Column By: MIKE TRAVERSE / RPW – MIDDLETOWN, NY – When Stewart Friesen recovered from a qualifying race misstep and proceeded to go onto a convincing win, it sent a warning sign to the other competitors that the Halmar #44 was going to be the car to beat in the 75 lap United Rentals DIRTcar Modified feature on Thursday at OCFS.
And Friesen went on to totally dominate the 75 lap event, leading wire-to-wire, to take the victory that was worth $6,000 over Matt Sheppard and Max McLaughlin . Adding in the $1,000 for winning his qualifying race, it was a $7,000 night for Friesen.
With the finishing positions from the qualifying races carrying over to produce the feature lineup, it was Friesen and Dillion Steuer that led the star-studded field of Big Blocks to the green flag. Friesen jumped out to the lead with the first caution flying on lap 4 for Matt Hitchcock who dropped out. Mat Williamson pitted and rejoined the race. Friesen again led Steuer on the restart as Sheppard and McLaughlin settled into 3rd and 4th.
The caution flew again on lap 10 as Donnie Wilson slowed on the track, pitted and returned. Friesen again sprinted away on the restart as Mclaughlin got by Sheppard for 3rd. Steuer, running the high groove in the Zubi’s 17z, was able to stay close to Friesen in this segment, but he was never able to put any serious pressure on Stewart. By lap 23, Friesen caught up to the tail end of the field, but instead of closing the gap, Steuer fell farther behind as Friesen maneuvered the traffic with ease.
Caution was out again on lap 30 as Jeff Heotzler slowed on the track. When the green flew on lap 34, Friesen again showed his dominate speed. Over the next 30 laps, Stewart lapped cars all the way up to 7th place and had a 1/2 track lead over Steuer.
Mahaney’s top 5 run ended on lap 64 with apparent engine trouble. On the restart, Sheppard got by McLaughlin and Steuer to take 2nd with Mclaughlin 3rd and Steuer dropping to 4th. A lap later, Anthony Perrego got by Steuer into 4th as the 17z was starting to fade. Tyler Boniface slowed with a flat tire on lap 69 and Steuer pitted as well. Both Tyler and Dillion returned to the action.
This restart was the first time Sheppard had been even with Friesen the whole race, but it was Stewart again to the lead on the restart. Caution flew again on lap 70 as Bob McGannon and Tommy Meier got together in turn 1 with McGannon getting a tow off with some significant damage.
The final restart was just like all the rest of them in this feature as Friesen had them all covered, ran out the final 5 laps and wrapped up the win by a 1.7 second margin over Sheppard with McLaughlin taking the 3rd place spot on the podium. Perrego was 4th and LJ Lombardo ran a steady race to finish 5th. Billy Decker in 6th and Steuer in 7th were the last two cars on the lead lap. Boniface finished 8th with Keith Flach 9th and Mike Gular 10th.
“It was a great car all night long. I almost lost it in turn 1 in that heat race,” Friesen said. “It convinced me to get up on the top. The Halmar 44 was awesome. These guys worked so hard all night. Lapped traffic was tough, it was treacherous. But we had a great race car, I have to thank all my guys. It’s always good to win one when the boss (Chris Larsen) is here. I’m glad for Parker, he had a lot of his friends here.”
Announcer Tim Pitts mentioned how well the tire wear looked on Friesen’s car after the race.
“The track got slick. This clay they put on 2 years ago is not hard on tires. We have a pretty good package here. Jay Castimore is awesome, managing the whole tire department.”
Second place Sheppard summed up his race this way.
“We did get faster as the race went on, but I think we needed about 500 laps to catch him, he was just that fast. Or maybe have him run out of gas.”
In the 25 lap qualifying races, it was Friesen and Steuer taking the wins. Friesen nearly spun on a 4th lap restart and dropped from 4th to 8th. He began racing back towards the front, aggressively running the very high groove. He finally caught up to leader McLaughlin and made the pass on lap 18 to take the win. Max finished 2nd with Duane Howard 3rd, Williamson 4th and Lombardo 5th. Williamson almost met up with trouble with a couple of laps to go as he did a near spin, but somehow saved it without bring out a caution or losing any positions.
Steuer won the 2nd 25 lap qualifier in a non-stop race. Sheppard was 2nd, Mahaney 3rd, Hitchcock 4th and Perrego 5th. Tyler Dippel won the B Main consi.
Kasey Hufcut took the lead on a final lap restart and went on to take the win in the Precision Hydraulic and Oil Rookie Sportsman event over Tyler Banks, Brett Weslowski, Isabella Van Orden and Nick Giardini. Mike Mikulski, Chad Loiodice, Kevin Murphy, Dan Malley and Joe Conklin Jr completed the top 10 running order.
After a Saturday off, racing returns to OCFS on June 5th with the Arkel Motors Sportrman division having their thiple 20’s event. The NAPA North East Parts Group Street Stocks and Rookie Sportsman will also be on the schedule.