Patrick Emerling sure jumped into the deep end of the Modified racing pool this season.
He started out the season by heading south to the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway in February, sharing the track with masters like Ted Christopher, Chuck Hossfeld, Ryan Preece and Burt Myers. Not looking like a rookie at all, Emerling ran with the big dogs all week and even collected a third-place podium finish in the biggest event for Modifieds during Florida Speedweeks, the Richie Evans Memorial 100.
Emerling reunited with Christopher, Hossfeld and Preece – along with guys like Mike Stefanik, Todd Szegedy, Bobby Santos and Eddie Flemke, Jr. when he started out the 2011 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season during the Icebreaker at Thompson International Speedway (CT). This time, the talent pool was even deeper and the waves were even higher, Emerling got caught in the middle of a few wrecks during the caution-plagued event, but the rookie still got his job done by scoring a solid 10th-place finish.
And if that wasn’t enough, Emerling has also raced in all four of the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour events to date this year – reuniting with Florida Speedweeks competitor Burt Myers and adding Andy Seuss, L.W. Miller and Tim Brown into the mix as well.
It’s heard so often that to be the best, you have to beat the best – so much in fact, that it has become more of a cliché than a mantra. But don’t tell Emerling that. He’s learning from the best in the Modified world right now and holding his own. Beating the best can’t be too far off for the driver from the seemingly contradictory-named hamlet of Boston, New York – a town just south of Buffalo.
“I just go out there and try my best,” said Emerling. “I try to do the best against these guys and try to beat them.”
But beating the big dogs isn’t the top goal for Emerling…at least, not yet. Showing wisdom beyond his years, the driver of the #07 Modified hasn’t been pulling slide jobs or taking risks to gain positions on the racetrack. Instead, he’s been using his head and filling it full of new knowledge at the same time.
“Every race, I’m just learning,” said Emerling. “I know that I hesitate too much and I know that is one of my biggest problems. It’s just because I’m new at this and I don’t want to tear anything up. The more races that I do though, the more that I learn. That makes both the team and I better.”
In races where many of the veterans can’t seem to behave themselves, leading to almost as many caution laps as green-flagged ones in many Tour events, Emerling’s approach is a refreshing one. It works too, as he made it to the finish of the Icebreaker when so many other drivers ended the event on the back of a wrecker.
“That is pretty much my goal, to not tear things up and to finish,” said Emerling. “I think that is more important than going out, banzai-ing people and wrecking.”
Emerling joins the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour from the Mid Atlantic-based RoC Pavement Modified Tour.
“We ran the RoC Tour last year,” said Emerling. “That was my first year in a Modified. Before that, I ran an SST Modified for about two years.”
In 2011, Emerling plans to run the entire NASCAR schedule, and the great runs that started at New Smyrna are giving him a boost as the young season gets rolling.
“It gave me a little bit [more confidence],” said Emerling. “It showed me that I could compete against them, because we were up against the good guys. We were competitive and that helped get us ready for the year.”