Technically speaking, Saturday night at Cherokee Speedway (SC) gave Robbie Emory his second career win in the FUEL Late Model Series. But it was the first time the Delaware native received the series’ first-place trophy before the podium rolled through post-race technical inspection.
Following the last FUEL Late Model Series event at Carolina Speedway, series officials announced that Ben Watkins’ fuel did not comply with the rules. Watkins’ subsequent disqualification and suspension turned over the win and the points lead to Emory.
Now with a championship on the line and a field of drivers chasing him for it, there’s a new weight on Emory’s shoulders to perform every weekend. Pressure aside, an on-track victory— scored by a landslide, no less— is a good place to start.
“This one being our true win on the track, it makes it so much better,” Emory said. “The other one, we’ll take it, but this one shows that we did what we were supposed to do and it paid off.”
Emory led from green to checkered flag, never surrendering his lead, even on the four different restarts that took place over a 30-lap span. Emory credited his dominance to good car control.
“The whole race, the car felt pretty good,” Emory said. “It was under me the whole time. I was able to go hard. Every once in a while if I tried to slow down a little bit it would actually start to push on me. To be able to go that hard and that smooth, it was pretty awesome.”
The only driver that shared the straightaways with Emory at any point during the race was second-place finisher Shaun Harrell. Harrell ended up one spot short of the victory, but six spots better than his last go-round at the 3/8-mile clay oval.
“[Emory] was better through the center of the corner,” Harrell said. “We came here earlier this year and started 15th, and finished eighth. We come here this race, starting second and finishing second. That’s a pretty good improvement, we’ve just got to work a little harder.”
Though he wasn’t a factor for the lead, Chris Blackwell was pleased with his fourth-place that he achieved in a car that’s only been piloted twice in 2018.
“Tonight was a good start,” Blackwell said. “This is only the second time running the car this year, so we’re pretty tickled with it. They’ve got quite a few races under their belt this year and . . . it’s an older car, but we got it all together. We just need that little bit.”
Emory may have stolen the show, but defending series champion Steve Banal’s last-to-fast execution of the race was equally impressive. After battling from the rear of the 22-car field due to electrical issues, Banal salvaged the night in sixth.
“We’ve just has bad luck,” Banal said. “We had a battery short out in qualifying and that put us behind. I was really only going to go out there and run a lap or two, but we started picking up a few cars here and there and then I just decided to keep running. It actually ended up pretty good.”
Race fans can watch an on-demand broadcast of Saturday’s FUEL Racing Series feature at Cherokee Speedway by clicking here.
Next up for the FUEL Racing Series will be a stop at Friendship Motor Speedway in Elkin, North Carolina on Saturday, August 11.
-Melissa Strahley, Gulf Coast Editor
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com