Slip And Slide: Patrick Emerling Wins Rain Shortened NAPA Spring Sizzler 150 At Stafford

Patrick Emerling sips the traditional NAPA Spring Sizzler winner’s milk Friday at Stafford Speedway (Photo: Fran Lawlor/RaceDayCT)

STAFFORD – It’s said in racing that Stafford Speedway is one of the trickiest short tracks around to get a handle on.

For Patrick Emerling Friday getting to victory lane wasn’t just about finding the fast way around, but also surviving the weather conditions and a pack of sliding cars through a wild closing lap that ultimately proved to be the end of the event. 

Emerling proved the survivor of a nasty wreck on lap 124 that took out the top-four runners and won the 49th running of the NAPA Spring Sizzler 150 at Stafford Speedway. 

“Dream come true,” Emerling said. “Total dream come true.” 

It was the second career Whelen Modified Tour victory for Emerling, of Orchard Park, N.Y. His first career victory came at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway on Aug. 16, 2017. 

“We were there at the end and we lucked out,” Emerling said. “There’s no other way of saying it. That’s not the way we wanted to win these races, but we were going to be right there anyways no doubt. We were going to be in contention and I think we would have won this race anyways.” 

Eric Goodale of Riverhead, N.Y. was second and Tommy Catalano of Ontario, N.Y. third.

The race went off with winds that were gusting at times to over 30 mph. Rain drops began falling under caution with 107 laps completed. 

With light rain still falling, Ryan Preece went by Ron Silk for the lead on a lap 111 restart but the caution was back out on lap 112. 

On the ensuing lap 119 restart Preece wiggled coming to the green flag and Silk was able to power by him on the outside in turn two, but the move was negated by a wreck behind them in turn two. 

It set up the lap 124 restart where things got crazy. 

Preece drifted up in turn two after the green came back out allowing Silk to move to the lead through the corner. Going into turn three Preece made contact with Silk into the corner sending Silk sideways. Third place running Anthony Nocella looked like he was going to clear the wreck, but caught the left front of the sliding Silk car. Fourth place running Justin Bonsignore also got caught up into Preece and Silk. 

Emerling weaved through the mess to take over the top spot. 

“I locked the rear brakes up getting into [turn] three,” Preece said. “The restart before it didn’t turn so I put a bunch of rear brakes in it. … I feel bad for [Silk], he would have won this race. I’m sorry. It sucks.” 

Said Silk: “I don’t know, I spoke to [Preece], he apologized. He said it was his fault. I know he didn’t do it on purpose. He’s not that kind of guy. … It definitely cost us the win. Who know if we would have won if had gone 150, but it started raining pretty shortly after that.”

Said Nocella: “We had a real good shot to win that one. I don’t know it just kept raining more and more. … The three of us went down into [turn] three and we were in the middle of [turn] three and the track is wet and he just got into [Silk] a little bit. If I would have cleared them I would have been leading right now. I don’t know I’ve got a destroyed car. It is what it is.” 

Under caution the rain continued. The cars continued pacing under caution to lap 130 when they were brought to the infield. Crews attempted track drying measures for about 35 minutes before calling an end to the race at about 11:30 pm. 

After having issues before the race, Emerling 23rd in the 28-car field. He went a lap down early in the event but got back on the lead lap through a lucky dog free pass. 

“That’s just amazing.” Emerling said. “This is the way we wanted to win the race. I think we had the perfect strategy. We were going to be there at the end anyway. We were faster than all the cars in front of us there. But that wreck there in the rain, we really lucked out there. 

“It’s very well deserved for the team here. Earlier today we rewired the whole car. In practice we got five laps. We didn’t get the car up to speed once. We didn’t even get the car up to speed for qualifying. It’s well deserved. We came out here and we struggled at the beginning of the race. We made some adjustments and we had the right strategy.” 

Comments

  1. Bill Realist says

    It occurred to me while I was driving back to nh that the race was an embarrassment to stafford and the wmt. Looking forward to monadnock.

