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Hunter Robbins, Johanna Long Take Confidence into The Rattler

Ronnie Sanders Racing has entered both the Baby Rattler and Rattler 250.


hero image for Hunter Robbins, Johanna Long Take Confidence into The Rattler

It’s easier to get through the work week after a win.

Imagine that.

Alabama 200 winner Hunter Robbins unloaded the No. 18 Ronnie Sanders Racing Pro Late Model at their shop on Sunday morning and made some quick changes to get the car ready for wife Johanna Long-Robbins to race Saturday in the Baby Rattler 125.

They spent the days leading up to the Alabama 200 getting the Super Late Model ready for the Rattler 250 this weekend.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were spent clocking in and clocking out of the day job at Panhandle Grading and Paving. Come Thursday morning, it was another four-hour trip back up the road to South Alabama Speedway.

The past month has been a blur and hasn’t allowed Robbins to fully appreciate his first Late Model victory in seven years, but it has given him a second wind to get through it easier.

"It's motivating," Robbins told Racing America on Friday after practice. "It’s easy to get burned out when you’re already working long hours, aren’t getting a lot of sleep and are trying to keep the cars ready to go too.

"Winning is motivating but good runs are motivating too. Last year, when we first started hitting our stride again with the top-3s and top-5s, that really helped motivate us to get to where I think we are right now."

Robbins said he’s searching a little bit to get a feel for his Super Late Model here, but nothing out of the ordinary. Meanwhile, the Pro Late Model for Long has been fast right out of the trailer. Robbins said the team hasn’t had to make any significant changes.

Long intends to keep the streak going with back-to-back RSR No. 18 Pro Late Model wins.

"I have a lot of confidence," Long said. "I don't feel like it puts too much pressure on me. I just know the car is good and that means it’s up to me to perform. I can’t thank Ronnie enough for letting me drive this thing. I’m excited to have that chance."

It’s the first start for Long since the ill-fated Snowflake 100 where she was crashed out in an incident involving Noah Gragson and Ryan Luza. Now the mother of two, Long doesn’t get as many opportunities to race as she would realistically want.

But even then, seven of her last eight starts have come at home in Pensacola, and she’s just excited to return to South Alabama Speedway -- a venue that holds special significance to the 29-year-old. That’s where she captured her first Pro Late Model victory on April 19, 2008.

She loves having another chance to support track owners John and Sandra Dykes, too.

"It would be awesome just to win, win again," Long said. "You know, what has it been, 12 years, 10 years?"

December 4, 2010 -- the 43rd Annual Snowball Derby.

"It would be really cool to give Ronnie a win at South Alabama, but also myself to come back out here and win. It’s the first place I’d want to race and want to win. That would be special."

That Snowball Derby victory changed her entire life and career and sent her to the upper levels of NASCAR. In a more just world, Long would have been provided additional corporate or manufacturer funding and she is very much viewed as a missed opportunity by the industry.

Long doesn’t know how many more races she has in her, and she doesn’t feel she like has anything to prove, but she would like to have the same experience her husband had last weekend.

Winning is cool.

"You never forget how to do it," Long said. "So that’s a plus, but I just want to have fun. It comes back to this could be my last go at it, or maybe it won’t, but I’m just taking it one race at a time, and hopefully it has a good outcome."

Robbins has put in the hours leading up to their Snowflake 100 effort and in the months afterwards, too.

"I feel like she hasn't had the best of racing situations in a really long time for whatever reasons," Robbins said. "Luckily, we've worked really hard and this car is really good. The set-up seems good. I think it's going to be really rewarding for both of us. It would be really special if she could get another win.

"But at the same time, it's like I said, a top-three here would be a great day too -- stopping on the frontstretch and getting interviews and pictures. That's how you know you did good."

That’s the standard for his Rattler 250 effort on Sunday as well.

Robbins is hoping to run for the Southern Super Series championship this summer. If he continues to string together top-5s like last season, that’s has the duel benefit of contending for the championship and eventually finding his way to Victory Lane.

The 30-year-old says he needs to get better at bullrings like South Alabama Speedway and Watermelon Capital Speedway. His bread and butter is on larger, faster tracks like Nashville, Montgomery and Pensacola.

Winning a championship means finding more speed on the shortest of short tracks.

"I need to get better at this type of track in a Super right now," Robbins said. "I feel like I’m struggling, and Cordele is coming up in two weeks too and they have a lot of similar characteristics. I’m missing something personally. I don’t have that same feeling I do going to Pensacola or Montgomery.

"So, if we’re going to think about chasing the points, and getting the extra bonus money, all of that starts here and this next race. We’ve got to get better everywhere."

With an updated schedule for Saturday to avoid frigid evening temperatures, Late Model practice will begin bright and early at 8:30 a.m. CT Saturday morning. Qualifying will begin at Noon CT for Sunday's Rattler 250 and Saturday's Grasshopper "Baby Rattler" 125, which will roll off at 2 p.m. CT.

Fans unable to watch the action in person this weekend at South Alabama Speedway can watch live on Racing America.