Patrick Emerling entered Friday’s Richie Evans Memorial 100 at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) with a chance to win his first World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing championship. The night before, he had captured his first win at New Smyrna, but he entered Friday’s race with hopes of getting the bigger trophy. Instead, Emerling went back to Orchard Park, New York with a battered and bruised race car, and a battered and bruised left shoulder.
Emerling’s No. 07 was caught up in two different wrecks, absorbing hard hits in each one, and yet still was able to finish all 100 laps in the ninth position.
Emerling’s left shoulder has already endured one surgery to repair a torn labrum that he said had been in need of repair for a while due to a combination of injuries between his high school wrestling days and racing incidents.
“I’ve recovered (from the surgery), but when I get involved in some of these wrecks and the wheel yanks out, it kind of knocks my shoulder out of its socket a little bit,” he explained. “It’s happened twice since the surgery so I just have to give it some time to evaluate it and then see what I have to do.
“I’ve got to schedule an appointment and get it looked at and see how it is and see how it stays in joint and is stable. The surgery was on the labrum, which is what keeps it in the socket. I tore that once already. It’s probably torn a little bit, but I’ve just got to make sure it’s not torn too much to where I need surgery on it.”
The wreck that hurt Emerling’s shoulder took place just six laps into Friday’s 100-lap affair and began when the No. 63 of Austin Pickens slowed on the fronstretch in the middle of the pack.
Emerling, who set fast-time in qualifying, started the race in the 11th position. His strategy was to ride and methodically pick cars off to not use up his equipment too early. That came to an end quickly when Pickens broke and set off a multi-car crash that involved Emerling, Craig Lutz, and Tommy Catalano.
Amazingly, most of the damage was just cosmetic damage on his car. The toe was knocked out of alignment, but his crew was able to repair that quickly. Emerling was sent back out and seemed to be in good shape, minus the hurting shoulder.
“I wasn’t too happy about it, but the wheels were still on the car. I was more upset about my shoulder because it got pulled out of its socket there. After that I was just kind of worried. The race didn’t disappoint me. Just that did because it’ll be sore for a long time and then I have to evaluate it. But during the race stuff happens.”
That wreck wasn’t the only time that “stuff” happened to Emerling. About 15 laps later another crash on the fronstretch saw Emerling spin out and slam into the outside turn one wall.
The 2016 RoC Asphalt Modified Tour champion limped his car back to his crew with a mangled right-side nerf bar and a crunched-in rear end.
His crew cut off the side bar with a reciprocating saw, wheeled the toe back into place and sent him back on his way once again.
“I think in any other series they wouldn’t have let us back on the track. I’m pretty certain that if you lose a side bar you can’t go back out, but they didn’t say anything.”
The amazing thing wasn’t that Emerling was able to go back out without a side bar, but instead that he was able to go back out all and still be competitive. Even he was amazed by that.
“I’ve never been involved in so many wrecks, and every single one of them could have taken me right out,” Emerling said with a laugh. “But for some reason the way we hit it just bent the wheels and the side bars. But we were able to come in and wheel the toe back in and then go back out. I was just out there kind of minding my own business and just a lot of stuff just happened right there. I’ve never had anything like that happen before that I was still standing after getting caught up in a couple wrecks like that.”
Unfortunately for Emerling, one thing did happen to the suspension in one of the two wrecks. The sway bar link broke, and that completely changed the handling of his race car.
“If that sway bar link didn’t break I think we could have ended up with a top five or a top three without a doubt at all.”
If that sway bar link didn’t break, we could be looking at a different World Series champion.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo credit: Speed51.com