Through The Esses - Tom Longs Enthusiasm For Racing Is Automatic
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© Andrew S. Hartwell

This column is the 100th written while we have been affiliated with Over the years we have had the opportunity to talk with many great and interesting people in the sport of road racing and we can honestly say we have never come across anyone who could be considered truly difficult or aloof. We have found that most people welcome the opportunity to talk openly about themselves and their careers and that has made this experience an extremely enjoyable one for us.

Along the way we have met several people who simply exuded enthusiasm about their chosen profession. We find that refreshing and we have tried to make sure that enthusiasm was translated effectively through the column we created about them.

Recently we spent time talking with a young man who, quite probably, ranks right up there as being among the most enthusiastic spirits we have ever met. His name is Tom Long, he is 25 years old, and he drives a BMW M3 for Automatic Racing in the KONI Challenge Series.

Long was so wound up about telling us his story that we had to switch to back up tapes in our recorder to capture all he had to say. Were our ears tired in the end? A bit, but we couldn't help but come away from the conversation with an appreciation for the energy and sincerity with which he delivered his words.

For this edition of Through The Esses, we are going to let his comments just sort of flow along in a manner very much like the manner in which we received them. That is, what follows pretty much requires little in the way of framing by us, for Long has essentially delivered an autobiography of his career. All we really had to do was type it up.

We will start it off by telling you Long grew up in Poughkeepsie, New York, a town about 80 miles or so north of New York City, and about 40 miles west of the Lime Rock Park racing circuit. His start in racing was as the son of an amateur racer who attended his father's races and helped around the paddock. He soon caught the bug to drive and after a short stint with karts, and years of tooling around in SCCA racing, he eventually came to be driving his dream - as a member of the Automatic Racing team running in the KONI Challenge.

Now, let's turn this story over to him.

I enjoyed growing up in Poughkeepsie. I had a lot of friends up there and we had plenty of winter sports. But I live in North Carolina now so I don't get to enjoy skiing as much as I did then. I grew up with my dad involved in SCCA Club racing so we were often up at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. There were four of us in the family, my dad and mom, me, and my younger brother Chris, who is two years younger than me.

Chris didn't have an interest in cars in the beginning but as he grew up he developed an interest and he worked on some classic cars. He even got himself a little Cosworth Vega which of course wasn't the most exciting car around! But the Cosworth engine made it special and he built it up himself. That made him decide he wanted to be a mechanical engineer. He went to the same school I went to, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He now works for the Chip Ganassi stock car team. He is helping them develop their car of tomorrow.

He and I are sort of at opposite ends of the racing spectrum. He is more involved in the engineering side of things and I am the more personable driver type.

I was in elementary school when I used to go to the races with my dad. It became my passion as I would eat, breathe and sleep racing. It was always something. If I could watch races on TV I would, or if I could go to the track I would watch the action as long as I could. I know a lot of kids wouldn't be that interested at that age but I was always talking about cars.

When we moved to North Carolina my dad ended up selling his race car. I was around 13 or so at the time, and I started to fall out of touch with racing a little bit, only because we didn't go to the races as<