  2. The Atomic Punk says

    Of course you slide up the track. All it takes is to move out of the 1 groove the track has by 6 inches

  3. i stayed as long as i could, but at lap 62, i was done. probably wasn’t the best move to run heats for everybody and add the sk’s. none of the divisions looked like they could keep enough heat in the tires, and that never turns out right. early season night races are a crapshoot around here anyway. on to next week.

  4. Congrats to Patrick Emerling for surviving, and winning the Spring Sizzler 150 at Stafford. Good job

  5. James Scott. says

    Bill Realist I have to agree it was not one of Stafford’s greatest moments. The adverse weather conditions did not help. It was almost as bad as being at Foxboro on a cold January night! Tri Track is much deeper in talent, JMO.

  6. In the earlier thread about this NWMT race, I warned that there was rain 🌧 and brutal cold and wind in the forecast for later in the night. That forecast was in the general public. That should have made the folks running the show get things done early and quickly, even at the expense of an undercard class. And the event got late early on in the show. That the NWMT race started very late, ~ 9:30 PM was absurd, stupid and ridiculous, especially given the weather.

    The NWMT race should have been called 2 or 3 cautions earlier. Cars were sliding all over the place, couldn’t hold it down in turns or exiting. It was a matter if when, and when happened quickly. Whomever was calling the shots are complete idiots. A whole lotta cars got tore up for no good reason.

    “Fear or stupidity has always been the basis of most human actions” – Albert Einstein

    Al had a keen knack for the obvious, and not so obvious.

  7. The place emptied out early… that should have been a hint.

  8. David Fisher says

    Just wondering, why was it an embarrassment?

  9. Stupid is as stupid did.

    The announcers mentioned the rain falling and then cars started sliding and cautions happened. Yet they kept waving green flags and trying to wreck more cars.

    Stupid is as stupid did.

  10. Congratulations for the 07 team. They had all sorts of issues but were making a comeback during the race. Very impressive, congratulations.

  11. On a nice night where I could sit in the stands till 2AM, Stafford has us out at 9PM. Last night I felt like I was at the bowl, ten years ago when no one had any sense of time or urgency. The wind was brutal, it was freezing and rain was on it’s way. But they ran real late, have 4 sk lite heats, 2 consis, a all star heat, a all star race, (save that for kids night) I stuck it out, as more of a survival effort for myself, but the entire night sucked.

  12. I can see why any person at the track, getting whipped by the wind in the cold, seeing all the cautions and looking at a long ride home after that ending would be bitter and looking to point fingers. Emerling should not be the person the finger is being pointed at.
    I never realized it but Patrick is right. There is a lot to admire about his entire performance last night. He did overcome challenges, the team kept grinding and did earn the fifth place they climbed back to that put them in a position to get lucky.

    9th with 45 to go
    7th with40 to go
    6th with 38 to go
    5th on the last restart

    Preece admitted the error immediately and publicly, manning up like you’d expect Ryan Preece to do. Then proceeds to apologize to Silk and Silk does exactly what you’d expect him to do being gracious in the response. I’m betting Preece talked to Nocella and Bonsignor as well.
    The replay shows an ending that regardless of being premature was pretty amazing. The 07 is heading right at Silk and Preece high and like many times in racing if you keep the line the accident will move by the time you get to it. He’s locking up the brakes and that’s pretty much what happened for those two cars. Then dodges the 51 and 82 and it’s onto a victory well earned.
    Goodale a more amazing escape. Heading right at the four car scrum as it’s unfolding, darts up, then low on the binders all the time and onto a well earned second. Catalano follows Goodale for the third.

