Patrick Emerling is nearing the end of what many consider to be a career season for the 24-year-old wheelman. He’s scored six wins in RoC Asphalt Modified Tour competition so far this year, including a win at New York’s Oswego Speedway in May.
Now Emerling and his fellow RoC competitors are headed back to Oswego, this time for their biggest race of the year, the 66th Annual Sunoco Race of Champions 250.
Emerling has never won this race, but he’s also never had a year that’s been this good. Perhaps 2016 is finally the year for Emerling.
“That would be huge for us,” Emerling said. “Huge for the bank account too. That’s definitely on our list here for this year. That would be a good booster for us and help us maintain our points lead. That’s what we’re driving for.”
Emerling is best described as the quiet, reserved type. He won’t spend the week prior to a race trash-talking his competitors. He’s also modest, as he described 2016 to date as “pretty decent,” even though he’s leading the points by 61 markers over three-time Race of Champions winner Chuck Hossfeld.
“On the RoC side of things, we’ve kind of just picked up on things where we left off last year,” he said. “We had a couple things happen last year. We could have probably had a better year last year. A lot of times people will say to me, ‘Hey you’ve had a pretty good year,’ and I’ll be like ‘Yeah, but we’ll have a better year next year.’ So far that’s how we’ve ended up.”
To go along with his six wins, Emerling has scored a top five finish in nine of the 11 races so far, and has finished outside the top 10 just once.
However, the modest Emerling admits that he maybe shouldn’t have won a few of his six races.
“There were a couple races where we weren’t even the fastest car. Chuck’s been really clicking this year on the RoC. There’s been a bunch of times when we weren’t the fastest car, but we played out the right strategy and we got a couple that way.”
That’s still unusual for Emerling, though. Normally things happen differently for him. It used to be he’d be fast all race long and then something would happen near the end that would keep him out of victory lane.
“You can have the fastest car every week at the track, but you won’t always win races that way,” he said. “We haven’t had super great luck, but we’ve had things go our way versus in the past when we used to have horrible luck. We’ve definitely paid our dues. Things are finally going the way we think they should be going.”
If Emerling’s luck continues to be as good as its been in 2016, Emerling may finally be celebrating in victory lane at Oswego as a champion of the Race of Champions.
The 66th Annual Race of Champions 250 will take place at New York’s Oswego Speedway on September 15-17. For more information, visit www.rocmodifiedseries.com.
If you are unable to make it to Oswego this weekend, be sure to follow Speed51.com this for Trackside Now coverage, as well as video highlights on the Speed51 Network. But if you can be there, don’t miss out. The Race of Champions Weekend is one of the most affordable big-time events that a Modified fan can attend in 2016.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/Duane Canfield