Saturday night's Miller Lite Super Late Model race at Mobile International Speedway (AL) crowned more than just a race winner. A pair of championships were also decided and the star of the evening was popular teen racer Johanna Long, who won both the race and the Sunoco Gulf Coast Championship.
Long, who had already won this year's Blizzard Series championship at Five Flags Speedway (FL), earned the Gulf Coast championship based on the best average finish between all of the Blizzard races and the Miller Lite Super Late Model races at Mobile. It was the first season for this award, and also the first season for something else.
"This is my first full season in the Super Late Models,” said Long. “It was just amazing for something like this to come true. These guys right here have been racing Mobile for a very long time and for me to be competing with all of them is just amazing".
Long boosted her average finish thanks to her victory in Saturday night's Mobile race. In the end, she only outscored Augie Grill by three points, so every marker that she earned at Mobile was precious. Having a perfect night, when she won both the pole and the race, gave Long what she needed to take the championship.
Long started the 100 lap event from the pole position after posting the night's best time of 16.977 seconds in qualifying.
"I thought the times were going to be a track record, I was surprised by the tires not gripping to the track, I guess it's due to the cold", said Long after her qualifying run.
Casey Smith started on the outside of the front row and took the lead on the first lap. By lap 19, the trio of Long, Smith and Bubba Pollard had a half a straightaway lead over the rest of the field and by lap 25, Long and Smith had separated themselves by nearly a full straightaway from the third place car of Pollard.
The night's second caution fell on lap 44 due to the No. 41 of Chris Davidson spinning. At that point, all but three cars pitted for two new tires. Long exited the pits first.
Ryan Paul was the new race leader after staying out on the track, but he quickly relinquished the lead to Long on lap 47 as she passed him on the inside going down the front straightaway.
At the halfway point, the top five were Long, Alex Hasse, Augie Grill, Smith and Pollard.
Smith saw his night turn ugly when he had a left front go down causing him to spin on lap 60.
"I got the caution I needed and had a fast racecar and I felt like I could win the race but towards the end I had another issue with the right front going down which ruined my chances of a win", said Smith.
Meanwhile, the No. 10 Chevy of Long continued to be the dominant car.
"I couldn't have asked for a better car", said Long.
That clearly showed because by lap 80, her lead was a full straightaway over Augie Grill.
The final restart came on lap 83 and once again Long pulled away from the second place machine of Grill,
"I was pleased with my restarts, I knew every one behind me was awesome as well, it was a great victory for me and my team", said Long.
Grill, Casey Smith, Bubba Pollard and Chris Davidson rounded out the top five finishers.
Long wasn't the only fresh champion in the house at Mobile.
Bubba Pollard's fourth place finish in the final Miller Lite Series event was good enough for him to win the five race series championship.
"We've had a good season this year, we've come here to win races and the championships would come at the end. We wanted all three but one's good, we didn't get what we come for but there's always next year,“ said Pollard.
Pollard won the title by 39 points over Grill with Long finishing third. Hunter Robbins and Casey Smith rounded out the top five in the standings.