  13. Skl last??! They put on a great show every week and the battle for the lead last night was pretty good. How about putting the vintage mods last. I really don’t understand why you run qualifying races with less then 10 cars…. watching 7 cars on a half mile is not the best entertainment for my $$. Have to say the guys on the flag stand fell a sleep- when Bello cleaned out the Chapman car on the last lap going into turn one they never saw the accident and left the green out till everyone completed the race

  14. A vintage heat and feature? That’s the biggest misjudgment in my view and it has nothing to do with weather. There is an argument that two smaller SK Light consi’s are usually run faster then a wreck filled large consi.
    I was watching the radar all night. Weather way off to the west. Track officials looking at the same thing so they had no reason to perform major surgery on the event schedule early on near as I can figure. They no doubt saw the mass of weather coming from the north right before feature time, did make some changes at the right time. There were cautions having nothing to do with weather, the Preece lock up had nothing to do with weather and what happened, happened.
    If Preece doesn’t have the issue he did then perhaps the guy that Preece said should have won would have won when the red was thrown for a wet track. In the end weather had less to do with preventing Silk from winning then the ill advised brake adjustment.
    This is fertile ground to point fingers and if you at the race fire away because you earned it in spades. For we of the Barkalounger class it mostly amounts to shoulda/woulda/coulda with 20/20 hind sight.
    When the dust clears all I can think of is we’re two races in, the usual favorites are not at the top of the points standings. The morning after we have no idea what will happen next going to a track where strange things can happen in tight quarters with competitive track regulars in the mix.

  15. 🌈🦄2020 says

    What was the reason for starting the tour race so late? Didn’t they have to repair the broken wall? The greatest race track in the history of the world and every year dealing with a broken wall.

  16. How long have these humans been at this?

    Many years ago, I believe a race at Stafford was called off/delayed/postponed/rescheduled because of dust blown on the track by high winds. Stefanik had something to do with that, in that he said the track was dangerous because of all the sand/dust on the track. The bare Stafford parking areas and infield are perfect sources of sand and dust.

    So last night, we had incredible winds blowing debris all over, very cold temperatures that make it very hard to heat up the tires and get grip, no sun, and throw in some rain to make things even worse. Geez, the NHRA won’t run in low temperatures because they can’t get grip.

    You are only as good as your last event, and Stafford and the NWMT needs another event quickly to erase the memory of the 2021 sizzler that fizzled and flopped. Thank goodness for Monadnock tonight.

    As if the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t bad enough, this was pure idiocy.

    Glad I was warm and cozy, with all sorts of beverages and snacks just a walk away in the kitchen, clean restroom facilities, and a very short commute to the bedroom. Yep, 👍, watching this from home was pure genius.

    I’m stunned at how bad this was. Feel for the owners that had their cars torn up.

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the braking conditions Preece was explaining had to do with the rain on the track. The drivers know they are not to criticize NASCAR, so the drivers take the fault of NASCAR on as their own. But I’ll say that Preece’s braking “problems” were due to the wet and slippery track. The racers and participants are not allowed to criticize the NASCAR nimrods, but we can have at it. After all, we are the paying customers.

    The race should have been called when the announcers said it was raining, the cameras showed the rain in the lights, and the cars were sliding. Not some time later after a couple cautions and on-track incidents due to loss of traction. Don’t tell me I didn’t see what I was watching.

    The rain started and the cars were slip-sliding all over the place. To make things worse, there were multiple restarts, which are made even more dangerous during wet conditions. It was a mess. Thank goodness the hard rain came in to put an end to this debacle.

  17. I was there and stuck it out to the end. It was not enjoyable for the fans in the stands for sure .It seems like Stafford was more concerned with the people watching in their warm homes on Flo TV than the people in the stands. Poorly run show and very disappointed night. now.

  18. JH, it sucked from my nice, warm, and weatherproof home.

    I was watching the race and weather, and wondering what they were waiting for to call it.

  19. I t was also sad to see Meg Fuller . who had a very fast car get taken out in her heat race and have a badly damaged race car as a result of of well funded driver who clearly was upset at being passed by a girl.

  20. Easily the worse weather I’ve ever endured at a track… Windy.. cold… Then cold rain. Perhaps next time they’ll take a page out of Thompson’s program…. Should have run both shows last Saturday…. I saw people in the stands literally freezing!

