ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – When the green flag waves for the three-quarter midget pack inside Atlantic City’s historic Boardwalk Hall on NAPA Know How Weekend Jan. 25-26, Patrick Emerling is likely more eager to get up to speed than any of his rivals.
That’s because the 26-year-old Emerling from Orchard Park, N.Y., was not among the four dozen TQ drivers who competed in the Indoor Auto Racing Series Fueled By VP Race Fuels opener in Allentown, Pa., over the Jan. 4-5 weekend.
At stake in Atlantic City is the most prestigious prize of the Indoor Auto Racing Series, the Gambler’s Classic. This year’s race will be 17th running. Emerling has been in several of them, but has never won the event.
Emerling is one of the most versatile drivers in the field. A full-time asphalt modified racer in northwestern New York State most of the summer, Emerling has also run dirt Modifieds with some success.
He has 86 starts on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour with one win – a huge one on Aug. 17, 2017 at Bristol Motor Speedway – and 15 top fives despite a part-time schedule. Emerling also drove in two NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series races in 2017.
Emerling will be returning to the Indoor Series with a proven winning combination. He had sold off his own equipment and took off the 2018 Indoor Series to recuperate from shoulder surgery.
Past winners of the Gambler’s Classic entered in this year’s race are defending champion Ryan Flores of Troutman, N.C., who was one of the two winners in the recent Allentown Indoor races. Erick Rudolph of Ransomville, N.Y., who won the 2017, ’15 and ’12 Classics, and Anthony Sesely, Matawan, N.J., who won the race in ’16, ’14 and ’13 are also entered.
Lou Cicconi Jr., a two-time winner in ’10 and ’06, is returning to compete this year after a strong return to TQ midget competition in Allentown. Cicconi will be fielding a three car team which includes another two-time winner, Joey Payne (’07, ’04) and young Kyle Reinhardt, who led the early laps of the Saturday feature in Allentown.
Champ Karts and Slingshots will serve as the two support classes.