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This week, we're very pleased to bring you the story of Phil Long.

We think that you'll find this article entertaining, informative and it

shows what Phil did and what others can do in the face of adversity,

and that is to never give up.

We hope you'll enjoy the accounts of his life in racing.

Phil Long

His career in auto racing

By raycer27

 

I really didnít know Phil at all, I saw some models that he had built and I contacted him by phone. We talked about model building and other related things about modeling.

It was then that I found out that he had also had a career in racing, so he graciously spent quite a few hours telling me about his adventures in racing.

It started at the Reading Fairgrounds in 1966 where he and his dad would go on Friday and Sunday because his dad was a crew member for Lauden Potts. When he turned 14, and was able to get into the pits he would crew for his next door neighbor, Aaron Brommer. Philís journey at Reading came to a bitter end in 1979 when the track was sold and later a shopping mall was built on the site of the old speedway. Phil reflected back to the Daniel Boone 200 in 1978, that was supposed to be the end of Reading but they got a small reprieve and they were able to run 9 more races in 1979 before it closed.

Phil told me of a guy that had season tickets for many years and at the last race he brought a hammer and chisel to bring home the numbers of his special box seats which were in concrete.

In 1979, Phil bought a modified that Tommy Long had previously run at Reading, the car had been sold to someone else and they werenít racing it so Phil made an offer and now had his own car.

In the spring of 1980 he ran with the small block modifieds for about a year or two at Big Diamond, Penn National and Grandview speedways. Then Phil started to venture out and run other tracks. The bullring tracks at Grandview and Big Diamond were a great learning experience but you got beat up and wrecked a lot and the cost factor was increasing, sound familiar to anyone?

So as Phil broadened his horizons a bit, they went

racing in Delaware at US 13 and Georgetown on Friday nights. Phil was running his small block against the big blocks and doing pretty well money wise as the tracks paid a small block bonus for the 1st small block across the line in addition to their finishing position. In addition to making more money than at his home tracks, Phil believed the seat time put in down at the Delaware tracks made him a better driver by racing with the drivers of the big blocks and therefore he gained a lot of experience with that move. Also keep in mind that Phil was 18 years old at the time and was in a huge learning curve.

Phil admits although he had worked on a few race cars previously, but had never driven that much and he really didnít have much of a clue what he was doing but he was seeing an improvement in himself which gave him more confidence with every race that he ran. When he was legally old enough to race in Jersey at the age of 18, he came to Bridgeport. He raced the modifieds from 1980 to 1983, then he decided to sell his first car, which was a Tobias chassis and bought a one year old Paul Lotier built, Lotier/Tobias chassis because he felt that he needed to get better equipment to be more competitive.

Thereís quite an in depth story about the Lotier car, Phil said he only ran the car a total of 9 races, he stated it was the worst car he ever owned, he totally destroyed the car at Penn National, flipped it end over end on the wall and the only parts he was able to salvage was the seat, steering and the fuel tank. He said with all seriousness, that the car was cursed. This story that he related to me was actually published in the Keystone Auto Racing News in the early 80ís.

Many of you have heard the stories of the Jackie Evans accident at Reading, some of you have not. What you will read in this article will make you ask questions, it will make you wonder if things happening like this are possible or just amazing coincidences. Philís issue in his garage happened to him personally, it was eerie, somewhat scary and some will say, unbelievable, you will have to draw your own conclusions.

Jackie Evans was an electrician from Miami Florida who went up north to race as well as racing at Hialeah and the Palm Beach Fairgrounds Speedway. Jackie Evans also ran at Reading and had a fatal accident when he hit the wall on the front straightaway.

After the mall was built and retailers moved into the various shops, there was one shop that had quite a few electrical problems that were never explained, such as, the people would open the doors in the morning and the cash register would have 77 rung up on it. (77 being the number of the car that Jackie drove, for those who didnít know that) There was an ABC TV station in Philly that ran the story; the show was called Evening Magazine. They came to the Reading Mall and they actually got a hold of the blueprints and laid the speedway blueprints over top of the mall prints and where this store is located is where Evansí car wound up on the home stretch. They even brought in a priest and did an exorcism because of the massive electrical problems they were having at that store.

