Patrick Emerling christened Lancaster Speedway with a victory for the ages.
After a late-race restart pitted the western New York native against Justin Bonsignore, his nearest threat for the championship, Emerling fended off a fierce charge on the final corner to win the inaugural Nu-Way Auto Parts 150 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race on Saturday night.
Emerling grew up in Orchard Park, New York, just 30 minutes south of New York International Raceway Park where the track sits. The hard charger excelled late and led the final 30 laps en route to his second tour victory of 2021 to reclaim the series points lead.
“I was like a kid in a candy store all day,” Emerling said. “Having a Whelen Modified Tour race at one of my home tracks in western New York is absolutely incredible. We had a great car all day. Great long run speed and the crew here did an excellent job.”
After a significant multi-car crash brought out the red flag within the final 10 laps, Emerling led Bonsignore back to the green flag with five laps to go. Emerling got the jump and knew he had to maintain the bottom line. Bonsignore knew his best shot would be jumping to the outside in Turns 3 and 4.
Bonsignore was right and rocketed alongside Emerling’s No. 07 car. The two made contact, but at the line, it was Emerling eking out the victory by 0.045 seconds.
“I was just going to hold the bottom,” Emerling said. “When you’re on the bottom, you have control. I wasn’t going to let him get underneath and then I opened up the top there. He got a decent run but we were just able to edge him a little bit there.”
Bonsignore, who entered the night with a 10-point lead over Emerling, put his class on full display by congratulating Emerling’s team on its way to Victory Lane before eventually seeking Emerling out himself, showing his respect after a hard-fought race.
“Congrats to Patrick,” Bonsignore said. “I mean, it sucks to lose, especially (to) the guy you’re battling in points, but a hometown guy at his home track with this crowd? Can’t thank Mikey Myers and his whole staff (enough) who put this whole show on.”
Jon McKennedy began the night on the pole and was untouchable for the first 90 laps despite best efforts from Bonsignore and Max McLaughlin. Eventually, though, Bonsignore reeled in McKennedy and made the pass for the lead on Lap 91 in the midst of a long green-flag run that followed an early caution at Lap 28.
Not long after Bonsignore set sail in the lead, Emerling’s car seemingly came to life. The long-run speed of the No. 07 allowed Emerling to erase a 1.14-second deficit in just 10 laps before leapfrogging Bonsignore into the top spot. Bonsignore was attempting to lap another driver when he caught the marbles in Turn 2, allowing Emerling to pass through cleanly on the inside for the lead.
The last 26 laps of the contest, however, became suddenly filled with cautions. On Lap 124, Scott Wylie and Walter Sutcliffe Jr. tangled in Turns 1 and 2 to bring out the second yellow flag of the evening.
Under that caution period, the leaders all came to pit road. Emerling maintained his lead but Bonsignore lost considerable track position and came out mired in the middle of the top 10.
“Picked a bad time to have our worst pit stop probably in five years,” Bonsignore said. “The guys always are balanced out … so we’ll win and lose as a team tonight.”
Then the cautions kept coming.
One lap after the restart, McKennedy and Anthony Nocella made contact entering Turn 1 and sent both cars sideways at the front of the field. Eric Goodale suffered significant damage while Andy Jankowiak and J.B. Fortin also got collected.
The ensuing restart on Lap 141 was no better. Chuck Hossfeld seemed to suffer a right-front suspension issue entering Turn 1 and clipped the back bumper of Silk’s No. 85 machine. Silk attempted to make the corner but was caught on the outside three-wide and triggered a pile-up that gathered up Tommy Catalano, Ken Heagy, Timmy Solomito, Mike Leaty and Nocella.
At the checkered flag, McLaughlin finished third behind Emerling and Bonsignore while McKennedy and Goodale rounded out the top five.
Tyler Rypkema came home sixth ahead of Hossfeld and Fortin, who completed the lead-lap finishers. Doug Coby finished ninth, one lap down, after starting the race two laps down — the six-time champ needed his shifter replaced before the field took the green flag. Rounding out the top 10 was Kyle Bonsignore.
The victory for Emerling inches him closer to the points lead one race after losing the top position to Bonsignore. That battle, with Bonsignore currently six points ahead, will heat up as the tour heads to Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday, Aug. 6, for its next contest.