMS, you’re currently in a tie for ninth in GT points with your teammate, Jörg Bergmeister. Can you talk about how your season is going so far?
Long: Well, its been rough. On the track, we’ve won two of the last races in tough battles with the factory GM Corvettes and we finished second in the last race at Mid-Ohio. The season didn’t start out that well. We were taken out in [a] bizarre pre-race crash at [the Mobil 1 12 Hours of] Sebring, which pays more points than the other races. Then, we had a tire puncture at Long Beach. So, we really had a tough start to the year, but we’ve been able to rebound and we’ve been fighting for wins in the last three races, so its been an up-and-down season, but its been going well lately.
Allaway: Last weekend, you made your Sprint Cup debut with Inception Motorsports. Just how did that opportunity come together?
Long: Driving in GT racing and sports cars, I’ve always followed guys like Ron Fellows, Scott Sharp and Boris Said, who made their names in sports car racing, but have been able to go over and be successful in stock cars. . I asked their advice on how to go about that, and the common advice was to start at the bottom; start in the South in late models and work your way up through the different series [instead] of coming in at a National level (Truck or Nationwide) and think that you’re going to make a lateral jump seamlessly. Last weekend was the culmination of a four-year program of dipping my toe in the water at each different level from late models to K&N East and West, ARCA, Nationwide and finally Sprint Cup. [Although] last weekend didn’t go to plan, it was still great to reach my goal, which was to start at late models and get to Sprint Cup. It was always going to be part-time because I have a full-time responsibility with Porsche in sports cars.
Allaway: In Watkins Glen, you only got a couple of laps on the track before you had an engine fail in practice. Did it give any warning before it just went on you?
Long: It was something that came very unexpected turning into Turn 2 in third gear, flat on the throttle. It went in a very big way and I was quickly trying to keep the car out of the wall, which was not possible. That was it. The whole scope of the weekend changed for us, which was an unfortunate scenario to have happen my first weekend. We thought we were going to have a solid effort with the car and the team behind us. The goal was to crack the top-20. Unfortunately, we never even got the chance to get close to…working through the processes of the weekend because we had to go to a backup car that was not a road course-specific car. Our priorities changed quickly after that incident.
Allaway: I think your backup car was from Humphrey-Smith Racing and had been used to attempt to qualify the previous week in Pocono?
Long: Not necessarily. I really don’t want to comment on those types of things because there’s sensitivities to the details, but let’s just say that the car was a Pocono-Michigan car and so the scope and plans changed quickly.
Allaway: A car like this isn’t really suitable to Watkins Glen.
Long: No, it didn’t have road course brakes, and of course, the way that you run camber and setups on ovals versus a road course car are completely different. There really was little chance to factor in once we had to go to a backup car. Its just how racing works, and you kinda just go back to the drawing board. I’ve already begun putting together a program to get back [in Sprint Cup] as soon as I can on a road course.
Allaway: Do you have any other additional plans in any NASCAR series for the rest of 2012?
Long: Not for 2012. My agenda is pretty full. I would have loved to take part in Montreal, but since that race began, I’ve always had a clash on that weekend. I do some development testing for K&N Pro Series teams on the road courses, so there’s always things away from the race weekends where I have a chance to work with some of the teams and drivers. That’s probably to the extent of any stock car stuff for me through the end of the year, working from the driver development and testing sides of things.
Allaway: Changing gears again, how healthy is the ALMS right now and is the current television deal hurting anything?
Long: I can only comment based on fan feedback. The strength of the GT class in the American Le Mans Series has never been stronger. From the fans that I talk to, the competition, the entry list is tops. There’s entries from BMW, Ferrari, factory [SRT’s] that just came in, Porsche, GM with the Corvette. Its highly, highly subscribed with factory programs, so that’s the great news. What’s been a struggle for the fans has been following the inconsistencies of the TV package. That’s what they’ve been vocal to me about. I’ve been here at the races each week, so I don’t have a personal opinion on that. I’ve just been hearing what our fanbase is critical about. I try to interact as much as possible with them at the track and through social media, and that’s where I think the series has a lot of work to do.
Allaway: Can you talk a little bit about how you got started in racing, please?
Long: I started out in Southern California, the Los Angeles area. Started at Jim Hall’s go-kart track as a young, racing crazy eight year old kid. I grew up at the short tracks and dirt ovals, watching guys race at Ascot Park and Ventura Raceway, midgets, sprint cars, World of Outlaws, those types of things. I always drove as a kid just because I loved it, not because I wanted to be a professional. Later on, I was invited to race for a factory karting team called CRG in Italy, so I moved to Europe at 16 and decided to chase my dreams of being a professional racer. That’s ultimately how I got connected with Porsche. Its been a fun ride and I’m a big fan of stock car racing and oval racing, but I’ve found my career on the road courses and that’s probably where I’ll remain for the rest of my career.
Allaway: When you’re away from the track, what do you do to unwind?
Long: I try to spend time camping, or out in the ocean. Stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking. I find that the best way to get away from it all is to turn the phone off and get out into nature.
For Long and his teammate Bergmeister, Road America this past weekend was another good show. Their No. 45 Porsche 911 GT3 R for Flying Lizard Motorsports finished 14th overall in the four-hour long Road Race Showcase, second in class. However, the duo actually dropped a spot in the points since the pairing of Bill Auberlen and Jörg Müller that won the GT class for BMW Team RLL (Rahal-Letterman Lanigan) was immediately behind them in the standings. The team of Long and Bergmeister are now joint 11th in GT class points, but they are still keeping up their excellent form as of late. The next time that Long is scheduled to race is in the Baltimore Sports Car Challenge presented by SRT on the bumpy streets of Baltimore, Maryland on Saturday, September 1.
As for Long’s desires to race in Sprint Cup, Watkins Glen only really provided him with a brief taste due to the engine failure and subsequent crash. There’s a chance that he’ll be back at one or both of the road courses next season (barring conflicts) to try his luck once again.
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