By CAMDEN PROUD
Following a second place run in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series event at Texas Motor Speedway just a week earlier, rising NASCAR star Stewart Friesen was back in the Northeast for a busy weekend of dirt modified competition last weekend.
Friesen, who is currently the points leader in the NGOTS series, started his weekend off at the Grandview Speedway in Central Pennsylvania before returning to the Hard Clay of the Orange County Fair Speedway, a track the Sprakers, N.Y. driver has become very familiar with over the years.
The last time Friesen appeared at OCFS was last September when he won his second Eastern States 200 piloting the Halmar No. 44 machine. It was his seventh big block win at the Middletown oval.
Of his seven career Middletown victories, two have come with the Short Track Super Series Halmar International North Region in the Hard Clay Open. Approaching Sunday afternoon, Friesen was the defending winner of the event and one of the clear favorites to take home the $11,919 payday.
A heat race miscue resulted in qualification through a consolation and therefore a twentieth starting spot in the 50-lap headliner. Regardless, Friesen was ‘the show,’ advancing nineteen positions to plant himself on race leader Matt Sheppard’s rear deck with two laps remaining. When the caution flag flew setting up a green white checkered finish, Friesen figured he had a pretty good shot at the No. 9S machine after his long drive through the field. It just wasn’t meant to be this time around.
“I thought I might have had a shot at Matt (Sheppard) on the last restart, but he drifted a little bit and I think my tires must have sealed up,” Friesen said afterwards. “I tried hard to get him on the top but I think I spun the tires in the dust in one and two so that was my mistake.”
The race win went to Sheppard, which believe it or not, was actually his very first checkered flag at the Orange County Fair Speedway. Friesen settled for a runner-up finish, but if he was going to have anything at all for Sheppard, he probably wishes he could do the last restart over one more time.
“It actually felt like we had a flat when I got going on the last restart,” Friesen added. “We got the white and Sheppard was checked out, but then the tires gripped up again so its one of those shoulda, coulda, woulda kind of deals. It wasn’t all that bad.”
A sixth place finish in the Bruce Rogers Memorial at Grandview and a second at Middletown certainly was not a bad weekend for Friesen’s team, especially after that Sunday heat mishap put the DKM guys behind the eight ball. Working the outside of the speedway for a qualifying spot, the No. 44 washed out into the marbles which caused the rear end of the car to come around. Friesen was able to rebound for fourth, but still had to race a consi in order to qualify for the main event. He won his 10-lap consolation.
“I’m just happy we salvaged a decent run after my screw up in that heat race,” he continued. “I want to say a big thank you to DKM, Halmar and all of my guys for not chewing me up too bad. I really messed up in that heat trying to score some extra cash so that was my bad.”
Friesen has been competing on Brett Deyo’s Short Track Super Series since its inception in 2014. He is the all-time wins leader with thirteen victories including in last month’s Melvin Joseph Memorial at Delaware’s Georgetown Speedway. The Halmar team also competed in the STSS South event at Port Royal two weeks ago where mechanical woes prevented a solid result. Stewart says he is very encouraged by the direction the tour is heading.
“It’s been a good start,” Friesen reflected. “We had a little mechanical failure at Port Royal which sneaks up on you from time to time. We had a fast car there and had a fast car at Georgetown too picking up the win so it’s all good. It’s interesting the way this series is evolving with the motors and all that stuff. It’s been neat and is only getting started. I’m looking forward to seeing how it progresses.”
Chances are, if you even remotely follow dirt modified racing, you know all about Friesen and his success. Now the New York native is working hard at making a name for himself on one of the biggest stages in auto racing. As Halmar-Friesen Racing continues to inch closer and closer towards their first NASCAR victory, the team partnered with Crossroads Center for Children to put together a special graphics wrap for the upcoming truck series event at the Dover International Speedway.
“The Halmar-Friesen Racing team has partnered with Crossroads Center for Children to sell puzzle pieces for Autism Awareness that will go on a unique wrap on the 52 truck,” Friesen explained. “We are doing some high end selling for those and also doing some t-shirts and stuff for donations to Crossroads and Autism Awareness so we’re going to use the next few weeks to pump all that up and hopefully put a very special truck in victory lane at Dover.”
The back story is, two years ago, Friesen and wife Jessica learned that their son Parker was on the autism spectrum. Parker attends Crossroads Center for Children and the Friesens are hoping to give back by donating proceeds from the puzzle pieces or merchandise to Crossroads. For a $1,000 donation, you will be able to have your name on a puzzle piece for the Dover event. You can learn more at HalmarRacing.com.
Friesen already has finishes of tenth, eighteenth, fourth, fifth, and most recently second to his credit this year. The current series points leader lead several laps in the Longhorn 350 at Texas before falling just short to Kyle Busch in a battle for the win back on March 29. He now has five career second place finishes, which is most all-time (without a win) in the truck series.
Before returning to the pavement at Dover on Friday, May 3, Friesen has a busy dirt slate scheduled for the month of April including at the Orange County Fair Speedway this Saturday, April 13 and at the Utica-Rome Speedway on Sunday, April 14. He will be bringing both his big block and small block cars to the double headers.