Column By: MARTY CZEKALA / RPW – WEEDSPORT, NY – It’s always fun to win a Super DIRTCar Series race.
But on your birthday? Even better, and that’s what Stewart Friesen did Sunday night.
The 38-year-old celebrated with a win in the Hall of Fame 100 from Weedsport.
A pair of Weedsport winners, Tim Sears Jr. and Max McLaughlin, met Dave Farney’s green for 100 circuits. “Mad Max” would get the best start of them all as he led by three car lengths on Sears Jr.
Friesen would make his move early from fifth on the grid. From the drop of the green, he and Chris Hile went to war for the third and final podium spot. Friesen would keep trying to look to the inside on Hile. Still, with Weedsport, Friesen would have to let off earlier than Hile, leading to the latter defending well until the end of lap eight. Friesen would make the pass inside of turns three and four due to Hile getting loose in the center.
While in lapped traffic, Friesen would be within striking distance of Sears Jr. on lap 17. The two would remain side by side for an entire lap until Friesen passed Sears Jr. for the runner-up spot and immediately started closing in on McLaughlin for the lead. At the end of lap 23, Friesen would get a run down low on “Mad Max.” Still, the latter used the lapped car of Jack Lehner to pass the backmarker on the outside, making it challenging for Friesen to grab the lead away. Four laps later, McLaughlin slid up in the first set of corners, opening the door for Stew to take it side-by-side. It looked as if Friesen would get the advantage on McLaughlin by half a car length. However, “Mad Max” used another lapped car of Demetrios Drellos as a pick in turn three to play defense coming to lap 30.
HEAVY lapped traffic emerged on lap 36, and it brought in another contender for the lead, Matt Sheppard, who came from 11th on the grid. As he got stuck between two cars side-by-side a lap later, the top two would pull away. Friesen then got a run inside to McLaughlin to clear him off turn four for the first lead change of the day.
The first yellow flew on lap 44 as Lehner came to a halt in turn three. On lap 47 restart, Friesen held serve and faced a challenge from McLaughlin looking on the outside cushion. It wouldn’t work as Friesen would lead to pulling away from McLaughlin and Sheppard halfway. Sheppard would try to get the run outside to work himself on McLaughlin, who was running a lower lane at the time and would shut the door on Sheppard coming to the front chute every lap. Caution two would fly as Tyler Trump would stop on the backstretch.
The drama would ensue on lap 54 restart. Friesen did not get a good jump, and McLaughlin would pull ahead of Friesen, still on the former’s inside. Sheppard would attempt a move and look low three-wide on the exit of two. Still, there was no room, and Sheppard would clip the wall with his left front Hoosier, flattening the tire and ending his chances at a good finish. The restart would also hurt McLaughlin as he would revert back to the second spot due to the restart lap being called off.
Friesen had a much better restart next time around and eventually called game. Meanwhile, behind the top two, the Tim and Tim show developed as Tim Fuller and Tim Sears Jr. put on a duel for the third spot for many laps until lap 63 when Sears Jr. pulled away on the outside.
But Friesen had the best car without question. 30 to go, the lead was 2.7 seconds on McLaughlin. 15 to go? Nearly doubled to 5.1 seconds. No yellows would come out the rest of the race as Stewart Friesen picked up his fourth win of the Series season at The Port. His awards are $10k richer and a guaranteed spot in the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 during Super Dirt Week.
Not bad birthday presents for the 38-year-old.
“I’m not sure,” Friesen responded if he ever won on July 25th before. “I’ll take it today. Our race team is rolling right now. Really cool to win the Hall of Fame race at Weedsport.”
“I just try to take care of my stuff,” Friesen told RPW. “The track was awesome, a lot of fun. Slick to a curb. Get some bite on the bottom, race all over it. It’s just my style. It worked out.”
“Felt like we had a good car,” McLaughlin thought on his race. “Started to get loose around lap 35-40. I knew then we were in a little bit of trouble. At that point, we got free that early. It’s been tough the last couple of weeks. I think we’re getting better and better.”
“We’ve been struggling here and there until the last two races (at Weedsport),” Sears Jr. said to RPW. “We kept plugging away. Trying to save our tire to the end and hopefully get a good finish out of it.”
In the points battle, Friesen came into the night with a 27 point lead over Matt Sheppard. As Sheppard rebounded to finish 12th, these are still valuable points for Friesen as he extends the margin. While Friesen has more of a commitment to the Short Track Super Series/NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and is a non-platinum driver, could Friesen still consider competing for the accolade of Super DIRTCar Series champion?
“Absolutely,” Friesen replied to RPW. “The way the schedule has been the past couple of years, anything can happen. We only ran one points race all of last year. We’re able to get the Hoosier Tire Dirt Championship which we’re very proud of. We’ll try to make as many points as we can. Obviously, the Fonda 200 and Canandaigua race is a conflict (September 18th). We have another conflict, the one Charlotte (Dirt Track, World Finals) race with Phoenix at the end of the year (November 5th). I love both series, really been able to travel SDS a couple of years, and we’ve done fairly well. It’s been top-notch.”
37 Big Blocks checked in tonight.
This Thursday, the Super DIRTCar Series heads to the historic Orange County Fair Speedway for Battle of the Midway. For Weedsport, the World of Outlaws takes on The Port this Saturday for the Empire State Challenge.
For interviews with the top three of Stewart Friesen, Max McLaughlin, and Tim Sears Jr., along with pre-race interviews with Jack Lehner and newly inducted Hall of Famer Pat Ward, check out the RSN Trackside Facebook page.
Super DIRTCar Series (100 Laps)
44 Stewart Friesen, 2. 32C Max McLaughlin (7.014s), 3. 83x Tim Sears Jr. (9.617s), 4. 25 Erick Rudolph (12.478s), 5. 5h Chris Hile (14.157s), 6. 19 Tim Fuller (14.316s), 7. 91 Billy Decker (15.124s), 8. 98h Jimmy Phelps (16.409s), 9. 99L Larry Wight (17.362s), 10. 35 Mike Mahaney (18.062s). 11. 21a Peter Britten (18.434s). 12. 9s Matt Sheppard (-1L), 13. 88 Mat Williamson (-1L), 14. 121 Gary Tomkins (-1L), 15. 3 Justin Haers (-1L), 16. M1 Dave Marcuccilli (-1L), 17. 28 Jordan McCreadie (-1L), 18. 111 Demetrios Drellos (-1L), 19. 34 Kevin Root (-1L), 20. X Chad Phelps (-2L), 21. 56 Garrison Krentz (-3L), 22. 32r Ronnie Davis (-22L), 23. 9x Tyler Trump (-50L), 24. 2 Jack Lehner (-59L), 25. 48t Dave Rauscher (-59L), 26. 22W Brandon Walters (-61L), 27. 27j Danny Johnson (-84L)
Heat Winners: 32c McLaughlin, 83x Sears Jr., 19 Fuller, 35 Mahaney
Fastest Lap: 32c Max McLaughlin 15.813s