Story By: CODY MANMILLER / SHORT TRACK SUPER SERIES – LAKE CITY, FL – On the initial night of the 10th anniversary Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series (STSS) Fueled by Sunoco season, Stewart Friesen, who owns the most wins in STSS history, limped a struggling motor to the victory on Wednesday night at All-Tech Raceway in Lake City, Fla.
Friesen’s ‘Sunshine Swing’ triumph is his 37th in STSS competition, extending his advantage to six races over Matt Sheppard, who followed Friesen across the line in second.
“We got ‘er done, tonight,” a conflicted Friesen said in Victory Lane. “We definitely suffered a pretty good motor problem, so we’ll have to get to work on that, but happy it could hang on for the win, thankfully.”
Friesen, of Sprakers, N.Y., drew the pole and led all 30 laps, but when smoke began billowing from his Halmar International-sponsored No. 44 with eight laps to go, the result seemed in doubt.
“The motor definitely changed pitch,” Friesen said. “But then, it felt like it came back to life, so I wasn’t really sure what was wrong while in the car.”
Friesen and Rusty Smith led the 26-car field to the green flag with David Schilling quickly jumping into the runner-up spot aboard the BDR Speed No. 20. Rick Laubach lurched into third, Darren Smith diamonded off the bottom of turn two from fifth to third with Sheppard in tow.
Sheppard quickly dispatched of Corey Cormier and Laubach while the rest of the field was fanned out in every lane on the sprawling half-mile. Larry Wight was all the way on the outside fence, along with Alex Payne, trying to find a way through the field.
As the first caution flag flew on lap five, Friesen led Schilling, Darren Smith, Sheppard, Cormier and Laubach. Sheppard used that restart to perfection, grabbing second from Schilling and ahead of Cormier. Wight blitzed the top, passing both Laubach and Erick Rudolph for sixth.
Cormier was very strong through the middle of the race, taking third from Schilling, ahead of Darren Smith and Wight. Smith grabbed fourth then from Schilling on lap eight. Meanwhile, Matt Stangle, Danny Bouc and Marc Johnson were tracking their way through the field, all coming from 20th or deeper and into the top 10 nearing the halfway mark.
At lap 15, Rudolph drove under Payne for eighth just as Friesen and Sheppard entered hectic lapped traffic before Steve Davis brought out the caution on lap 16.
With 14 laps left, the restart order was Friesen, Sheppard, Cormier, Smith, Schilling, Wight, Rudolph, Payne, Stangle and Bouc. Payne used that restacking to jump from eighth and into fourth with 13 to go. Johnson was another that was able to advance on the restart, moving to eighth and then seventh on lap 18.
On lap 22, while enjoying a massive lead, smoke began showing behind Friesen’s car, but it didn’t slow him down, crossing the finish line ahead of Sheppard, Payne, Schilling and Rudolph.
“It’s an interesting surface,” Friesen said. “It latched up in one and two, but I didn’t know where to be on the other end until finally it latched up on the bottom over there as well.”
Sheppard, who started seventh, settled for second.
“We had a really good car tonight,” Sheppard said. “We didn’t get a good draw, but we were able to get to second before it latched down.
“All in all, it was a pretty good night, the thing’s in one piece and we went forward,” Sheppard said.
The 13th-place starter Payne spent the majority of the 30-lap race inside the top 10 and then really moved forward in the second half of the race, landing on the podium.
“I really had a good car all the way around,” Payne said on the homestretch. “I was hoping to get closer to the front before it took rubber, so I was up on the wall in one and two dragging my quarter panel on the fence.
“This place is pretty weird; it was a lot of fun and we are going to keep building on it,” Payne added.
Schilling, who raced as high as second during the early stages of the feature, settled for fourth on night one, as Rudolph, who really bounced through the field, surged late to round out the top five.
Finishing sixth through 10th, respectively, were: Cormier, who suffered a flat tire on the final lap as he spent much of the race running third before dropping to sixth late; Smith, a top-10 runner all night, finished seventh on the opening night of the 2023 season; Bouc came from 20th to eighth one night after setting fast time on Tuesday’s practice night; 25th-place starting Johnson drove all the way up to eighth after coming from a consolation; and Stangle, another consolation qualifier, rounded out the top 10 from 24th.
‘Sunshine Swing’ action continues at All-Tech Raceway on Thursday night with a 35-lap, $5,000-to-win STSS Modified event and a 25-lap, $1,500-to-win headliner for STSS Crate 602 Sportsman.
‘SUNSHINE SWING’ NIGHT NO. 1 RESULTS SUMMARY – ALL-TECH RACEWAY WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2023
‘Sunshine Swing’ Night No. 1 Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco Modified Feature Finish (30 laps): STEWART FRIESEN, Matt Sheppard, Alex Payne, David Schilling, Erick Rudolph, Corey Cormier, Darren Smith, Danny Bouc, Marc Johnson, Matt Stangle, Larry Wight, Billy Pauch, Jr., Mike Gular, Danny Creeden, Alex Yankowski, Chris Curtis, Tanner Van Dohren, Peter Britten, Robert Bublak, Danny Johnson, Rusty Smith, Bobby Watkins, Jordan Watson, Rick Laubach, Steve Davis, Austin Hubbard
Did Not Qualify: Corbin Millar, Tim Millman, Jimmy Zacharias, Mario Clair, Francois Bellemare, Jeff Taylor, Anthony Tramontana
American Racer/Lias Tire Bonuses (FREE Tire Certificate): Corey Cormier (sixth) & Danny Creeden (14th)
BDR Speed Bonus ($50 Gift Card): Danny Johnson (20th)
Behrent’s Performance Warehouse Bonuses ($50 Gift Cards): David Schilling (fourth) & Marc Johnson (ninth)
Beyea Custom Headers Redraw Bonus ($50): Jordan Watson (Redrew 12th)
Danny’s Pizza Pizzazz Halfway Leader Award ($200): Stewart Friesen
ERK Steering Bonus ($50 Certificate): Chris Curtis (16th)
Henry’s Exhaust Power Position ($50 Certificate): Larry Wight (11th)
Penske Racing Shocks Bonuses: Stewart Friesen (first – $150 certificate); Matt Sheppard (second – $75 certificate); Alex Payne (third – $50 certificate); Matt Stangle (10th – $25 certificate)
Wilwood Brakes ‘Lucky 7’ Bonus ($100 Certificate): Darren Smith (seventh)