Interviews

From Go-Karts to Modifieds, A.J. Emms “very thankful for each and every opportunity”

With having spent over 20 years behind the wheel of a racecar, there has been a lot of checkered flags and championships along the way for A.J. Emms. Though reflecting back to when he started, it wasn’t always thought the road would take him to where he is today.

For each driver behind the wheel, the want to drive comes from being a fan of the sport first, which Emms is included among those in having attended several events through the years.

For him, the coolest highlight was heading down to Pennscola, Florida for the Snowball Derby at 5 Flags Speedway. the trip stood out in seeing the technology utilized in the sport, the money being spent, and the amount of talent the marquee event draws.

“In addition to that, the World Series at Thompson Speedway is another one that comes to mind as a very cool event that I’ve been able to go to,” he added. “Thompson is a historic race track with a lot of cool, even NASCAR history, at it. It was cool to be a part of that event, and even watch. I would say the third one I thought was really cool was going to Jukasa and seeing the $75,000 to win. I thought that was really cool event on Canadian soil that brought out a lot of really strong competitors at a beautiful facility.

“So when I think back, I think of those three events as some of the coolest and I guess you can’t really knock down Autumn Colours Classic as a crown jewel event in Ontario and one that’s always action-packed.”

With a passion for the sport engrained within and his father Jeff Emms (pictured right) involved in racing, the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a go-kart came at a young age. Although it started out as having fun, it quickly grew into a multitude of success along the way with over 50 plus wins, five championships, and the 2007 Canadian National Go-Kart Championship.

The success came from being surrounded by great people, including Lon Herder who runs Karts and Parts out of Stoufville.

“He really drove home the emphasis of minimizing mistakes on the race track, consistency, and never being satisfied, and always trying to improve yourself,” Emms commented. “Lon also taught me how to really reflect on my driving to pull out the successes to focus on the next steps, and how we can get better on those next steps. I think for me go-karting was well at teaching me to minimize mistakes, but also gave me a lot of race sense which some of my competitors may disagree I have sometimes.

“But I feel like go-karting helped support what I have, and also really gave me a good ability to be smooth with a racecar, which I hope I do well.”

While it produced a lot of lessons that still hold true in his career, there are other fond memories cherished from that time.

“I spent a lot of weekends racing both Saturday and Sunday with my dad and then going to the stock car races on Saturday night,” he recalled. “So my fondest memories from go-karting are those times that my dad and I spent camping out, just him and I, in a trailer racing on Saturdays at Goodwood Kartways, going to the stock car races on Saturday nights, and then driving over to race Mosport on Sundays.

“So that’s some of my best memories and those are some of the times that I’ve raced against really great drivers, who have then turned into great stock car drivers and great road course racers in Formula cars. Looking back, those memories were great, and of course running at Shannonville Motorsports Park and capture a bear which is a coveted trophy in go-karting is another thing that comes to me as a big accomplishment.”

From there, he was able to work his way up through the racing ladder, including victories in Hurricane Midgets for Mike Westwood. He then got behind the wheel of a Pro 4 Modified for Cliff Hodgkinson and Westwood, which produced wins and a championship in 2014.

The opportunity to move up to the OSCAAR Modifieds came in 2015, through a partnership with Allen Adams and ADAMS Motorsports. The following year, Emms branched out on his own, with him and his father buying a car together.  Over the past six seasons, the success has come with victories in both the Autumn Colours Classic and Rick Woolner Memorial, as well as a championship in 2019.

While the Modified is fun to drive and race now, it has been a fun road with great cars to drive to get to this point. As Emms pointed out, the T.Q. Can-Am Midget is “one of the funnest cars to drive.”

“At the same time, racing it was fun, but I always more enjoyed driving them,” he added. “I obviously both enjoy driving and racing my OSCAAR Modified. Another car that comes to mind is the Pro 4 Modified, driving a Stryker Chassis for Mike Westwood and Cliff Hodgkinson was a great opportunity, was a lot of fun. The car handled great, and we had some success with it. that was a lot of fun for me. I have enjoyed driving a lot of different things over the year, and each is unique, and I have been able to learn driving everything.

“But I would have to say reflecting back, the three-quarter midgets, Pro 4 Modified – they’re light, they’re quick, feel like a sportscar and that’s what I like.”

Having fun behind the wheel of something that is fast should come as no surprise, considering he has dreams of wanting to get behind the wheel of a Super Late Model. The aspirations go back to when he was younger, watching the likes of John Fletcher Jr. and Glenn Watson.

“I think that they’re a badass machine and I would love to get the opportunity to get behind the wheel of one,” he said. “I think I could do well in it. They’re very similar to my modified, just with a lot more horsepower. I think it’d just be a dream come true to drive one, and drive a competitive one. That’s kind of something that I would love. Whether it happens or not, we will see, but my aspirations are there.”

It’d certainly be great to see a dream come true, but no matter what happens, it’s safe to say where he has ended up now is a lot further than he could have envisioned back in the beginning years racing go-karts.

“During that time, we were just barely able to afford racing go-karts,” Emms reflected. “My dad sacrificed a lot for me to race go-karts. My dad not only sacrificed a lot of time, but a lot of money, and he did a lot of things for me to not only support my career, but to spend time with me. At that time in my life, I didn’t even know if I’d be able to race go-karts the next year, I didn’t even know if I would be able to race a stock car.

“When I got the opportunity to race with my dad and Mike Westwood to race Hurricane Midgets, I thought that could be it. When I got an opportunity with Cliff Hodgkinson and the Pro 4 Modifieds, I thought that was the furthest I could go. Allan Adams is the same sort of opportunity, and it’s been a real pleasure to be buy a car with my dad and co-own it together, and do it all together, because it’s something that both of us look back on and can’t believe we’ve made it here, just because of the financial stress we’ve been through in the past with racing, and not only that, just the years of commitment and learning.

“It’s been a great process of learning, and reflecting back on that, it’s something that we’re both proud of. Although my dad raced stock cars, nothing is given, and it wasn’t like I was going to do it. We didn’t ever think that was going to be within reach, and I’m very thankful for each and every opportunity to jump in a racecar.

“I think that’s one reason I put a lot of pressure on myself because I know that you can go from hero to zero in no time and like Don Biederman used to say, you’re only as good as your last race. I always take that to heart. I try to race every one like it’s my last.”

Stay tuned for the 2022 season preview article later on this week as we head into Spring Velocity at Sunset Speedway.

Emms Racing is proud to be supported by BAE Environmental, Bromley Automotive, TL Tire, FMR Scrap Buyers & Recyclers, Speedy Glass Orillia, Klotz Canada, Creecher’s Designs, TSS Top Shops, Peter Built Racecars, and Short Track Musings for the 2022 campaign.

Fans are encouraged to stay tuned to the Emms Racing website at http://www.ajemms.com, as well as the team’s facebook page via https://www.facebook.com/ajemmsracing/.

By: Ashley McCubbin/AM Marketing – ashleymccubbin17@gmail.com

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