2024 Appalachian Mountain LM Speedweek at Clinton County Speedway

Tyler Emory Pushes Through Ailing Back To Win Clinton County On Last Lap

Tyler Emory Pushes Through Ailing Back To Win Clinton County On Last Lap

Reigning Appalachian Mountain Speedweek champ Tyler Emory picked up where he left off in Friday's 2024 miniseries opener at Clinton County Speedway.

Jun 8, 2024 by Kyle McFadden

Decompressing after the most thrilling victory of his steadily-growing Super Late Model career, Tyler Emory lounged on the jet-black sofa inside his motorhome Friday at Clinton County Speedway when his car owner Pete Cameron entered the conversation. | RaceWire

“Hey, I just got a text from someone saying you put on a better show than Eldora tonight,” the Chaptico, Md., native said through a wide smile.

Emory shrugged his shoulders, seemingly not knowing how to receive the compliment that elevated his $5,000 night above Devin Moran’s far higher-profile victory in Rossburg, Ohio. In fairness, the King George, Va., driver had been preoccupied recounting the last-corner move that lifted him around Drake Troutman for the opening round Appalachian Mountain Speedweek victory.

The reigning miniseries champion virtually picked up where he left off last year, but so much has happened to Emory since, he wishes it sounded that easy. The 31-year-old had relaxed on the sofa because he needed to rest his ailing back, an injury that’s wracked him since December and an injury that’s nearly wiped him out of the driver’s seat altogether.

Other than “it got tight one day and it popped,” Emory can’t make sense why his back feels as painful as it does.

“I don’t really know,” Emory said. “It’s not like I was pushing snow off the roof of a building and slipped and fell. I didn’t have none of that. It got to the point I couldn’t bend over to pick up anything off the ground. And I was like, ‘I don’t even know if I’m racing this year.’ ”

From afar, Emory’s enthralling win where he executed the final set of turns perfectly — an “impressive move” from the words of Troutman who couldn’t protect the bottom as Emory surged around the outside — looked as rewarding as can be. And that’s not wrong. It’s just Emory’s had to mask the pain from his ailing back and how that’s affected his confidence as a racer even through his finest moments.

“It’s so tight that it’s pinching nerves,” Emory said. “In mine, I was thinking my foot goes numb (like Scott Bloomquist’s injury that sidelined him for most of 2023). You have a lot going on in the car, right? Then, one day, I really paid attention to it. My leg isn’t, like, going numb, but I’m losing feeling in it. Now, I have to really pay attention to it.

“Like what (Bloomquist) said — thinking back on some articles I’ve read and interviews he’s had where he has to move in the car and stuff — when I get under caution, I scoot in the seat to get my leg in a different position. Like, if tonight was as rough as it was last year, I probably wouldn’t have raced the rest of Speedweeks.”

Friday’s third-mile Clinton County oval, as Emory portrayed, raced far more smoothly than last year’s miniseries opener that was choppy and rough to navigate.

“Very. Very,” Emory emphasized. “I remember a couple guys broke shocks. I know both of my right-side shocks were so hot I couldn’t touch them when they came off.”

Emory’s victory shouldn’t be surprising, of course. His third miniseries victory — all over the last four races dating back to last year — now ties him for sixth all-time with Austin Hubbard. He’s likely not done yet as seven 2024 races remain. Troutman, who led 32 of 35 laps on Friday, wasn’t surprised when he lost the race at the checkers to Emory.

“Hats off to Tyler. That was an impressive move,” the 19-year-old Troutman said. “With something like that, it’s one and a half-dozen (odds of working). But you need to do something like that for it to pay off, even if you (risk losing) a couple spots. It worked out for him tonight. Congrats to him. He’s been good the last couple of years. Definitely not a terrible person to run second to.”

But back to Emory’s confidence being shaken of late, Friday’s come-from-behind victory required intensive work. Two hours before the drivers’ meeting, Emory had the impulse to rebuild two shocks before the night got busy.

