There has been no shortage of busy days for Whelen Modified Tour veteran Patrick Emerling during the 2022 season.
Along with maintaining an active presence in the series that developed him as a driver, Emerling elected to broaden his horizons in NASCAR this year by starting an Xfinity Series team with Joey Gase. They currently field a full-time and a part-time car.
Although balancing two responsibilities has come with plenty of challenges for Emerling, he said becoming a team owner in the Xfinity Series was the next logical step to ensure he could keep thriving in NASCAR, adding that methodical gains throughout the year have justified the decision.
“It’s been an OK season with the Modified stuff,” Emerling said. “As far as the Xfinity side of things, we’ve had quite a few different drivers throughout the season, but we’ve been progressively improving the program every week, and that was one of our goals.”
RACING REFERENCE: Career stats for Patrick Emerling
Emerling is no stranger to patience when it comes to achieving long-term success.
During his first decade of competing in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, Emerling had to fight for every position while driving for his family-owned team. He did manage to get one victory at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2017, which he accomplished by earning the pole and leading 148 of 150 laps.
While Emerling did find more consistency as he logged more laps, it wasn’t until the 2021 season when the Orchard Park, New York native finally hit his stride on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
In the second race of the year at Stafford Motor Speedway, Emerling climbed through the field from the 23rdstarting position before the race was plagued by several late cautions that took out most of the leaders. Emerling took advantage of the chaos and found himself in the lead when rain prematurely ended the race on Lap 130, giving him the win.
Emerling built on the momentum from Stafford by tallying two more victories at New York International Raceway Park and Riverhead Raceway to go along with nine top fives. The consistency Emerling displayed throughout 2021 enabled him to finish second in the point standings behind Justin Bonsignore.
A season like 2021 was something Emerling had always wanted to achieve since he started competing in Modifieds, but getting there required him to carefully study his strengths and shortcomings while ensuring his cars could be competitive on a weekly basis.
“For a long time as a driver, I lacked confidence,” Emerling said. “There were a lot of little things I needed to work on like getting the equipment up to par, but I had to drive better, too. Every time I jump into a race car, I show up better the next time. I always like to learn.”
One person Emerling credits for making him a better driver is long-time crew chief and former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver Jan Leaty.
Ever since the two began their partnership, Emerling has leaned on Leaty’s years of driving experience on how to get the most out of his car. Emerling values his tight friendship with Leaty and knows he can count on him regardless of what Modified series they compete in together.
RACING REFERENCE: Career stats for Jan Leaty
Leaty has been thrilled with the development Emerling has shown since his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour campaign back in 2011, and he knows Emerling’s determination is only going to result in many more successful years going forward.
“I could tell right away [Patrick] had good talent, but he needed some guidance,” Leaty said. “He was about 17 when I first started working with him, and every year, Patrick got a little bit better. Before long, he was sniffing the front of the pack more frequently.”
It came as no surprise to Leaty when Emerling told him he wanted to start his own Xfinity Series program.
Emerling dabbled in the Xfinity Series with Our Motorsports at the start of the decade and wanted to expand his involvement going into 2022. Although he had the equipment to do so, Emerling knew he needed more support to run a full-time Xfinity Series schedule.
Assistance came in the form of Gase, who like Emerling had cars ready to use for Xfinity Series competition. After deliberating with one another, on Dec. 30, 2021, the duo agreed to form Emerling-Gase Motorsports.
Along with splitting driving duties between their full-time No. 35 car, Emerling and Gase have also fielded a variety of drivers in their first year together. That list includes Parker Kligerman, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Shane Lee and Brad Perez, among others.
RACING REFERENCE: Emerling-Gase Motorsports’ 2022 results
With the Xfinity Series growing more competitive with each passing year, Gase did not expect anything to come easy for him and Emerling in 2022, but he said the organization has accomplished every single goal that was laid out ahead of the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
“Our main goal was to make every race and survive,” Gase said. “We’ve qualified for every race we’ve attempted this year whether it was with one car or both. I’m really proud about that and not a lot of teams can say the same. This is not an easy thing to do financially and there were a lot of people that doubted us, but we proved them wrong.”
Having already announced plans to field a second full-time car in the Xfinity Series starting in 2023, Gase is confident the team will keep making more progress regardless of who ends up driving the No. 35 or No. 53.
Gase admitted Emerling has played a substantial role toward that growth in regards to his experience in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, as well as with business decisions that have kept Emerling-Gase Motorsports on the track each week.
“Patrick and I are both racers, and we both have a lot of benefits to bring to the team,” Gase said. “On the business side, Patrick brings a lot, and he’s been in racing for a long time. There are so many little things that are different in the NASCAR world, but that’s something I can bring insight on. We complement each other in a lot of ways and we’ve become really good friends.”
Patrick Emerling plans to stay involved in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour despite his commitments to the NASCAR Xfinity Series.(Bryan Bennett/NASCAR)Even though his Xfinity Series schedule is about to get busier, Emerling does not plan to stray too far away from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
The number of races Emerling ends up running in the Xfinity Series will dictate how frequently he can climb into a Modified, but he intends to maintain his partnership with Leaty so he can keep showcasing his talents against drivers like Bonsignore, Doug Coby and Ron Silk, all of whom have at least one NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour title.
Years of competing in the northeast have taught Emerling many lessons about patience and finesse behind the wheel, which are qualities he is carrying over to the Xfinity Series despite the aero differences between those cars and Modifieds.
Emerling can never see himself moving away from Modifieds completely and intends to keep racing in the discipline as frequently as he can.
“I always enjoy running Modifieds,” Emerling said. “Anytime I have that opportunity, I’ll take it, because it’s my passion, and I’ve always had a lot of fun there. Everyone has the same equipment, and a lot of the races come down to the driver, which I really enjoy.”
Emerling is proud to represent the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour on the national level and is confident the persistence he showed during the 2010s will gradually turn Emerling-Gase Motorsports into one of the top Xfinity Series programs.