Thanks dad for believing

Courtesy Johanna Long

It started with Johanna Long watching her dad race, but by age 8, she was in the driver's seat in a go kart.

I want to wish all the dads reading this a very happy Father’s Day weekend! I’m sure many readers can agree that behind a lot of great athletes are dads who believed in their dreams and did whatever it took to help them achieve it.

From taking us to practices, coaching us after practice, to motivating us with their positive and encouraging words during times of defeat, a dad is always there when you need him. So, to all of you dads or to anyone who has played a significant role in a person’s life, I want to say, “Thank you!”

Everyone has their own story of how their dad played a major role in their lives, so in honor of celebrating our great dads on Father’s Day, here is my story.

The most popular question I receive from people involving my career is how in the world did a young woman like myself get started in a male-dominated sport like racing. I simply respond, “My dad!”

From the time I could walk, I was at a racetrack watching my dad, Donald, race in Late Models across the Southeast. It didn’t take long for me to share the same passion. By the age of 5 I was begging him to let me race, and finally, at age 8, he gave in to my wishes, and I was in the driver’s seat wheeling a go-kart.

Goodbye to the days when my mom did everything she could to get me in tights for ballet class or the days when my dad did everything he could to get me to focus on the softball field -- it was finally time to go racing. From the point I first stepped foot in a go-kart, there was no looking back. I had finally found my niche and loved everything about it.

Throughout the different stages of my career, my dad has played every role imaginable: from crew member to crew chief, truck driver, spotter, mentor, team owner, etc. He’s done it all. He’s one of my biggest critics, as well as supporters. He knows exactly when I need to be pushed or praised, and, for some reason, he always has the right words to say when I need them the most.

One of the best things anyone can do for someone is to believe in him or her and give them an opportunity. That’s exactly what my dad has done for me. Whether I feel like I’m on top of a mountain or I’m at the very bottom, he has never stopped believing in me and continues to push me and encourage me through and through. I couldn’t ask for more!

To my dad, I want to say thank you -- for who you are, what you’ve done and for what you continue to do.