Cherokee race car driver has NASCAR hopes
Cherokee Nation citizen and 14-year-old race car driver Drake Long holds two trophies while standing next to his father Roy Long, right of Drake, his grandfather, left of Drake, and two uncles after winning a race at the North Central Arkansas Speedway in Yellville. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizen Drake Long and his grandfather check out the 14-year-old’s race car on Oct. 26 in Pocola as they readied it for the 39th annual “Spooker” races at the Tri-State Speedway. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
POCOLA – The 39th annual “Spooker” qualifying and feature races were ran Oct. 26-27 at the Tri-State Speedway, and 14-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen and modified class race car driver Drake Long was focused on qualifying.
“I’m a third generation driver. My dad’s dad started racing when he was about 30, and my dad started when he was about 20,” said the Stilwell teen. “I started racing about four years ago. Being 14, I’m the youngest competitor here and about everywhere else I go.”
Drake’s car, and one of the two cars his Cherokee father, Roy Long, drives are owned by Steve Butler, of Siloam Springs, Arkansas.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without my family and Steve Butler’s belief in me,” Drake said.
From the event’s size and crowd, racing seems to be popular sport in the area. And for some in rural Oklahoma and Arkansas, it’s a way of life. More than 200 cars entered into races during the “Spooker” weekend.
Racing cars is expensive as Roy said. “We tried to start when he was about 6 years old. But because of the expense that didn’t work out to good for us. So when he was 11, I got him into (go-) cart racing. And when he was 13, I let him race in a B-Modified class. Top speed is for B-Modified is approximately 85 miles per hour on the dirt track.”
Roy added that he’s happy that his son has fallen into the family tradition. “Drake is eat up with racing. I just hope that he can go as far as he wants to go. It doesn’t matter to me as long as he enjoys what he’s doing.”
However, Drake’s dreams are a little loftier.
“My goal is to make it to NASCAR some day. That’s my main goal. But if I don’t make it to NASCAR, I’d like to make it big on dirt, you know. Maybe run Lucas Oil late models or something like that,” Drake said.
The Longs’ racing tradition is truly a family affair. While Roy and his father checked over Roy’s car, Drake checked on Roy’s car while his sister and cousin checked tire pressures. As Drake put it, “Around here, it’s God, family, racing.”
For more information on Drake Long, visit his Facebook page.