Jonathan Emerson drives under his father Zach going through Turn 4 at Wiscasset Speedway earlier this season. The third-generation driver from Sabattus is enjoying a solid season at Richard and Vanessa Jordan’s rejuvenated mid-coast oval. (Peter Taylor/Wiscasset Speedway)

Another third-generation racer is starting to make quite a name for himself on the paved ovals of central Maine.

With his grandfather and father carving out a path to success before him, the road to victory lane was clearly marked for this bright young talent.

Jonathan Emerson has been enjoying a breakout season in the Strictly Street division at Wiscasset Speedway. The 17-year-old from Sabattus has earned three wins and four top-five finishes in five starts and led the point standings through mid-July.

“We started having Keith Russell help us on the car a lot more this year,” Emerson said. “Between he and my grandfather, they hit on a good setup and we’ve been able to keep up with it. Keith has a lot of knowledge, and my grandfather still knows how to make a car go fast, as well.”

Larry Emerson earned 40 wins at Oxford Plains Speedway in a well-documented career. Jonathan’s father, Zach, has six wins of his own at Oxford and is a legitimate threat to win every time he unloads.

“My father is struggling a little bit this year with his car,” Emerson said. “I know he’ll get it figured out soon. It just inspires me to work harder to keep the Emerson name in front of fans and let them know we’re here to win races.”

Emerson is another of the former Oxford regulars who absolutely loves his new surroundings at Wiscasset Speedway. Zach, like his smooth-as-silk father, was a fixture in Oxford’s Street Stock division before departing for the mid-coast a few years ago.

“We’ve settled in at Wiscasset pretty nicely, it’s an excellent place to race,” Emerson said. “The owners actually care about you and treat you like family. The people we race against have respect for each other. We have our scuffles, sure, that’s part of racing. We just shake hands and move on.”

When Emerson and his Strictly Street rivals gather every other week in Group 2 action, competition is stiff and the talent pool is deep. Hard-nosed racers like Leeds-based veteran Kyle Hewins, who took over the points lead from Emerson last time out, run hard every lap and don’t give an inch on the track.

“Our division is loaded with talent, Kyle is a perfect example of that,” Emerson added. “We have my Dad, Brad Erskine, Shawn Austin, even Turner veteran Glenn Reynolds in the mix, as well. You have to bring a good car and stay up on the wheel to beat those guys. It’s a pretty tough class.”

Emerson’s family-backed race team has a large group of key people working behind the scenes to keep him on-track and in contention. It takes several hands to get it all done on a race-to-race basis. 

“I’m fortunate to have lots of great people supporting my program,” Emerson said. “My father, my mother Shannon and my grandfather are my biggest supporters. I appreciate all the hard work they put into my program. I wouldn’t be doing this without them.

“I’m also lucky to have Keith involved for all he brings to the table. My crew members include my cousins Kyliegh and Calab, my friend Trell, my girlfriend, Chloe Kiley, and my sister, who supports me in everything I do.”

Kyle Hewins (and his brother Kurt) has raced alongside Emerson since he started competing at Richard and Vanessa Jordan’s popular mid-coast speedplant. He has a great deal of respect for his points rival.

Jonathan is an aggressive, but very clean, racer,” Kyle Hewins said. “I feel like we have very similar driving styles. He’s a pretty quiet guy, and a real pleasure to race against.”

Along with a healthy group of crew members working on his behalf, Emerson also has a sizable list of marketing partners who make it possible for him to contend for wins.

“We’re blessed with several great partners who contribute to our program,” Emerson said. “They include Yankee Yardworks, Durham Get ‘N Go, Triple K Excavation, Uncle Moe’s Diner, Larrabee’s Construction, BoMar Transportation, S&J Auto Recycling, Emerson Pilot Car Services, B.W. & Sons Roofing and RPM Racing Engines. I can’t thank them all enough for their support.”

As the month of July quickly turns to August and the season starts to wind down, Emerson has two goals in mind before the final flag waves. One is based on family pride, the other driven only by the motivation to win big races.   

“I would really love to earn the points championship,” he said. “I would be the second Emerson to win one in two years, and obviously the youngest. I’d like to get a couple more wins, especially in the Top Gun Shootout.

“For our class, that’s our Oxford 250. If we could win that race and the title, 2018 will have been a very satisfying season.”

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