By Kyle Brandt
IRVINGTON, Ala. (June 12, 2014) – You have probably heard him on Saturday mornings hosting a local racing show on the radio or have watched his traffic reports on television. What most don’t realize, however; is that Derek Kane Long is a regular competitor in the Bomber class at Mobile International Raceway every other Saturday night- and does so to raise awareness for some major causes.
Currently third in the points standings, the 2014 season has had its share of ups and downs for the Indiana transplant. Almost missing the start of the season due to his car not being finished in time, Kane had to rely on his former team in order to be ready for the season opener. Since then, he has shown great speed throughout the year, but has been unable to score his first win due to mechanical issues.
Despite the disappointments, there is a silver lining for Long. Each race week, his gold and black No. 5 has been faster than it was the week before.
This past weekend, a visit to Mobile’s victory for the first time appeared to be in the cards, but the familiar mechanical gremlins reared their ugly heads once again.
“I think we were really close with the race this past weekend, but we had fuel pump issues,” said Long earlier this week. “We would dive down into (turns) one and two and the car would shut off. I would physically have to crank the car back up to get it going again. If it wasn’t for that, we would have had our first win.”
“I really want to stand in that victory lane,” he continued. “There have been a lot of famous people, from the Allison’s up, that have stood there and I would be honored to have my name on that list. Whether it is a heat win or a feature win, obviously we want a feature, but BJ (Leytham) has been dominating that area and I think we have something for him.”
Sure, Long has yet to score that elusive first win at Alabama’s fastest half-mile, but he has been able to take away a great deal of satisfaction from his racing efforts.
What most do not realize about the Indiana native is that he races to fund and raise awareness for major causes- including the United States Fire Department Racing, and his Warrior Kids program.
“United States Fire Department Racing is based out of Kannapolis, North Carolina and we have several drivers around the country that fly their colors,” said Long. “It’s a team where we race to bring awareness and funds to volunteer fire departments around the country. I was a volunteer fireman for Fort Morgan when I first moved down here. I have a lot of respect for them- I wish that I could still do it, but I just don’t have the time now with my schedule.”
“If they are having a fish fry, we will bring the race car out,” Long continued. “I mean, what kid doesn’t like a race car?”
On top of that, Long, with the help of his wife, Michelle, also race to raise awareness for childhood cancer. If you have ever made the trip to MIS to attend one of the track’s races, you may have noticed the handprint stickers that adorn the c-post region of his racecar. Each of these stickers resembles one of Long’s Warrior Kids- a child who is battling cancer.
“We are so blessed to have great sponsors who stick behind us like McDonald’s- all of the Gulf Coast McDonald’s- and Pull-A-Part,” said Long. “We try to always go for wins, but to be honest; we want a top-five because every time we get a top-five, Pull-A-Part will give us an extra one-hundred dollars. We give that money directly to a family locally that is struggling due to a child with cancer. Whether they take that money and go get a nice meal, or whatever the kid wants, it is a real cool program and we are blessed to do that.”
“We lose some of our Warrior Kids and some of them get better, but it has really become a ministry for my wife Michelle and I.”
Dustin and Michelle’s passion for the cause doesn’t end when the checkered flag waves either.
With MIS racing every other weekend, the couple dedicates their “off” weekends to raising awareness and funds for childhood cancer by taking their racecar to community events. To say that their passion and commitment for this cause is anything less than 100-percent would be an understatement.
To complicate his already busy schedule even more, Long is involved in the Rollcage Cowboys project- a reality television show that showcases the lives and racing efforts of Long and four of his fellow Bomber class competitors. Still somewhat early in the production process, the program documents the lives of Long and the four other drivers at home, in the shop, and of course, at the race track.
“You can obviously find them on Facebook, and we have had a couple teasers out, but our producers right now are still working on the first episode,” explained Long. “We were going to have it released in May, but I can’t say what network it is, but we have one network that is very serious about it and looking at it. Hopefully by the end of this month we will have the first episode up and like I said, it will be on YouTube, but it will be fifteen to twenty-minute shows that will take a look at the five teams here locally that are battling in the bomber class.”
“It is really neat, because they film us at the house and away from the track, but more importantly, when we are tweaking and working. We have had a ton of likes on our Facebook page, and what I think people will like about the show is that it is not a late model- it’s the local guys.”
Sure, Derek Kane Long isn’t the only driver to compete in the bomber class at Mobile International Speedway, but he very well could be the one with the biggest heart and busiest schedule. Despite hectic life, Long still remains highly dedicated to raising awareness for volunteer fire departments throughout the country and childhood cancer through his racing.
About Mobile International Speedway: Mobile International Speedway is the longest continuously operating sports facility in Mobile County. It was built in 1964 and has presented weekly motorsports events every year since then. As an indication of increasing community acceptance and enthusiasm, both the Mobile Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Mobile Sports Authority became MIS partners beginning in 2013.
Family attendance and participation have been the keys to the track’s continued success. Kids 5 and under are always admitted free to the grandstands. Family nights and family-oriented shows have always been staples of the annual MIS schedules. Over 30,000 people will attend the 14 scheduled MIS events in 2014.