For Ryan Emerson, he was always a NASCAR fan growing up, and had watched A.J. Emms run a T.Q. Midget a couple times at Barrie Speedway. His involvement with the team, though, did not begin until Emms started racing in the Queenston Chevrolet Buick GMC OSCAAR Modifieds.
“It wasn’t until we were in college and University in North Bay he approached me and asked if I was interested in helping him and Jeff (Emms),” Emerson recalls. “He was going to drive Allan Adam’s No. 99 modified. At first I thought it was a joke and kinda played it off saying, ‘Ya sure, why not?’ Then one day, I went to Allan’s shop with AJ and I really enjoyed myself and did a race or two and realize this racing thing isn’t too bad. I’ve been here ever since.”
For Emerson, the best part about being involved with the team is the family-oriented atmosphere.
“You have a father and son duo (Jeff and A.J.) that works tirelessly getting the car ready and you have the wonderful wives that put up with them,” Emerson jokes. “No, the wives are amazing. Jayne and Cassie always make sure we all have full belly’s at the track, water, and specially me to remind me about sunscreen on those hot sunny days. Jayne also is amazing with her everyday job making the shirts and hats and accessories that makes Emms Racing one of the best looking teams at the track!”
With now having traveled all the tracks on the tour, Emerson notes that “all the tracks are special in their own way,” but three of them stand out in particular to him – Full Throttle Motor Speedway – Varney, Jukasa Motor Speedway, and Delaware Speedway.
“Varney because it’s like a small dome very tight, a Bristol kinda feeling too it, and one mistake your pulling fenders back or worst packing up early,” he explained. “Delaware – yes, a long drive to get there, but it’s a very cool track. You’re parked in the infield just like a NASCAR race and with how old the track is with the bumps. It’s cool being on pit road and seeing the cars come off turn four, and hit the little dip in the track and keep going like it was nothing.
“Jukasa – well that’s explains itself. If you have ever been there you’ll understand – big, fast , and super exciting (hopefully you’ll get to see us in victory lane there this year).”
With having been here through the whole ride, it made winning the championship last season that much more memorable, with Emerson calling the year as a whole ‘incredible’.
It didn’t ultimately start out that way, as Emerson recalls being a little bummed following a phone conversation with Emms in early January.
“He was saying because of his commitments to building his and Cassie’s house that it was just going to be a part time schedule,” he recalls. “To be honest, it sucked hearing that, but at the same time I knew where he was coming from and I understand and am also excited for them.”
Though with each passing race on the schedule, the attitude seemed to change as Emerson said he noticed the fire changed, with both A.J. and Jeff Emms getting hungrier to win races and chase the title.
“After having a little lady luck in the first couple races virtue other guys getting DQs, we were right there in the top three,” he continued. “As soon as we dominated Varney and then went to Delaware and drove away, it was like, ‘Alright, we’re this far, let’s go and win this!’ I think it really didn’t hit us, or at least me that AJ was 2019 OSCAAR Modified Champion until ACC (Autumn Colours Classic) driver intros when I went on the radio and did my thing wishing him good luck and it slipped out when I said, By the way, congratulations champ!’ Pretty unreal moment and I couldn’t imagine doing that with any other group of people.”
Even though the championship was cool, one of the most memorable moments for Emerson comes from a couple season ago at Delaware Speedway when they were having battery issues.
“AJ was on pit road just about to head out for a heat race and he died so we were going to bump start him,” Emerson recalls. “So myself and few other people started to push. Well I didn’t realize they let go and I was still pushing the car. It jerked and took off, and I face planted in the middle of pit road in front of a packed grandstands at Delaware. That was awesome, for everyone but me.”