Now this leads to Philís situation or encounter thatís really eerie. Phil was there the night that Jackie was killed at Reading in August of 1970. Philís dad and Philís best friend, Aaron Brommer, who got Phil into racing, were part of the pit crew for Lauden Potts. Pottsí car was the one that hit Evansí coming out of the 4th turn and started Evansí car flipping. As the story goes, the shoulder harnesses ripped and broke but the seat belts held, so with the centrifugal force every time the car flipped, it tried to rip his body in half and thatís why he succumbed to his injuries.

Phil was 8 years old at the time, and the car winds up right across from where he was sitting. Lauden got out of his car to try to help him but the track crews said he was gone and there was nothing that he could for him.

Johnny Lux was the owner of Evansí car, a maroon car with the number 77. That night after the races he took it to the scrap yard, poured gas on it, burned it and never owned a race car again. That was 1970; now fast forward to the fall of 1982 when Phil buys this year old car with the Lotier/Tobias chassis from Jay Adams and Dave Schoffstall, it was a good race car, the car was maroon with the number 77 the style and color of the numbers were identical to the Evansí car, it looked like a replica of Evansí car.

In 1982, the only track that was running was Bridgeport; Phil put his engine and transmission in it and left the car the color and number as it was, he didnít have the time to repaint and number it. The car wouldnít stay in gear, so he had to drive one-handed and hold the shifter with the other hand. (I think as drivers, weíve all done that a time or two)

Phil didnít qualify and on the way home Philís dad and Aaron Brommer were in the hauler and Phil was in his own truck. Aaron said to Philís dad he didnít like seeing Phil in that car, when Philís dad questioned Aaron what was wrong, Aaron just said "It looked too much like Evansí car and he didnít have a good feeling about it" and said they should sell the car or at least paint it a different color and renumber it.

The next night around 8: pm, Phil removed the transmission to fix the jumping out of gear problem and was changing the thermostat in his dadís truck. While doing so he started hearing a bunch of "clinking, tinking" noises from somewhere in the garage area. The only people in the garage at that time were Phil and his girlfriend, Michelle.

He noticed a bunch of crushed shale - like stones all the way around the garage and when he went back in the garage he noticed these stones were hitting an aluminum barrel and landing on the floor making the clinking noise, Phil thought it was Michelle kicking the stones around but she said she wasnít kicking any stones around. He couldnít figure out where the stones had come from and so he started to finish the repair on the truck. As he got to the toolbox, stones started hitting the toolbox, landing in the box and on the floor.

I asked Phil if he could see where they were coming from, all he said was that he could see them bouncing onto the toolbox and land on the floor, many of them. At that point he told Michelle to quit throwing the stones; she said once again, that it wasnít her, so he made her stand next to him and every place they would move to, more stones would fly and hit various things in the garage and fall to the ground. So Michelle said she was going to get his dad and grandfather who were in the house to come out and see this.

Phil then calls Aaron who lived 2 doors down, on the phone to tell him to come down and look at the strange goings on. Aaron told him it was all to do with that car, that there was a message, maybe Jackieís way of telling him not to pursue a further career with that particular car, because something bad was going to happen, of course Phil totally disagreed with him and Aaron refused to go to the garage.

I the meantime Phil picks up whole coffee can full of these stones to show his dad and granddad, they came in, Phil shows them the stones, then walks to the toolbox and stones start hitting the box and Phil and then hitting the floor and he picked those up and put them in the can also.

Phil says his grand dad, (who he calls "Mr. Logical") said, thereís got to be an explanation, to which Phil replied that he was "all ears" and to tell him what he thought. Phil pulled the jack handle out of the floor jack and started beating on the rafters to see if there was any loose material or stones on the raftersÖthere was nothing falling down. He walked across the garage, when a stone appeared; it was going sideways at eye level, went past him and landed on a second level shelf in the garage. At that moment he said to his dad and granddad; "If the stones are falling straight down, there could be an explanation, but when theyíre coming sideways and no one in the garage is throwing the stones, what is the reason for that, what is going on"? None of the stones ever hit anyone else, only Phil; wherever he went the stones went.

