TALLADEGA, ALABAMA - APRIL 19: Patrick Emerling, driver of the #07 BIG Studio Group Chevrolet, looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Xfinity Series  Ag-Pro 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 19, 2024 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) | Getty Images
TALLADEGA, ALABAMA - APRIL 19: Patrick Emerling, driver of the #07 BIG Studio Group Chevrolet, looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Ag-Pro 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 19, 2024 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Patrick Emerling balances the grind of running full modified season and partial Xfinity schedule

By Dustin Albino

Patrick Emerling is a racer. He stepped into the ownership side of NASCAR, co-owning Emerling-Gase Motorsports for two seasons, eventually realizing it wasn’t for him. Instead, he went back to his short-track roots to compete full time in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.

In mid-December, Emerling announced he would compete for team owner Rich Gautreau in the modifieds. Through the opening six races of the season, he has three top-five finishes and five top 10s. Emerling ranks fifth in the championship standings, 50 points out of the championship lead, currently locked down by Ron Silk.

“Nothing beats an opportunity to win,” Emerling told Jayski.com recently. “Snow Belt Management (a management company Emerling is partnered with) and I are trying to build up to that in [the Xfinity] series and trying to get ourselves more funding each race and try to get ourselves into a position to compete. I’m already there with the modified stuff; just working on our partnerships.”

Emerling also became the primary driver of the No. 07 car for SS GreenLight Racing in 2024. He is scheduled to compete in 24 of the 33 events.

“[Emerling] has supplied some equipment, but it’s 100% him driving for me; he’s not in charge of the ownership side,” Bobby Dotter, owner of SS GreenLight, said. “It makes his life a lot less complicated. We’re hoping for better results, but it’s been a rough start this year.”

In the previous two seasons, Emerling was heavily involved in the operations of Emerling-Gase Motorsports with NASCAR veteran Joey Gase. The underfunded team struggled out of the gate, but Gase managed to pick up the team’s lone top-10 finish last spring at Talladega Superspeedway. Being a part of team management allowed Emerling to get more experience behind the wheel at the national touring series’ level.

Emerling competed in a third of the schedule in 2022 and just over half of the 33 races last season. Despite the hefty competition, Emerling consistently had respectable showings, earning seven top-25 finishes in 2023, including a season best 14th-place effort at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“There are a lot of decisions that you have to make and there’s a lot of business decisions and then there’s racing decisions,” Emerling said of his time as an owner. “The one thing that I got a little frustrated with is you have to make some business decisions that compromise the racing stuff. That’s one part of it that did get irritating, just having part ownership on a lower-budgeted team.”

Having to be his own secretary over the last couple of seasons, Emerling’s time drifted from focusing on the competition to becoming more of a marketing-oriented person. He learned firsthand how much of an uphill battle it is to just be competitive in a stacked series.

CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 24: Patrick Emerling, driver of the #07 Liberty Brew Chevrolet, drives during qualifying for the NASCAR Xfinity Series BetMGM 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2024 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) | Getty Images
(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) | Getty Images

By ducking out of the ownership role, it freed up more time. Emerling is traveling every weekend to a race track, and some conflicts have risen between the modified and Xfinity schedules.

“There are races that I actually have sponsorship for in the Xfinity Series but since I’m committing to running full time in the Whelen Modified Tour, that’s a conflict,” Emerling said. “I’m committed to running full time in the Whelen Modified Tour and trying to run for a championship. That’s what I’m doing.”

When Emerling does have additional sponsorship and can’t be at the Xfinity race on a given weekend, it allows some flexibility to have other drivers that Snow Belt MGMT represents compete in the No. 07 car. Logan Bearden made his series debut at Richmond Raceway and has run additional races at Martinsville Speedway and Portland International Raceway.

Through 14 races, the No. 07 car sits 31st in the owners standings. Emerling has a single top-25 finish.

“I feel like anytime we had some decent cars, stuff happened,” Emerling added. “Whether it’s a tire bouncing out of our pit stall or being at the wrong place at the wrong time on the race track. Looking forward to turning that around.”

Emerling has had some bright spots throughout the season, however. With no help from other Chevrolet teams, he drove up to second at Talladega Superspeedway, utilizing the draft as an equalizer.

“It seems like in the weeks that we’re running better, we have bad luck or get caught up in crashes,” Dotter noted. “The weeks that we’re struggling are the weeks where he can ride around and doesn’t get in trouble. It’s a work-in-progress, but we’re all on the same page and nobody is pointing fingers or nothing.”

Ryan Preece, another longtime northeast modified driver, knows Emerling can get the job done. It all comes down to the resources that the team can provide.

“I think there are a lot of drivers that are good at your regional levels and Patrick has been very successful,” Preece stated. “At a national level, there is only so much you can do as a racecar driver. We’re racing at 180 mph where downforce is everything and when you’re not on an OEM backed team with the wind tunnel access and as much information about tires.

“Patrick and I have gone back and forth many times and he’s grinding it out.”

Dotter believes with Emerling bouncing back and forth between series can be more challenging than it appears. Emerling, who believes the modifieds are among the most entertaining series’ in the country, knew what he signed up for.

“I think it is a difficult thing,” Dotter said. “We have embraced it a little bit.  I don’t know if the modified team does. He drives those cars and has such a good feel for them with good setups and he comes back and is looking for something that isn’t there in our car. Sometimes, we hit on it and sometimes, we don’t.”

Emerling’s next shot at winning in the modifieds will be next weekend at New Hampshire, where he has eight top-five finishes in 23 starts. He will be pulling double duty that weekend, also piloting the No. 07 car.