A Story by NASCAR.com
It took some diving, ducking and dodging by Patrick Emerling on the final restart, but the No. 07 team’s luck finally, finally turned around last Friday at the Spring Sizzler.
Emerling avoided the carnage on the final restart, swerving to the right and shooting the gap between the spinning cars of Justin Bonsignore and Anthony Nocella to grab the lead and the win.
“I don’t know what happened there,” Emerling said. “Everyone started getting together. Sparks were flying and just kind of burned right through the smoke there and just kind of worked out.”
For much of the day, however, it appeared that the rotten luck that has plagued the team since 2020 would bite them again. The pure speed was there last season — they qualified six of eight races inside the top-10 — but one way or another, the team could not catch a break, scoring only one top-10 finish in 2020. An electrical problem Friday forced the team to miss both practice and qualifying and start the race last.
But good fortune came storming back as the race drew on. Emerling caught a caution on lap 61 and got the lucky dog. Even after spinning to bring out the yellow on lap 95, Emerling had worked his way to fifth by the time the race restarted for the final time.
Patrick Emerling (right) celebrates in Victory Lane with crew chief Jan Leaty after winning the NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler. (Adam Glanzman/NASCAR)Even though the race was called early due to the rain, crew chief Jan Leaty still felt the team was in good shape to pass the top four cars had the race gone the distance.
“You just will never know for sure,” Leaty said. “But I know, the position we were in, we executed the strategy to put on our tires later in the event than most of the guys did. So we had 25-lap better tires than almost everyone… I felt like the cars in front of us, we were going to pass them. The car was mint, and they were holding him up, to use his words.”
Leaty won the Sizzler as an owner-driver in 1996 with friends and family. While it was certainly a different experience to celebrate in the rain, it was proof to him that the team is still a force to be reckoned with in the Tour garage.
“It’s different for sure,” Leaty said. “It made me feel good that other guys, the next generation, so to speak, got to experience it too, and that I got to help them get there.”
Now, Leaty’s just looking forward to an issue-free day soon.
“It’s not like we’re all of a sudden on cruise control here,” Leaty said. “We’re working really hard to get the results we’re getting. I keep telling the guys ‘One day, things are just gonna go smooth and we’re not gonna know what to do with ourselves.’”