Terps Driver Runs the Toughest Race

Sometimes it just pays to be lucky.


Jim Long's "do" says it all. (Mike Snyder - washingtonpost.com)


As I was heading out to interview Busch driver Donnie Neuenberger, who was raised in Brandywine and lives in Edgewater, Md., I ran into another Marylander, Jim Long of Ellicott City. Check out Jim's "do," and you'll know why I had to stop to ask him a few questions..

Not every fan is willing to go the extra mile and display "NASCAR" on his head, or, like Jim, dye his hair a different color every time he goes to a race. Still, Jim's a Maryland fan. He wants to get a University of Maryland Terrapins shell and "Fear the Turtle" put on his head for a race back home.

Donnie Neuenberger probably isn't considering a Terrapin trim. But he does wear a Terps driving suit. I asked Jim if he knew about Donnie. "Yeah, he used to do the race report on Monday's on 98 Rock (in Baltimore)," said Jim. "He's racing Busch here tomorrow?" He was surprised. He'd heard of Donnie's illness.

Donnie's on the comeback trail after hanging up his driving gloves two seasons ago to battle non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He was scheduled to run the full Busch series. Instead he had to miss the action to take on the fight of his life. He endured the eight months of treatment -- he calls it "eight months of hell." Right now he's "stable," which is good enough to race.

As an independent driver, Donnie's also fighting hard to compete against the big boys on the track. He had to take a provisional for this year's Hershey's Kissable 300.

It's "very tough," he says. He estimates he can pull together $40,000 or $50,000 to run a Busch race. The owners with deep pockets put $100,000 more into a race than that, he says.


Donnie Neuenberger waits for his turn at Busch pole qualifying. Donnie says in high school he used the cruise through Waldorf, Md., on weekend nights to show off his car. (Mike Snyder - washingtonpost.com)


But he's grateful the sponsors he does have that help keep him on the circuit, even if it's not for every race. He's driving the Cayman Islands car now. His main sponsor, Craig Arch, owns Bay Area Goodyear Tire stores and Arch automotive and tire in the Cayman Islands. Craig is from the Caymans, where there's a real car culture, I'm told. You can find die-cast car models of Donnie's cars down there, and one of his race cars was shipped down to display in Craig's shop.

For Donnie, it's all gravy now anyway. He's surpassed what anyone ever thought he'd achieve. "Nobody ever gave me a chance at doing well in racing. But I'm a competitive person."

"It's been a long, hard road, but I wouldn't trade any of it." Like any driver, he's got memories to cherish and great track stories to tell.

My favorite is the one where Ken Schrader once gave Donnie and some other rookies a safety tip. Schrader told them to sit in the car and reach around to find anything they could touch. "If you can touch it, it's gonna hurt when you hit it," Schrader said, according to Donnie. I took that to mean in a wreck.


The other side of Jim Long. (Mike Snyder - washingtonpost.com)


Donnie's planning to run a couple of Cup races this year. Watch for him at Dover for sure. "Up there, I can get local sponsors." His ultimate dream is to run in the Daytona 500 at least once.

When he's not racing, Donnie makes regular trips to Children's Hospital in Washington to visit with the children in the cancer ward. "I can't imagine them going through what I went through as kids."

And in the Baltimore area, Donnie's got another gig: a racing show on ESPN Radio's 1300 AM station. If you're out of broadcast range, check out his Webcast:
http://dgnracing.com

By Mike Snyder |  February 18, 2006; 6:26 AM ET  | Category:  Daytona Scene , Drivers , Fans
Previous: Results: Martin Wins Truck Race; Yeley Grabs Busch Pole; Bump Draft Wrecks IROC | Next: More Speedweek Photos

Blogs That Reference This Entry

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://blog.washingtonpost.com/cgi-bin/mt/mtb.cgi/4862

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



Find me a guy with NASCAR TATTOOED on his head and we'll talk. lol. Man, it sounds like a blast down there. Who knew we had a local driver? (easy killers, I haven't followed racing before now). Now I have someone to root for!

Posted by: Bill | February 18, 2006 11:43 AM

I saw Donnie a couple of weeks ago, heard he was heading back to Daytona.

Glad to see this piece, and glad he had a reasonable finish at in the Busch race.

I used to do some racing myself in Lot 4 at UM CP back in the day...

bc

Posted by: bc | February 18, 2006 10:38 PM

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




 
 

© 2006 The Washington Post Company