In the world of 360 c.i. sprint-car racing, the blue and white Gaerte Engines No. 3g is iconic. For decades only the most talented of drivers have piloted the coveted ride and this year is no exception as Darren Long has taken his place behind the wheel.
The Elida, Ohio, native grew up within earshot of Limaland Motorsports Park, but it wasn’t until his cousin Mark Long began racing in 1992 that Darren took an interest in the sport. By 1996 he could no longer resist the pull to compete and began racing go-karts. And in 1999 after Mark decided to retire from the sport, Darren purchased his sprint-car operation and hit the high banks of Eldora Speedway and Limaland Motorsports Park.
Long was soon comfortable slinging dirt around the rim at the tracks in Ohio, and in 2001 he took on a new challenge of venturing out of state to events in New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Tennessee. That season was pivotal for the Long team and started in motion his goal of making racing into more than a weekend hobby.
That year Long was also presented with the opportunity to race in New Zealand, which was an experience he will never forget.
“I showed up at the airport with no clue of who was even picking me up, and within two hours of landing I was at a race,” he explained. “The car had engine problems, and I couldn’t get it out of gear, which was a big problem. The track in Auckland has a single track entrance/exit, so they were pushing cars on as I was trying to get off and I couldn’t get it out of gear, panicked and caught this dude on a four wheeler.
“He grabbed onto my nerf bar on the right side of my car and kept pulling himself up and looking at me the couple hundred feet it took for the car to finally stop, and I could almost see a little cartoon bubble with some real nice words for me above his head while we were going through the pits. He was definitely not impressed with me and would have sent me home in a bag if it were up to him. Luckily, my car owners stuck up for me and they were some big guys, so I was in pretty good shape.”
Over the past decade, Long has made his mark in 360 ranks. With more than 30 feature wins to his credit, Long’s résumé includes the 2005 Limaland title.
This year is a new experience for the home builder from rural Ohio. Now construction is a part-time job and his focus is on the ASCS National 360 tour, something Long is extremely excited about.
“This year is the first year driving for somebody else,” he explained. “It has always been a family team. Just getting to travel around to all the different race tracks is a huge accomplishment for me. The national tour is just the place to be…It’s just so competitive everywhere that you have to be at the top of your game every night and that is what I enjoy most about it.”
With a schedule that spans from coast to coast, Long has spent much of 2010 on the road, but he has also been able to take time out for his biggest fans, his wife Julie and 2-year-old daughter Mya, who can be found cheering at most events.
Running the No. 3g machine is a dream come true for Long. The equipment is good and he now has the benefit of having the experience of two talented drivers to draw from — Joe Gaerte and Tim Norman.
“I no longer have to just sit on a stool by myself in my shop waiting for somebody to stop by.”