Carl Long was suspended from NASCAR’s top-level Cup Series and fined an absurd $200,000—the series’ largest fine to-date—at the 2009 All-Star Race. Long’s engine was 0.17 cubic inches over the regulation displacement for the series, and NASCAR threw the book at him. Now he’s finally making a comeback in the Cup Series at Kansas Speedway this weekend.
Long’s team had purchased his record-breaking-in-a-bad-way engine from a supplier and claimed to have no knowledge of its oversized cylinders, per Speedway Digest. Frontstretch suggests that the engine could have gotten out of spec from extreme use, as sometimes happens with smaller NASCAR teams trying to eke out every last possible mile out of their pricey equipment.
Long’s original penalty was for a 12-month suspension from the NASCAR Cup Series as well as the loss of 200 driver’s points, according to Bleacher Report. His crew chief Charles Swing was the one originally fined $200,000, and team owner Danielle Long (Carl’s wife) lost 200 owner’s points.
Swing was unable to pay the fine, so that responsibility was transferred to the team owner. When the team shut down, the fine became Carl Long’s own responsibility to pay. NASCAR offered to keep letting him enter races as he paid it down to the tune of $12,000-$16,000 on top of the entry fees (making races around $25,000 to enter), but that was too much for the smaller team to bear, according to Sporting News. Only the Daytona 500 offered a big enough winnings purse for last place to make anything over that $25,000 to enter.
NASCAR wouldn’t give Long any leeway on the fine, either. Long was banned from the Cup Series garages in 2012, effectively keeping him from certain support jobs that could have helped him pay off the fine faster. While Long was able to find work as a mechanic and driver in NASCAR’s second-tier series then known as the Nationwide Series, NASCAR was adamant about getting their money out of him. Sporting News wrote in 2013:
“I can’t offer myself to a Cup team to make more money because I can’t go with them to the racetrack,” Long said.
Long said that people see him in the Nationwide garage and think he’s paid the fine or that it’s been waived.
“People keep seeing me here and they’re like, ‘Did NASCAR just drop it and wipe it under (the rug?)’” Long said.
“They’ve been pretty strong about their (feeling) that, ‘You owe us money.’”
Despite this, Long never gave up on the dream of making it back into a Cup drive, and it’s finally happening this weekend, where he’ll be taking an old HScott Motorsports car to drive at Kansas Speedway, reports Frontstretch.
Make no bones about it: Long’s team is still a smaller, struggling effort, with Long still seeking an additional $25,000 in funding from sponsors or fans the week of the great, however, I have to appreciate what he’s doing. The ultimate screw-you to a series that basically tried to fine you out of existence is a solid comeback.
Long told ESPN that NASCAR had made an agreement with him to allow him back on the Cup side again. It’s about time, and that’s probably what they should have done in the first place.
It only took them eight years.