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NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour

Patrick Emerling Readies NASCAR Modified Title Run

12 points separate Justin Bonsignore and Patrick Emerling

It has already been a career year for Patrick Emerling, as he has set high marks in top fives (six), wins (two) and is on pace for personal bests in average finish and top 10s.

Emerling also sits second in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour standings, 12 points behind three-time and defending champion Justin Bonsignore. But coming off a 2020 campaign that saw him go winless for the third consecutive season and only score one top-10 finish, Emerling said he and his No. 07 Emerling Motorsports team really haven’t changed much behind the scenes.

‘We’re just kind of focusing in on doing our own thing,” he said. “I’m showing up with fast race cars. Last year, I thought we showed up with some fast cars but we had a lot of weird, stupid, really odd things go bad. This year, we’ve just been able to capitalize on a couple of fast cars and run pretty strong.”

Emerling, admittedly an optimist, was a bit surprised at his change in luck after last year’s rough slate. His one top-10 finish came in the season finale at Thompson, and he didn’t compete in the penultimate event at Stafford Motor Speedway. But boy, has his fortune turned around in 2021.

The Orchard Park, New York, native has rolled into Victory Lane at both Stafford and New York International Raceway Park this season, his first win at either venue. He has only finished outside the top 10 once, hasn’t failed to complete a lap and always seems to be up front contending for the win as the race winds down.

“We’ve had some solid runs, a couple that were just okay, one in particular that wasn’t that good,” Emerling said. “We kind of had a tough weekend at Loudon and that kind of set us back a little bit. But we’re sitting second points by a pretty good margin. We definitely can’t complain there.”

But he knows Bonsignore and the Kenneth Massa Motorsports team, who rarely have an off weekend, won’t back down. Forty-four points clear of Jon McKennedy in third place, Emerling said it’s likely a two-horse race for the title with five races remaining.

“Justin and the whole No. 51 team, they’re on their game,” he said. “They’re the type of group to show up with a car that’s not the fastest car, but they get a top five out of there. They’re extremely good and really on point.

“He would need a tough weekend for us to catch up or vice versa. But we just have to keep positioning ourselves to be running up front and try to capitalize on it.”

Finishing second at Riverhead Raceway this season, third at Owego Speedway, winning at Stafford and finishing seventh there last weekend, Emerling thinks the final five events shape up in his favor. Especially given the relatively even playing field the tour will be on.

“We have Beech Ridge, which is a track that’s neutral,” Emerling said. “It’s not Thompson or Stafford or a track that everyone grew up on. We ended up with a third at Oswego and I’m really looking forward to Richmond and what the rest of the season holds for us, too.”

Emerling will look to earn his third victory of the season and close the gap to Bonsignore on Aug. 21 at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in the Rumble at the Ridge 200 at 7:30 pm ET. The event will be streamed live on NBC Sports’ TrackPass.

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Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He is also the associate motorsports editor of Autoweek Magazine and its website, which allows him to cover the highest levels of the sport.

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