Next he calls his crew chief up and tells him about all the things that happened and all he wanted to know was if Phil had a few too many nips from the whiskey bottle. So now his crew chief is on his way to the garage.

Itís now 10:30 at night and he calls Aaron up again and tells him that the stones are still flying around and he doesnít know what to do. Aaron still wouldnít come to the garage, but he said if it were him, heíd get rid of the maroon paint and the numbers to start with. So they took everything off the car except for the roof and the deck lid and put them outside in the yard.

His crew chief went home and Phil sat in the garage until 1:00 am, no more stones or issues the rest of the night. They painted the car in primer and numbered it 45 and he only ran the car nine races and in the ninth race the car was totaled and that ended Philís modified career. Phil says that is a 100% true story. I asked Phil if it couldíve been someone playing a prank on him and have yet to own up to it and he said absolutely not as the garage was 24í x 24í and not any place for anyone to hide.

Not long after, Phil was at the Tobias flea market sitting on his truck and a columnist, Tom Chorpenning, who wrote for Keystone Auto News, went to him and said he heard Phil had a ghost story to tell and he asked Phil if it was ok to publish it and Phil said yes. Phil never believed in ghosts or spirits before, but he does now because of what happened to him.

Phil then decided to buy a brand new super sportsman that he raced at Silver Springs from 1984 to 1988. At the end of the í77 season he sold his super sportsman car to Jack Helget Jr... At the end of the 88 season he went into sprint car racing. He joined URC in í89 and got to tour the northeast tracks a bit where he ran Orange County, Flemington, East Windsor and even went to a few tracks in Canada. Phil said really enjoyed the traveling and running at speedways heíd never run before.

The Canadian trips were interesting at best. Phil said they would allow their competitors to drink up to 3 beers before the racing events started for the eveningÖÖhmmm, thatís interesting. Only 1 out of 20 people spoke English but there was very little if any attitude problems with the Canadian people, they were always treated very fairly wherever they went. The Canadians love their auto racing and are very supportive of the drivers. Phil told me that he won the first heat race and had 30 people around the car and couldnít get out of the car. A URC official came over and told Phil that the fans and crews were so excited, because he had just beaten the heat race track record. They had to get a translator to do the interviews; it was a great experience for Phil.

One of the tracks, Autodrome Drummondville, only had lights on the straight-aways but none in the turns, so they all had "running lights" on the deck lids and rear quarter panels so you could see the guy in those dark corners. He says that they do have lights in the corners now at that track.

Though they were there running sprint cars with URC, and werenít going to compete in the modifieds, Phil sought out the fastest guy that won the modified race, I believe was Luke Plante and asked him about the track and what compound of tire to run. Luke tells Phil all the info he needs, how the track is and what compound of tire to use, but Phil and his crew decided to run a harder compound than what Luke had said, so he started 4th in the A main, dropped as low as 15th, then as the tire got some heat in it at the halfway mark, they moved up to second spot and on the last lap he went to 3rd.

Luke came over and looked at the tires and said to Phil "I told you, soft tire! You could have won with the soft tire".

The first time he ran at Flemington, it wasnít all that great, most of the setup was wrong on the car and some chassis components needed to be changed. Glen Fitzcharles came over and wanted to know what was wrong, as Phil usually ran pretty well at the other tracks. Glen found the shocks and bars he was running werenít the correct ones and he said that Phil was driving Flemington like it was a circle and itís not, itís a square. Glen was a modified champ that got around that speedway pretty good, so Glen gets a pizza box and a magic

marker and draws the correct line that he should use in the future.

