Patience pays off as Emerson earns IMCA Modified national, regional rookie awards

Kaleb Emerson earned Friesen Performance IMCA Modified national and GRT Race Cars South Central Region rookie of the year awards this season. He’d topped Smiley’s Racing Products IMCA Southern SportMod rookie standings in 2021. (Photo by Mike Frieri)

WEATHERFORD, Texas (Nov. 15, 2023) – In the fall of 2021, Kaleb Emerson credited the quality of competition he ran against weekly in helping win Smiley’s Racing Products IMCA Southern SportMod national rookie of the year honors.

It was more of that good competition, plus fatherly advice and patience that took the Weatherford, Texas, teen to national and GRT Race Cars South Central Region rookie awards for Friesen Performance IMCA Modifieds this season.

“Unloading the car and racing against guys like Matthew Day and William Gould so many nights definitely made us better. Everything I accomplished this year I had to earn,” Emerson said. “And it helped a lot to have my dad (Jeff, also his crew chief and fellow driver) racing with me. I can ask him almost anything because he’s been to so many different tracks and definitely knew how to help me with setup.”

The patience part, however, had to be learned.

Emerson needed 20 starts over the first three months of the season before getting his first win, on June 2 at Boyd Raceway.  Something clicked from that point as he’d go on to finish the season with five checkers and 18 top five finishes in his last 25 home region starts.

He logged another five starts in Nebraska and Iowa during a late July racing vacation.

“I was definitely more cautious at the beginning of the year. We were traveling around to a lot of different tracks,” he said, “and with all the seat time the most important thing I was learning was how to be patient, when to go, when to not push the issue, and when to stay where I was running for a lap or two to see how things developed in front of me.”

“We wanted to focus just on doing our best every night,” he added, “but toward the end of the season there were nights when it was hard not to think about the rookie points, too.”

Emerson got two of his three Kennedale Speedway Park feature on the same night, topping both a rescheduled and the scheduled weekly show on June 10. He was also a two-time winner this season Boyd, where he was runner-up in the points race to regional champion Day.

“It was cool when I got my first win at Boyd but the highlight of the season was definitely winning two features in one night,” he said. “My dad was with me for the first win, but when we won twice the same night at Kennedale we had a lot of friends and family there, too.”

Emerson, a freshman studying business at Weatherford College, finished tied for 21st in the national Modified standings and third, one spot ahead of his dad, in regional points.

Wins                             5

Top Five Finishes          22

Starts                           50

HIS CREW: Parents Jeff and Kandi, sister Jordin, Lewis Wright and Jeremy Lowry.

HIS SPONSORS: Stone Oil Field Services of Hobbs, N.M.; ABC Pick ‘n Pull of Azle; Binswanger Glass of Bedford; All American Glass of Fort Worth; Emerson Race Cars of Weatherford; and Rush Race Gear of Sherman.

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