After eight years, a driver struggles back to the track after NASCAR could have crushed him

Carl Long has been away for a long time.

In 2009, NASCAR fined him $200,000 and suspended him 12 months from its top level Cup Series because his illegal engine was 0.17 cubic inches over the regulation displacement for the series.

Jalopnik told the tale of Long, and the struggles he’s endured over the last eight years to finally make it back — and aptly questions why  NASCAR would put a boot on the neck of a small team owner for so long.

Yes, the engine displacement is a violation, and yes, NASCAR — on one hand — offered to let Long continue racing and pay down his fine, but the terms were too onerous for such a small team. When the team disbanded, Long was on the hook for the money — and NASCAR wanted its cash.

Then NASCAR went a step further when, in 2012, Long — who says he had no idea his engine was illegal — was banned from the Cup Series garages, effectively killing his ability to land certain support jobs that would have helped him pay down the fine.

But all of that will change this weekend when Long races in the Cup Series at Kansas Speedway.

Long told ESPN:

“[NASCAR] made me an agreement so I can get over there. … I’m just pleased to be able to make a living on the Cup side again.”

NASCAR told ESPN that Long has met the terms for his return, whatever that means. That doesn’t clarify whether Long paid his fine in full; had some of it forgiven; or NASCAR came to its senses and simply realized that the guy has suffered enough.

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