Phil was able to qualify in the consi but didnít do well in the feature that night. The next time there Phil had made the necessary changes to the chassis and shocks that Glen had suggested, which resulted in a heated battle in the feature with none other than Glen Fitzcharles, with two laps to go, Philís left rear tire went flat and had to drop out. Glen won and he came down after the race and shook Philís hand and told him, "Well I think I taught you well enough and now youíre on your own".

A little ways down the road Phil got married and had a daughter and eventually got out of sprint cars. He went back to the super sportsman venue, it was a cheaper way to stay in racing plus he also drove for different car owners in that division.

In previous years, Phil had some neck and leg injuries from wrecks he had in the race cars and his left leg started giving him some trouble so he went to a sports doctor and after doing various tests and scans, the doctor told him yes, he was going to have arthritis later on but there was something else that was making the leg collapse suddenly and thought there was a nerve disorder so he sent Phil to neurologist and their diagnosis was that he had a muscle problem. In 1991 he went to Hershey Medical Center, where they determined that Phil had a form of muscular dystrophy and suggested that he quit racing cars because if he broke a leg, heíd probably never walk again.

Phil did what every respectable stock car driver would do; he listened to his doctor and drove for another 4 years!

The illness continued and eventually had to step out of the driverís seat for good because when the feature races were over, Phil would come into the pits and his crew literally had to lift him out of the car. So he got Smokey Snellbaker to drive for him for the next 4 years until Phil sold all of the racing equipment. That still didnít stop Phil from participating in the sport that he loves (and never will) and he worked as a crew chief for a few other sprint car teams for about 12 years and now heís helping a local kid with his racing career.

I wanted to do this story on Phil since the first time I talked with him on the phone. My original call to him was about his excellent work that he does crafting the vintage plastic race car models, but then I asked him about his career and then he told me about his ongoing illness with Muscular Dystrophy.

Thatís what itís all about people, giving a little something back, paying it forward to help someone with your knowledge and experience.

The other part of this story is to convey to some people that you people may know of, that even when life deals you a crappy hand and you think that your life is so messed up that you think that the quality of your life is never going to be good again because of a physical ailment or sickness that you just totally give up, well ya need to tell them to read this story about Phil Long.

Phil had a pretty nice career in racing overall, and when he couldnít physically drive anymore, he helped others in the capacity of being a crew chief for some race teams. Phil is pretty much confined to a wheel chair these days, though if people help him to stand; he can lock his knees and is able to stand up with some help. These days he spends some of his time building race car models

So when we think that our lives are going in the dumpster and "my life is so bad" and woe is me, remember the old adage, "Thereís always someone out there whose got it worse than you" ya have to take a good look at Phil Long who took it on the chin and is still able to keep a positive attitude and is still active in the racing community; another great ambassador to our great sport of auto racing.

Thanks Phil, for your time spent with me on this project and for giving everyone a look at your life and career.

Below is a condensed version of Philís history that you will see when you visit his website and youíll want to make the trip there if youíve never been.

My name is Phil Long; Iím a retired/disabled former North East Modified, Super Sportsman and Sprint Car Driver and was employed in the automotive field for over 30 years. I suffer from Muscular Dystrophy which I was diagnosed with in 1991 but continued to Drive and Own Race Cars until 1999. I have been a Mechanic/Consultant for several Sprint Car teams since 2003. I currently Build 1/25th scale Model cars of Vintage Northeast Modifieds for a hobby and still am very active in Auto Racing. My Photos of the Built Models will always be updated and I'm always willing to build one for any collection. My Profile photo is of myself and my great friend the late Smokey Snellbaker; picture was taken last May 2011 at Latimore Fairgrounds. He is greatly missed.

All My Models are built to replicate the actual race car and the Chassis, Bumpers, Engine and Suspension are made to the specs of the actual car where at all possible. These Models are not just a painted and decaled kit! I use Resin cast and Plastic Materials and all are 1/25th scale. I get about 40 hours into each build and usually have 2 or 3 builds going at once.

If interested in a build please fell free to contact me at mail to: phl80@verizon.net.

 

 

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