LOUDON, N.H. — Three-wide racing to the finish on the biggest stage of modified racing.
Patrick Emerling edged two other NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour veterans in a three-wide finish to win the sixth annual All-Star Shootout on Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Emerling became the sixth different winner of the non-points event in its six-year history, and scored his first win at the ‘Magic Mile’.
The 26-year-old had come close to winning in the Granite State before, but nothing compares to holding the checkered flag at NHMS. His margin of victory was a mere .022 seconds.
“We have been working on just getting faster here. We’ve always raced well, but we just wanted to come back with a car that was just a little bit better,” Emerling said. “I’m proud of our team. It was definitely a good day for us.”
Into turn three on the final lap, Emerling shot to the bottom of Bobby Santos III with his No. 07 Sahlen’s Chevrolet and pulled ahead, but Santos wasn’t about to give up. He crossed under Emerling, and drag-raced him down the front stretch, while defending series champion Justin Bonsignore cut to the bottom of both of them and made it three-wide coming down the frontstretch.
Emerling led just four of the 35 laps, but, he led the most important one.
“We unloaded today with a new car and a whole new setup, and we weren’t sure what to do for pre-race adjustments,” Emerling said. “There was one point in the race where I was hanging on for dear life. We were lucky to get some clean air.”
Santos, who was competing in his first race filling-in for Dave Sapienza, was nearly hoisting the trophy at NHMS once again. The Franklin, Massachusetts, driver has won three of the last four Whelen Modified Tour points races at the 1.058-mile oval.
“I’ve been in that situation multiple times and been lucky enough to be the winner, but this time I wasn’t, which is a bummer,” the 2010 Whelen Modified Tour champion said. “Patrick made the right move going to the bottom, and I had a couple of different options, but I guess I made the wrong decision.”
Bonsignore was third, just .067 seconds back, while Jon McKennedy and Ron Silk rounded out the top five.
Craig Lutz, who started from the pole and led 15 laps, finished sixth. Ryan Newman, Timmy Solomito, Jimmy Blewett and Tommy Catalano completed the top 10.
The All-Star Shootout will air on NBCSN Thursday, July 25, at 6 p.m.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to the track on Saturday, July 20, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the Eastern Propane & Oil 100.