RPW Column: Friesen Holds Off Sheppard To Take Eastern States 358-Mod $20,000 Victory

Column By: MIKE TRAVERSE / RPW – MIDDLETOWN, NY – With some prolonged light rain, the Hauser Bros. Eastern States Small Block Championship race was delayed a couple of hours. For many of those in the field, they maybe weren’t sure of what conditions that they would find in the opening laps of the 100 lap test.

Pole sitter Stewart Friesen was one of those. He drifted back a couple of positions early in the race. But once he got comfortable with the track, Mr. Freeze poured it on and drove to victory in the race. He held off a late race charge by Matt Sheppard to grab the $20,000 first place check.

Early afternoon time trials and heat races set the lineup and it was fast qualifier Friesen and Mike Mahaney that led the 39 cars to the green flag. Mahaney took the lead in the early laps with Anthony Perrego 2nd and Friesen 3rd. After a few laps, Friesen got feeling good about his car and the track and by lap 13 had moved back into the lead.

Mat Williamson was also running well, moving intro the runner-up spot shortly after Friesen took the lead. The first caution came out when Billy VanInwegen backed into the outside wall in turn 1. The restart saw Friesen continue to lead over Williamson, Perrego and Mahaney who had slipped a couple of spots.

Dillion Steuer was a driver on the move, racing into the top 5 shortly after the restart. Sheppard had also crept into the top 10 after starting 12th. Sheppard continued to move towards the front, taking 6th spot by lap 38.

Gary Edwards III had his car billow out a tremendous amount of smoke on lap 44 bringing out the caution. Steuer pitted during this caution with a left front flat. As race hit the halfway mark under caution, the standings were Friesen, Williamson, Perrego, Sheppard and a strong running Tyler Jashembowski.

The restart saw Sheppard move past Perrego into 3rd. Another caution quickly followed as Tim McCreadie slowed with the Petruska #66. McCreadie and Andy Bachetti both came into the pits, but after returning briefly to the track, they both retired from the event.

Friesen continued to dominate on the restart, but it was Sheppard moving into 2nd. The caution was out again on lap 61 as Danny Creeden slowed and went to the pits, but returned.

An extended green flag period followed with the leaders getting into lapped traffic. As Sheppard closed in slightly on Friesen, caution was out after 83 laps were completed for Dave Marcuccilli. At this point, there were more fireworks involving Tyler Dippel and Peter Britten. The red flag had to be displayed as Dippel did not leave the racing surface in a timely manner.

The restart saw Sheppard make a bid for the lead, but Friesen was able to maintain position and start to pull away. With 8 laps to go, Friesen was into lapped traffic and Sheppard was able to close in. After getting to Friesen’s bumper with just a few laps to go, Friesen again pulled out to a safe lead. At the finish, it was Friesen with a 4/10th’s margin of victory over Sheppard with Williamson 3rd and Perrego 4th. Steuer recovered from his pitstop and put on a great drive on the outside, making it all the way back to 5th. The rest of the top 10 were Tyler Boniface in 6th, Larry Wight 7th. Jashembowski 8th, Billy Decker 9th and Britten 10th.

“After the rain, it kind of changed things up a bit,” Friesen said. “I got a little too high on the track, it was a little greasy. But I was able to close up pretty quick. This track always races very good after the rain. My hat’s off to the Halmar team. I’m proud of the job that we did today.”

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