When two-time and defending Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series champion Patrick Emerling competes in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Cheddar's 300 on May 30 at Bristol Motor Speedway, not only will it be his first career race in the series, it will mark the first time he has been on a track in a NASCAR Xfinity car.
Emerling, of Holland, has struck a one-race deal with North Carolina-based Our Motorsports to drive in the Bristol race.
Making the challenge tougher is the fact that the one-day event will be run under NASCAR's current Covid-19 protocol, which means there will be no practice, no qualifying and no fans will be permitted in the spacious Bristol grandstands. Emerling's first lap in an Xfinity machine will take place when the Cheddar's 300 gets the green flag.
Our Motorsports is qualified for the race at Bristol because it is high enough in owner points.
"This all came about pretty recently," Emerling said. "Chris Our, who owns Our Motorsports, used to own a Modified team and so I had a contact there and Andy Seuss, who has been involved with Modifieds, runs the Our team, so it just kind of revolved around people I know from Modified racing. They didn't have a driver for Bristol and we just got the opportunity to run it."
Emerling does have plenty of Modified experience at Bristol and won a 2017 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race there. He also has limited upper tier NASCAR experience, having run two career races in the NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series in 2017 for Copp Motorsports, finishing 23rd at New Hampshire and 26th in Texas. He suffered mechanical gremlins in both truck races.
Emerling will be at the team's shop this weekend, getting outfitted in the cockpit of the Our Motorsport car he will drive at Bristol.
"I'm pretty excited about this opportunity," Emerling said." Bristol is definitely one of my favorite tracks."