“Pete was like, ‘Why don’t you stay here and not mess it up,’ ” said Emory recalling his car owner’s failed attempt to change his mind. “I went back to the trailer, ripped two shocks apart … standing there, I said to myself, ‘This is what I need to do.’ So, pulled a bunch of stuff apart, put it back together, and then said, ‘We’ll be all right.’ ”

Emory’s effort not only earned him fast-time honors, but a lowering of the track record as well. But then after Gregg Satterlee edged him by 0.175 of a second in the dash (the top three finishers from two qualifying groups ran the dash to set the first three rows of the feature) to earn the main event pole, Emory again grew unsettled.

“I said, ‘This is the same thing going on that’s been going on all year,’ ” Emory said. “The wheels were coming off. We didn’t have traction, and I don’t know why. Pete’s like, ‘What do you want to do?’ I’m like, ‘Give me all four shocks.’ ”

Emory again overhauled his shock package, changing all four coil springs before the 35-lap feature. He likes to think the second effort is the one that paid off.

“Pretty much,” Emory said. “I needed to be a little better. I’m not going to stand there in victory lane and say my car was a solid fifth-place car. To me, the first lap of the race felt like we sucked. Then lap five I’m like, ‘All right, this isn’t so bad.’ Then when the tire finally fired, I’m like, ‘We’re good. Yeah, that’s not so bad.’ ”

Appalachian Mountain Speedweek last year was Emory’s true breakout party. He went from a one-time Super Late Model winner to miniseries champion over Satterlee and Hall of Fame driver Rick Eckert, among others, almost instantaneously. And though he won three times since then, it hasn’t been all that easy for Emory.

“We’ve lost confidence here recently,” Emory said. “You start off fast, then come feature time, we’re sucking. Fast time in hot laps don’t pay you much. We’re fast, but then something happens.”

He then delved into his biggest car-related struggle.

“I’ll be honest, the biggest thing that killed me was changing tires, when Hoosier changed from the NRM 1300s,” Emory said. “The year before with Jason (Covert), I learned a lot. Pete let me do whatever I wanted to do. I learned a lot. I got what I wanted out of those tires. Then when they changed tires, nothing I had worked. I mean nothing. Seriously. The (American) Racers are somewhere in between there.

“I mean, like, we ran pretty good at Path Valley (May 19 with the World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series) on Hoosiers. But not a single shock and spring were on that car tonight because I had to run Hoosiers. I’d be on Hoosiers if they brought back NRMs. Those tires didn’t hurt some people, but there are some people it did hurt. You can see who it is. I just feel like it really bothered me.”

What helped Emory to last year’s miniseries title is he had a stockpile of discontinued Hoosiers during the region’s burn-off period whereas some drivers didn’t have that option. But Emory and his team employed one car for the half-miles and another car for shorter tracks. Emory won’t have that luxury this year as he tries to close out the miniseries with the same car.

“I’m kind of worried about tomorrow,” Emory said of Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway, where he’s yet to finish inside the top-10 in three starts this season. “The other car, we unloaded that last week. We started off fast, won our heat race after we faded, then for the feature I don’t know what was wrong.”

In spite of the recent afflictions, Emory’s sitting pretty, 42 points better than his next miniseries challenger, Matt Cosner. Troutman who’s 20 points behind can’t contest the full Speedweek because his Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series commitments take him to Tennessee’s Smoky Mountain Speedway next Friday.

So, Emory can start thinking about a title defense. But only so much.

“Everyone says last year there wasn’t expectations. To the team, there wasn’t,” Emory said. “But for me, there was. I should’ve won three races the first year I drove for Pete. I made mistakes. You can’t make mistakes against these guys. I’ve learned a lot. So, I have the expectation to win it again. If we do, we do. If we don’t, we don’t. I’m not going to get too crazy about it.

"Sometimes you get so worried about it you don’t make the right choices. Last year, everybody kept asking me, ‘How do you feel about being the points leader? How do you feel about being the points leader?’ I got tired of hearing about it. I just wanted to race and whatever happened, happened.

“At Lincoln (Speedway in Abbottstown, Pa.), it got so bad, I worried about it so much. … All I remembered is Jason (Covert) telling me you’ve got bigger fish to fry and to not worry about it. So, we’re onto Port Royal tomorrow. We’ll try to win that, too.”