Jonathon Emerson of Sabattus stands in victory lane at Wiscasset Speedway last weekend. Contributed photo/Wiscasset Speedwway

 

WISCASSET — In Maine racing circles, when you hear the name Emerson you almost immediately think “street stock driver.” For third-generation racer Jonathon Emerson, he and his family wouldn’t have it any other way.

“That’s exactly how I feel about us,” the youngest Emerson said this week. “Whether it was my grandfather or my father, none of us have ever really done a lot in other divisions. I think Street Stocks are definitely the hardest car to drive and they are, for the most part, the most affordable for everyone.”

Emerson is just 19 years old, but the Sabattus resident and Oak Hill High School graduate has had an impressive summer. He won four races in the state’s truncated schedule — including the biggest win of his career in the Amsoil Dominator Strictly Shootout last Saturday night at Wiscasset Speedway.

Emerson finished second on the track, but when apparent winner Jason Gammon failed post-race technical inspection, Emerson was named the winner. He’d twice finished second in the event previously, and he earned a $1,000 payday — a huge return for a low-dollar division — after earning a bonus for having finished the race in the top five the year before.

“It feels good to win,” Emerson said. “But I really wish I’d won it on the track and done it the right way, per se.”

Emerson began his season with a historic victory. He won an Outlaw division race at Oxford Plains Speedway while driving his girlfriend Chloe Killey’s car — marking his first career win at the track where grandfather Larry Emerson ranks 25th on the all-time list with 40 career wins at the track. His father, Zach Emerson — who still competes at Wiscasset Speedway — has 11 Oxford wins on his resume.

Wiscasset, even for somebody who grew up watching at Oxford, is the place Jonathon Emerson considers home.

“For me, it feels different because (Wiscasset) is the first place I ever drove around a race track,” he said. “I was in the Whiz Kids at Beech Ridge, but that was going around at 50 miles an hour and I was god-awful at it. It wasn’t enjoyable for me. My family grew up at Oxford and for a part of me that is home, but Wiscasset is 100 percent my home.

“Everyone treats you like family when you’re there, and that’s what makes winning there mean so much more than winning in front of a bunch of people you don’t really know.”

Emerson drew added attention when he won on Wiscasset Speedway’s 2020 opening day on Aug. 1. He won the 25-lap Strictly Street feature that night while his car carried the paint scheme made popular by his grandfather, Larry.

Larry Emerson passed away last December — and it was Larry and Zach Emerson who competed in the very first Strictly Shootout at Wiscasset Speedway in 2013. That was the first race that Jonathon had ever been in a pit area for when he was 12 years old. At 14, he ran his first competitive laps in a Street Stock at the very same track.

“I always wanted to do that paint scheme, even when he was still around,” Jonathon said. “When he passed away, I decided that I was going to do the throwback — that’s why all the Emersons did one. Even my girlfriend Chloe’s car is an old paint scheme. My dad’s was a really old one that he used to race, too.”

It turned into a fitting tribute, but also a bridge between previous Street Stock generations during the division’s heyday in the late 1980s and early 1990s and the few new faces trying to keep it going.

“There’s not many kids in my generation jumping in and racing cars. They’re either playing other sports or doing other worse things,” Emerson said. “Me and Brett Osmond are about the only ones, and maybe some kids in the Outlaw division (at Oxford). It seems like now parents who want to get their kids in racing — if they have some money, they just start them in go-karts and then jump straight into Super Late Models. When they don’t do well, they just drop out of the sport.

“It’s not like the days where Zach Emerson, Sumner Sessions or Tommy Tompkins would work all day at their jobs and then work on their own cars at night. When my grandfather started out, you’d build your own motor, find what you could at the junkyard to try and make ti work, and then go racing.”

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