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10.16.13

Patrick Long Pays Tribute to Tony Renna

ALMS - Braselton, GA

Race fans may notice a different look to Patrick Long’s helmet at Petit Le Mans. Gone are the signature green flames and shamrocks, replaced by a pair of blue wings and a gold “7R” on the back. A closer look at the wing reveals a name “Tony Renna.” Long first met Renna in 1999 at the Detroit Grand Prix. A rising star in Indy Lights, Renna became a mentor to Long, who was still climbing the open-wheel ladder in Europe.

“Tony had a similar background to me,” recalled Long. “He raced in Europe on a Team USA Scholarship and had made his way as a kid from Florida from quarter midgets to open-wheel racing. “I think if you ask people about Tony, they’d say he was a classy example of a racing driver. He was humble and understated, but very focused. He was wellrespected across the paddock and I really looked up to him.”Renna got his big break at the end of the 2003 season, when Chip Ganassi signed him to his IRL team, partnering with Scott Dixon. Sadly, Renna never got to make a race start in his prized Ganassi ride. A testing crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Oct. 22, 2003, ended his life at the age of 26. “We lost him way too young,” Long said. “I have no qualms saying he would be a fixture in IndyCar right now. His climb was unconventional. He had to fight pretty hard as a test driver/driver coach/reserve driver at Kelley Racing. He was a fill-in for Al Unser Jr. and performed right away and I think Chip took note of that.”

For years after his death, Renna’s friends, Long included, ran the 7R (Renna’s quarter midget number) on their helmets. As the 10-year anniversary of his friend’s death neared, Long wanted to do something special to remember his mentor. He spoke with helmet designer Troy Lee about combining his design with Renna’s.

“I said ‘Troy, I know you’re busy, but do you think you can draw up some kind of design that merges the helmets of Tony and myself?’ Troy blew off all his meetings, took a blank page and started drawing. It was cool to see his take on it.”

So pleased with the way the design turned out, Long says he’s considering keeping it on as his regular helmet.

See Long’s new paint for yourself at the 16th Annual Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda, Oct. 17 – 19, at Road Atlanta. Long will be behind the wheel of CORE autosport’s No. 06 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR which finished second in the most recent round at VIR.
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