  21. Jh I’m a huge Meg Fuller fan even back to her days in a quarter midget but that wreck was purely on her. She got the car a little to low coming out of 2 and the car stepped out on her and she over corrected it and went straight up the track into the wall. I have no idea how you could watch the race and blame another driver for that one.

  22. The Atomic Punk says

    The place will never come close to the Legendary Thompson Speedway.

  23. It’s amazing what one Dadope can tell from his basement

  24. Tracks need to think about fans first.. always first and get them home at a reasonable hour. Starting the feature at that time, making little to no adjustments at this point in the season is moronic.. did they think this was July?

    Please, no one tell me they had outside driver intros..

  25. “I can see why any person at the track, getting whipped by the wind in the cold, seeing all the cautions and looking at a long ride home after that ending would be bitter and looking to point fingers. Emerling should not be the person the finger is being pointed at.“

    Who is pointing fingers at Emerling? I don’t see that at all. The finger is being pointed squarely at Stafford and the officials of the WMT where it deserves to be. They clearly lost the track and continued to race placing the drivers and equipment in jeopardy. Racing tires, high speeds and rain are a recipe for disaster which is exactly what happened. Many good cars got junked for no good reason at all never mind the potential for serious injury. It is called irresponsible in my opinion. This debacle should be the topic of discussion at the next drivers meeting prior to the Riverhead race however I don’t see that happening.

    Stupidity pure and simple.

  26. 🌈🦄2020 says

    The track was thinking about their fans first. All nice cozy and warm in their living rooms.

  27. Big props to Patrick and crew! That car was clearly not running well during qualifying. Nice work sorting it out and being the there at the end. I wish I was there!”

    That said, despite my long underwear, gloves, hat, and four layers up top, I bailed after the SK race. I couldn’t even put the radio down without it blowing away. I made four trips below the stands to retrieve my gloves, radio, and a neighbors phone. FWIW, I have no problem cycling to work on 25F weather. That wind was brutal in the stands!

    Meg really did get hosed in a meaningless pass. That deal made zero sense. Hope she’s ok and able to get back next week.

  28. I stopped going to Stafford because of the length of the show and running the SKs last most nights. My friends keep saying they are doing better and getting you out of there at a reasonable time. i dont know, last night didnt seem to be the most efficient show. I will probably check out the open mod race coming up in person. I like to give them a race or two to win me back. I was really excited for Stafford being on Flo and then the tour on NBC gold. I will be honest even watching at home it was tough, I can only imagine how difficult it would have been out there in the elements. Not sure where the night went bad but the schedule had the tour going off at 8.30 and NBC gold didnt go on until 9.40. Much too late given the conditions and forecast.

    Congrats to the 07. The post race interview was interesting. I didnt know they had all those issues all night. Way to rally. Is Goodale a contender for the championship this year? A first and a second straight out the gate has me wondering. It was a better broadcast. No names where butchered. we had some replays and a post race interview. .Some excellent interviews with Leaty and Preece during the race. I big improvement over the first one. Also do we need some well defined pitboxes at Stafford it seems cars are always getting blocked in. It is almost a negative to hit pit road first because the guy pitting in front of you is going to make it so you cant pull out.

    Couple of comments on previous comments. JH Wow summarized the fuller accident accurately. She got too low started to spin overcorrected straight into the wall. You may be a little biased as she routinely got taken out in the street stocks. The other driver is completely innocent on this one. I thought the SKL had a pretty good race.

    Did they have a fence repair last night? If they did I missed it. Maybe that is where it all went wrong last night. 4 division show should not take 5 hours to run. They need to go back to the prequalify the local divisions when the tour is in town. Maybe only run heats if you have more than a full field which would have eliminated heats for the SK and vintage. Perhaps do the time trial of the mods at 5 before the show starts and let them adjust the car for night racing. They sucked up a bunch of time and good weather doing that in the middle of the program.

    Monadnock should be going live soon. Hopefully it will be a better show. Seekonk opener tomorrow. First race in over a year. Its race season.

