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Letterman Linebacker Turned Drag Racer

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Jeff Longhany was a standout football player at the University of North Carolina and had professional aspirations. During his career at Cape Fear High School near Fayetteville, N.C., Longhany played offense and defense, but defense was his specialty – he recorded nearly 250 tackles in his varsity football career. He was named to the North Carolina Shrine Bowl Team, was a member of Tom Lemming’s “All Mid-Atlantic Coast Team,” was a two-time all-region and all–conference selection and entered the University of North Carolina as a highly-heralded freshman.

“He was a really good player - very highly recruited, and all the state schools wanted him,” former University of North Carolina football coach Carl Torbush said.  “He had the athletic body you like because with his height you knew he could get bigger. He played hard and was a good football player. We offered him early and were excited when we signed him.”

In his first-career start against Wake Forest University, Longhany recorded 13 tackles including 12 solo stops. In his first three seasons on the North Carolina defense, Longhany played in 35 of the 36 games, made 124 tackles, 80 solo stops and 44 assists. He seemed destined for an incredible senior season and appeared on track for a rewarding professional football career. 

longhany-tacklePhoto Credit: University of North Carolina

“I had a pretty bad injury at the end of my junior year and sat out most of my senior year,” Longhany said.  “I got healthy about halfway through my senior year.  I trained hard and got close, but it didn’t work out.  I made it to the NFL for about a day and a half.  I was out of money and didn’t have any more time so I went to work.”

Since he was in his teens, he’d also been into drag racing with his family, and now, he’s competing in the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) Summit Sportsman National Championship.  Longhany, his two brothers and his father all race in both IHRA and NHRA competition.  When the whole family races on the same weekend, they live and work out of the “Longhany community” they create when the whole family comes together at the race track. Driving his Super Stock car is about as close as Longhany can come to the competitive thrill of the gridiron.   


“I would say it’s competition,” Longhany said.  “The adrenaline, the acceleration, everybody gets used to that.  For me, being in the car and racing is the only place I can compete.  Racing is amazing; you have to be in the car and control your emotions.  Before I pull into the water box, I always say, ‘If I execute, I know the outcome.’  To control your emotions, do everything the same every time and see the win light when you go through is why we do it.”

This four-year letterman in NCAA Division I football climbed as high as fifth in the Super Stock point standings this season and is ecstatic about Summit Racing Equipment’s commitment to Sportsman racers through the inaugural Summit Sportsman National Championship.  

“I think it’s a great thing,” Longhany said.  “We have to turn win lights on, win rounds and win races.  This day and age, $15,000 to win is really unheard of; what Summit does for IHRA and Sportsman Racing as a whole is a great thing; it’s why we’re here.  If it wasn’t for Summit and that big payout, it’s so hard to run these cars every weekend, and they make it possible.  There’s so much maintenance, but seeing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow after a good year makes it worth your while.” 

Last modified on Thursday, 31 August 2017
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