- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
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.
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.‘”
Justin Bonsignore‘s 12th-place finish at Stafford snapped a 16-race streak of top-five finishes dating back to 2019. Bonsignore had also finished in the top 10 in 21 consecutive races. The last time Bonsignore finished outside the top 10 was almost two years ago at Wall Stadium in 2019.
Eric Goodale continued his strong start to the 2021 season, finishing second to Emerling. With that run, Goodale has more top-fives in 2021 than all of 2020. It‘s the first time Goodale has strung back-to-back top-fives together since April of 2019. He‘ll maintain the points lead as the series heads to Riverhead.
Timmy Solomito drove the family-owned No. 66 New England Gear High Marine Building Efficiency Chevrolet to a fourth-place finish, his best run since finishing second at Riverhead in September of 2019. Like Emerling, Solomito was involved in an early incident, on Lap 72.
Despite only one career Tour start heading into 2021, Max McLaughlin has held his own to start the season. He currently sits fourth in points after his 11th-place run in the Spring Sizzler.