  29. It’s not the cold so much as the wind.
    You folks at the track last night got screwed. Most bought tickets thinking they’d have a shot at a good daylight spring day of racing. Then the rescheduling and a spring night. Your from New England, saw the weather reports and knew it did not bode well but what are you going to do? Throw the tickets away. So now you’re just ticked off and whatever happened at the race is secondary to the misery you experienced from being there. Entertainment shouldn’t be an endurance test.
    The money was banked. The race sold out at reduced capacity levels and the priority was to have the event. That was obvious as well.
    A couple comments are really important. They can have all the logic in the world for doing what they did but in the end if fans are leaving ticked off that is about as bad as it gets. They have the pre paid information so if they can offer a discount on a future event for the folks at the race last night that may help them forget the wind, cold and delays. Second they need to tighten things up. This has happened before, they learned and made the nights go more efficiently.
    For we at home the live stream was outstanding from the announcing to the camera work to the replays. Fans watching that may have seen the Martinsville debacle had to wonder how such an improvement could have happened in one race as far as the execution goes.
    No rain or wind at Monadnock but really cold. The race going off as I write this an hour and a quarter after the scheduled time.

  30. Fast Eddie says

    Glad to see Emerling and crew get a WMT win, way overdue an well deserved! Nice win by Kopcik and a rare double-hook end to Rocco’s night. I have been going to races since the mid-sixties, and I can unequivocally say this was the windiest race I ever went to! I have been to colder ones, but the wind made it feel much colder than it was. The wind was so fierce at times (like MOST of the time!) people were having a difficult time moving around. I stand up to use my cameras and almost got blown over by it a few times, and I’m not a small guy. I haven’t reviewed it yet, but I’m sure a lot of my video looks like it was taken during a hurricane! I don’t think I caught much of the cars during the first SKL consi; the wind won out on that one. I would bet some of the turn 3 incidents were aided by crazy wind gusts. I thought the racing was good considering the conditions; more horsepower from the cold, no rubber on an early-in-the-season surface, and not a lot of grip anywhere. Surprised with NBCSN involved that they started the WMT so late; I think it would have made a lot more sense to run the WMT first given the conditions. There was a fence repair, but it didn’t take too long. I don’t know if introductions were planned but there were in-car intros during the fence repair. NASCAR definitely should not have had the last WMT restart as the sky was spitting a little at that point, lap 125 I think.
    Question for NASCAR: With the weather conditions as they were why on earth wait 30-40 minutes in the freezing cold knowing the rain was expected to continue once it started? It really sucked waiting in cold windy rain at midnight for a final decision!

  31. JUST ADD WATER!!!

  32. Barry, your post brings back memories… about 15 years ago at Stafford, skies opened and poured but then dried up and racing resumed. Several other events with relentless wind. Thompson seems to regularly have a prevailing west wind, which is why folks put up wind screens along the top rows of seats. And then getting rained out at Loudon, not something to look forward to with a several hour drive. One year, it was postponed twice and I had to make that trip three times. But there were several nights that I had to drive home with the heat on full blast to get my body defrosted.

    But now, with modern, ubiquituous, and powerful weather capabilities on our phones, that never happens anymore.

  33. There was a report that a huge banner on the fencing in T3-4 was causing the fencing to be blown over, so they took the banner down so the wind would blow through the chain link fence, instead fo the banner acting like a spoiler, taking the fence down. That was the delay.

    But I thought for sure that with NBCSN coverage, there would have been a hard start time which would have allowed the race to finish before the rain.

    The rain was in the forecast… we talked about it here for several days before the race. It was not a surprise at all.

    Wear a mask, make sure it is fitted, no leaks.

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    Get vaccinated, wear the best mask available, wear glasses, wear gloves, wash your hands, social distance and you will have a greater chance to dodge the virus.

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    Nothing is perfect, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Even with all the measures taken at hospitals, post-op infections still happen. If would be far worse if they didn’t take any measures to prevent infection.

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