It happened in a blink of an eye. Patrick Emerling was battling Andy Jankowiak for a solid third place run charging to the checked flag in last year’s Holland 100 for the Sunoco Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour. Then disaster struck, producing perhaps the scariest moment in Holland Motorsports Complex history.
As the pair of drivers exited Turn Four and raced down the front stretch, both cars came into contact, hopped wheels and became airborne. Emerling’s car flew along the wheel fence and then struck the starters stand, which was occupied by ROC head flagman John Nelson and his assistant, Steve Kellogg.
Suddenly fencing and debris were flying everywhere. In a fast thinking move, Kellogg grabbed Nelson and kept him from falling onto the track and into the path of speeding cars.
Nelson and Kellogg received a few scrapes and bruises, and neither driver or any spectators were injured. Holland officials and the safety team did a good job of securing the accident area and tending to those involved.
The ROC returns this Saturday for the Holland 100, and Emerling will be back trying to grab the checkered flag that eluded him a year ago. He well remembers last year’s incident but has been busy building up his asphalt Modified driving career resume on both the ROC and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
“It happened so fast,” said Emerling of the big wreck last season. “I knew I climbed the wall, and when I landed I did a couple of spins. Andy and I came together on that last lap, last corner and we were both going for it. I wish it never happened.
“We got the car back together and ran two weeks after the Holland accident at Oswego. The car wasn’t as bad as we first thought after the accident.”
In the last three ROC races contested in 2014, Emerling has had good finishes of fourth at Shangri-La II, followed by a pair of thirds at Oswego and Elegant Builders Raceway Park.
“That third place run at Lancaster (EBRP) was really great because I was very competitive and finished real close to the winner Chuck Hossfeld and second place Erick Rudolph,” said Emerling, who attends Hilbert College. “Chuck is excellent at Lancaster and has won many races there. Erick is a great driver, too.”
In his last three NASCAR Whelen races Emerling has scored finishes of seventh at Stafford, Conn., 5th at Waterford, Conn., and 15th this past Saturday at Riverhead.
On the ROC tour he races a Modified owned by Jan and Mike Leaty. Jan is a veteran driver who is semi-retired. His son Mike races regularly on the ROC Schedule.
“The Leatys are a great family and a class act,” said Emerling, 21, of Orchard Park. “They own the car I run on the ROC tour. My family owns the two cars I have for the NASCAR Whelen tour. Mike spots for me on the NASCAR Whelen tour and Jan crew-chiefs on that car too. They’re a great group of guys.”
Emerling, who is sponsored by Buffalo Auto Auction and Emerling Chevrolet, has been racing asphalt Modifieds for four years after launching his career in the NASCAR Pro Modifieds at Holland. When the green flag flies Saturday to start the Holland 100, Nelson and Kellogg are both expected to be in the flag stand.
• Many veteran area race fans are remembering the large contributions made to this area’s racing community by Matt Serwacki. Serwacki, of Elma, died June 24. He and his brother the late Ed Serwacki co-founded and co-owned Lancaster Speedway/Dragway (now Elegant Builders Raceway Park) from it’s opening in 1959 until the conclusion of the 1971 season.
• Local auto racing history will take place this Saturday when Busti’s Stateline Speedway reopens under new management after closing at the end of last season. Bill Catania Jr. struck a lease-to-own deal with the former owners of this dirt-surfaced facility, the Seamens family, and will open the track for racing this Saturday.
Major renovations to the concession stands, main spectator grandstand and other areas of the speedway property have taken place. To celebrate Stateline’s 58 years of racing, the headlining race this Saturday will feature the Super Late Models competing in the $5,800-to-win 58-lap “Papa” Don Frank Memorial showdown.
Other classes at Stateline Saturday include the Crate Late Models, Modifieds, Limited Late Models, Super Stocks, Super Sportsman and Challengers. The first 200 fans through the gates Saturday receive free Stateline Speedway T-shirts and decals. Fireworks will round out the opener.
• Little Valley Speedway presents its annual Freedom Daze Late Model Special at 7 p.m. tonight, showcasing a $3,000-to-win 30-lap race for the Super Late Models.
• The BRP Can-Am 360 Late Model Series will also be at Little Valley and will run its most prestigious event of the season, the 12th annual $1,422-to-win Brock Young Memorial. The race honors both Brock Young, who drove in the BRP series until his untimely death in a 2002 highway accident, and Young’s mother, Roxie, who succumbed to cancer in 2009. Little Valley will present its Freedom Daze large and small car demolition derbies Friday at 7:30 p.m.
• The Watkins Glen Region of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) will showcase the SCCA-U.S. Majors Tour, which is part of the BF Goodrich Super Tour this Friday through Sunday. Eight different groups of sports cars will be in competition each day beginning at 8 a.m.