Last year, Patrick Emerling won the season-long points chase for the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series. The reigning champion may have to wait to begin his title defense, but he has embraced sim racing events in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Emerling will be one of many racers competing in Thursday night’s RoC Invitational Series at virtual Oxford Plains Speedway. The Orchard Park, New York driver has returned to iRacing without the ability to compete in the real world.
“Unfortunately, we’re not racing right now but I’ve started doing some iRacing again,” Emerling said on Speed51’s “The Bullring” Wednesday evening. “I had an account from a long time ago, maybe 2013 or 2014. I just started getting back into it the other day, kinda getting on the bandwagon.”
While it is not “the real thing,” Emerling said that iRacing is as close as you can get to the actual sensation of being in a ground-pounding Modified.
“With the recent updates, the way the cars are and the way iRacing is now, it’s so realistic. It felt just like the real thing, less being inside the real car and being there.”
Emerling competed in last week’s season opener for the Race of Champions Invitational Series at the virtual Concord Speedway. He will be hoping for more fortune than he found at the tricky tri-oval last Thursday.
“We did our first RoC with that last Thursday. I was in the C-Main and wrecked coming to the green. I was doing doughnuts upside-down. Hopefully we’ll do a better job of avoiding those moving forward.”
He has more confidence coming into this week’s event, with a week of practice under his belt and some quality time spent at Oxford Plains.
“Me and a couple of friends of mine, we were messing around practicing there. We were getting pretty comfortable in the virtual race car. I’m looking forward to it. It’s a cool, round bullring. I haven’t raced there in a real car, but it reminds me of something similar to a Seekonk.
“I think I have improved since I started last week. I think I’m going to have a better showing than I did last week. Hopefully I can not wreck on the green flag and go upside down.”
The virtual racing has provided a great distraction from the turmoil of the real world, allowing Emerling to race with friends and crew members from home.
“It’s something to do. We’ve been working on the cars, getting everything ready for hopefully the season starting up pretty shortly. It’s been fun with the crew guys and Jan every day trying to get the cars faster.”
When racing resumes, Emerling is looking forward to competing with both the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
“For a Northeast Modified team, I think we have one of the busiest schedules. We like to compete with the RoC Modifieds full-time, that’s our home series. It’s based in Western and Central New York here, so we love running that series. We get to run more local and regional tracks.
“Last year we did run the Whelen Modified Tour full-time and that’s something we’re going to focus on this year. Last year was kind of a building year for us. We were trying some things. We had some solid runs but didn’t run how we felt we could have been running. That’s our focus this year, really step up our game on the Whelen Modified Tour and reach our max potential there. I think we can be very competitive there, we just need to put the pieces together.”
Fans who missed Emerling’s interview can watch a replay of “The Bullring” by clicking here.
The RoC Invitational Series event at Oxford Plains will be streamed live for free on Speed51 at 7:30 p.m. ET. Click here to view Speed51’s live sim racing schedule, featuring all events in the RoC Invitational Series.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans