After a successful third season of OSCAAR Modified competition, there’s only one thing on A.J. Emms’ mind entering this year – winning.
“Going into this season, I’m realistically just looking for wins,” he said. “We’re not winning enough and I’m just really wanting to get back in the winner’s circle and knock out more victories consistently. The series is full talent – lots of good cars with some good talent. So I’m ready to enter that pool and hopefully come out on top. We’ve made some changes to the car.
“A lot of talk has been about the rookies at the start of this year, but I think we’ve been trying to fly in under the radar and doing a lot of work on our car and make sure our program is where it needs to be in the 2018 season. So I think we’re definitely optimistic, but at the same time we’re ready for a long and hard season. We’re ready to get the work done and do what we know we can. If we do our best we can every night, then we should be okay.”
While scoring a sixth in the year-end standings in his rookie campaign, the past two years have seen the Orillia, Ontario native score a pair of runner-ups with a victory each year – Autumn Colours Classic at Peterborough (2016) and Sauble Speedway (2017).
While noting a championship would mean a lot to his team at season’s end, it’s not the focus entering 2018.
“If you look at older racers like Jr Hanley and Don Biederman, those guys always went for wins and those guys are my heroes,” he said. “I always look at them and say ‘yeah, they might not have won as many championships, but when they showed up at the track, everybody wanted to beat them and they won a lot of races’. If I can achieve that in my career, that’s the pinnacle for me – to be able to show up at the race track and be the guy to beat.
“I’m hoping this season that we’re able to head out there and prove it, and have all the hard work that my team is put in during the off-season pay off because the guys have been working really hard. I really appreciate it; I’m just the lucky guy that gets to sit behind the wheel. Hopefully I can make them proud.”
This year brings many opportunities and different venues to make it happen in 2018, including the series making their inaugural trip to Jukasa Motor Speedway in June.
“The track I’m most excited to get to would be Jukasa for sure,” Emms said. “A lot of history in there in the past. My dad (Jeff) has ran there – I’ve heard stories from him. I’ve heard lots of stories from Peter Schatanis about Cayuga Speedway. Being there last year and the excitement around that event and the way in which that facility has been put together and such well run – I’m just ecstatic to get there on that surface and see how the car works and see how the car is.”
On the flip side, Emms admits while there may not be any tracks that he’s concerned about, his Emms Racing team has addressed the weak ends of their program.
“We weren’t fast enough at Sauble; even though we had a win there, we were not fast there, and we were not fast enough at Flamboro,” he said. “So we’ve been making strides to get better – not only myself as a driver, but we’ve done a lot of different chassis things and set-up to ensure that we have some different and work towards being faster.
“It’s not as much being worried about it – it’s more we’re more worried about losing more than anything. We’re going to win races, and that’s simply it. We’re not going to be a point fighting time; we’re just going for wins. If we run good every single week, then everything should fall in place.”
Although the goals are set in stone, it won’t be easy for the driver of the No. 14 BAE Environmental, Klotz Canada, Wix Filters, and TSS Top Shops Modified as this year’s competition appears to be stacked throughout the field. One of the guys that Emms expects to be racing for the win each weekend is multi-time series champion Gary McLean.
“We’ve had a roller coaster relationship in the past, but I have a lot of respect for him,” Emms said. “I know he’ll be fast this year, and I wouldn’t expect anything less. I know he knows that I’m just as hungry as ever to get out there, as well. I’m looking forward to racing against him.”
Others drivers on Emms’ radar to be up front all year include Chris Milwain and Cory Horner.
“But it’s hard to name names because there’s just so many guys out there that you can just start going down the list,” he added. “I feel this season is going to be ever so important to capitalize everything you can on the track because from first to 10th, it is going to be a solid field of drivers and cars. I’ll be very interested to see how fast the new rookies are without a doubt, but I feel like some of the guys that have been in this series as well, there’s a lot to be said for their talent, as well.”
With a variety of names expected to be up front, it’s certainly a good time to be part of and watching the OSCAAR Modifieds on track. This year, it’ll be about seeing if the series mainstays can hold their ground against a variety of drivers entering from different backgrounds, from go-karts all the way to Super Late Models.
“It is awesome to see because you get so much innovation, car variety, and set-up and racing,” Emms said. “It just makes for awesome competition and only makes the OSCAAR Modifieds better. I know some of the new guys – it’ll be interesting to see how well they make out. Also, some of the guys that are coming back that I know are going to be strong.
“I’m excited to get back to the track, but I feel as though we’ve been working hard this off-season to ensure we’re talked about and have some success, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to get there. I’m excited for some clean racing with everybody this year.”
The 2018 campaign for the OSCAAR Modifieds will kick off at Sunset Speedway, as part of the track’s Spring Velocity weekend. You can easily see why it’s one of the events on the radar for not only Emms, but everybody in the field.
“Starting the year, you’re always pumped up for that,” he said. “It’s great to get going to Sunset Speedway, as well. I’m all around excited for the racing season.”