Mike Emhof is a busy man. Managing the Northeast’s Patriot Sprint Tour for 360 sprints and the Capital Region Sprint Car Agency for 305 sprint cars, along with his speed shop business would be a challenge for most. But Emhof also has a “real” job, as racers typically describe full-time employment.
“I make my living by working 60 hours a week as an engineer for a defense contractor,” said the former mini-sprint star. “But I love sprint cars and my business supplies parts for everything from micro sprints to 410s. We build cars and sell parts, fuel and tires.”
When it’s suggested that a cynic might say he runs the two series to create customers, Emhof laughed and explained, “They go hand in hand. The parts shop benefits from having the series and the racers benefit from having the parts truck at all the races.”
Emhof grew up around stock cars before discovering his true calling, open-cockpit racing, and eventually moved from participant to management.
“I’ve run the Patriot Tour since 2007,” recalled Emhof. “I started out managing it for Emmett Hahn, then bought it outright. Originally, it was called the ASCS Patriot Sprint Tour but they decided to go in a different direction, so we agreed on a deal and I took over for the start of the 2010 season.
“It was a natural progression to take over the CRSA, which I describe as a starter group for up-and-comers and a place for guys slowing down a little,” Emhof added. “We use RaceSaver specs but we’re not sanctioned and we get everyone from kids starting out to micro-sprint guys moving up to stock car guys looking for some fun at the end of their career.”
When one thinks of sprint car racing in New York, the first name that comes to mind is the longstanding Empire Super Sprints club. For many years, you were either an ESS guy or a Patriot supporter, but Emhof says that has changed.
“I sell to a lot of their competitors and we swap cars back and forth,” he said. “In today’s climate, you need to share cars. We also get some SCONE cars from New England looking to branch out, and everyone benefits.
“I may not agree with all their management decisions, but we’ve learned to get along. We see some things differently because ESS is a club while I own the Patriot series. I’m a for-profit organization while they try to benefit everyone,” Emhof added. “Otherwise, we have the same tires and rules to keep costs down. That way, the 305 guys can buy takeoffs from the 360 teams, though, surprisingly considering their purse, a few of them buy a lot of new tires.
“I’d like more collaboration on dates but otherwise we’re both doing OK. When I started, we were close to $4,000 less on our purse and I was accused of stealing races from ESS by undercutting their price with promoters, so my goal has always been to get on an even keel. Right now, we’re within a few hundred dollars of each other.
“We compete for tracks with the Patriots but not with the 305s. A lot of tracks like the 305s as an added attraction because their purse is half of a 360 purse,” Emhof noted. “We normally pay $500 to win and $150 to take the green but this year seven of our 16 races will pay $1,000 to win to build them up. By comparison, the Patriot shows pay $2,000 to win and $250 to start with several $3,000-to-win and $300-to-start shows on the 2021 schedule.
“In this region, we’re an added attraction with the modifieds with either sanction. The World of Outlaws are a huge draw, the All Stars are gaining and the rest of us operate in their shadow, even though all levels offer a quality show,” Emhof said. “It helped early on that we had a lot of former modified guys with us but there’s not that many anymore. They liked the reduced maintenance because a sprinter is much easier to work on, but they miss having a large number of races to run. I think that keeps a lot of guys who would be great in a sprint car in the sportsmen and modifieds.”
Click below to continue reading.