Patrick Emerling has competed in a Tour-Type Modified since 2010. Along the way he has recorded multiple top-five finishes and led a number of laps. But despite all of those results and close calls, a win was still missing from the Orchard Park, New York driver’s list of accomplishments.
That all changed on Sunday afternoon at Shangri-La II Motor Speedway (NY) in the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour’s third race of 2015. Emerling’s Leaty Racing machine was fastest out of the box in practice, finished a strong second in his heat race, redrew to start on the outside pole, and jumped out to the early advantage in the 75-lap feature.
For the second half of the race, Emerling had two of the best in the business to keep behind him. Champions Chuck Hossfeld and Matt Hirschman proved no match for him on this afternoon with the strong performance and the team’s setup for the half-mile concrete oval. It was also his first win with their new Troyer TA1 chassis, which debuted with a runner-up finish the last time out at Oswego Speedway.
“It was definitely the best car I ever had here,” Emerling told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Ever since we unloaded off the truck this car has been absolutely stellar. Me and Jan (Leaty) have been working together with the setup and showing up with a faster car. It has been showing; we’ve been putting so much thought into it and working real hard, especially Jan.”
Equally as rewarding to Emerling was the fact that he had to outrun two drivers that have combined for the last six RoC championships.
“I’ve been trying to catch them for years,” Emerling said. “They are as good as it gets, so to finally be faster than them it just feels excellent. I have so much respect for them guys, and to keep out ahead of them feels great.”
Hirschman and Hossfeld were involved in quite the hard fought battle for the second position in the closing laps. Hossfeld worked Hirschman over in several attempts to gain the position, but the Northampton, Pennsylvania driver successfully held off the Ransomville, New York racer for his best finish of the 2015 season.
“For us it’s been a pretty poor start to the season, probably the worst that I can remember in a long time,” Hirschman stated. “It’s really a good boost today just to have a good run. We just haven’t been performing the way we need to. That’s not to take away anything from the Leaty group with two back to back wins.”
Tony Hanbury backed up a Sportsman Modified victory the previous day at the track to finish fourth. Jimmy Zacharias overcame a hurt right ankle after a mishap working on his car in the pits prior to the green flag to round out the top-five.
The middle of the race was marred by a multiple-car wreck that began in turn four and concluded past the start-finish line coming to complete lap 30. Tommy Catalano suffered the hardest hit after advancing into the top 10, and was taken to a nearby hospital for further evaluation. The Ontario, New York rookie driver in the series posted on social media Sunday night that the doctor said he sustained cracked ribs, a damaged lung, and a concussion as a result of the impact.
Also involved in the incident was the points leader heading into the event, Oswego winner Mike Leaty. Miraculously, he was able to drive the new LFR chassis he was piloting for car owner Jeff DeMinck away after track crews detached it from some of the other cars involved, and continued on for a top-10 finish.
“My front bumper is perfect, but I was somehow shoved up in the air and on top of people,” Leaty explained about the accident. “I knew I really didn’t hit anything that hard. I just kind of pirouetted along tops of racecars and came to a stop. We had to change the left front brake caliper because the bleeder got knocked off it, so we changed the caliper and away we went again. My crew did awesome and I made my way back up through. We got eighth instead of about 25th by going back out.”
Leaty will be back in his team’s Troyer that won Oswego at the next race, his home track at Spencer Speedway (NY), before bringing the LFR out for some more track time at Lancaster National Speedway (NY) at the end of June.
What was most satisfying for Leaty on this day was seeing his teammate Emerling get the victory. The two have teamed up the last few years to help them prepare their cars for races on both the RoC and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tours.
“I’m just as happy that he won as if I would have won the race,” Leaty said. “That whole family, they work their butt off. They have been in this sport for years now. We maintain their car in our shop, and we put just as much time on that thing as we do with my cars. He’s a really good kid, and the first one is the hardest to get and I really think you could see a lot more out of him.”
The next race presents an interesting conflict for Emerling and crew. Over the past four years Emerling has concentrated more on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, but with the Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) and Spencer races falling on the same day they will have to choose one or the other.
“Right now we’re leading the points in the RoC, I believe, so it’s hard to say at this point,” Emerling said. “I’ve never ran for a championship ever. Since we’re in position here we might have a pretty tough decision to make.”
No matter the decision, at this moment there is a different team and a different group of drivers on top of their game on the Race of Champions Tour.
– By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Pennsylvania/Central New York Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
– Photo credit:
RoC Modifieds 75 Results
Shangri-La II Speedway – May 24, 2015
1 2 07 Patrick Emerling 75
2 3 60 Matt Hirschman 75
3 8 22 Chuck Hossfeld 75
4 9 21 Tony Hanbury 75
5 12 71 Jimmy Zacharias 75
6 5 8 Bobby Holmes 75
7 4 27 Andy Jankowiak 75
8 18 1L Mike Leaty 75
9 10 65 George Skora III 75
10 23 47 Jim Storace 75
11 16 34 Rusty Smith 75
12 29 69 Tommy Cloce 75
13 21 53 Brian Defebo 75
14 22 19 Brandon Oltra 75
15 1 51b T.J. Potrzebowski 74
16 20 95 Bryan Sherwood 74
17 7 42 Nick Pecko 74
18 6 11 Kirk Totten 74
19 26 64 Amy Catalano 73
20 27 1 Chris Risdale 73
21 19 94 Zack Curren 66
22 13 32 Tyler Rypkema 44
23 17 51r Lee Sharpsteen 42
24 14 3 Daren Scherer 30
25 11 66 Austin Kochenash 30
26 15 54 Tommy Catalano 30
27 24 59 Karl Hehr 29
28 30 17c Roger Coss 27
29 28 17 Ken Canestrari 20
30 25 9x TJ Zacharias 16