Column By: NICK GRAZIANO / DIRTCAR – OSWEGO, NY – Stewart Friesen had to be patient.
His summer results weren’t where he’d like them with his dirt program, but he was rebuilding. Rebuilding his motor program and refining his setups.
In the last couple of weeks, his patience was rewarded. He won the Fonda 200 and the Malta Massive Weekend at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, finding his stride in time for the crown jewel Big Block Modified race of the year – Super DIRT Week 51 at Oswego Speedway (Oct. 2-8).
“We’re just kind of hitting our stride,” Friesen said. “It’s a product of hard work. We’ve changed stuff up a little with our motor program. We’re starting to see the benefits of that.
“We’ve used some races as test sessions. Just trying to get the team better. I think we’ve been kind of gearing toward this fall season and the big money stuff… It’s pretty cool to see the plan come into action and start to pay off.”
Friesen, of Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON, is a five-time Super DIRTcar Series Billy Whittaker Cars 200 champion and the 2021 DIRTcar 358 Modified Salute to the Troops 150 champ. If his winning streak continues and he picks up his sixth ‘200’ title, he’ll tie Hall of Famer Brett Hearn for the most all-time.
“If it happens, it happens,” he said. “Either way, it’s Super DIRT Week and it’s [$51,000] to win. It’s a highlight of the schedule. You want to win these big money ones every year. It’s cool to be part of that conversation with the most (Super) DIRT Week wins with Hearn and the legends of the sport. It’s very cool to be part of that conversation but it is another big race that we want to go win.”
And while he’s on a hot streak, Friesen wasn’t ready to hit the accelerator on considering himself a favorite to win. After winning the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 at Oswego Speedway in 2016, Friesen said he feels like he’s struggled at the 5/8-mile track with his #44 Big Block ever since.
His last five finishes included a fourth-place run in 2017, a second in 2018, a sixth in 2019, a fourth in 2021 and an eighth-place finish last year.
“It’s definitely a tough race,” Friesen said. “Anything can happen. We won in the Small Block two years ago but haven’t been super-fast since the first year at Oswego. I think our Big Block program is better than it has ever been. Like I said, it just took some time to get the program back to where we wanted it. I think we’re pretty close now. I’m confident. I know our cars are good. I know our motors are good. There’s a lot of depth in the program again. I’m going in there, I know, with capable stuff and open mindset. Hopefully things turn out.”
In years past, Friesen’s always brought a new car to Super DIRT Week. This year, he and the team are bringing one with a few miles on it already. His hope is they’re bringing a car with a solid baseline already established, rather than trying to chase one.
“We’ll see if that plays in our favor,” he said. “We’re making sure our equipment is up to the task. Two-hundred laps can be grueling at Oswego. Tommy Conroy, my crew chief, does a great job in the shop preparing for that before we get to the track. Hopefully it is a smooth week.”
He’ll enter with the comfort of already being locked into the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 on Sunday, Oct. 8., having scored a guaranteed starting spot in the 200-lap race by winning the Super DIRT Week Qualifier at Albany-Saratoga Speedway on Sept. 23.
Along with his Big Block, Friesen will, again, bring his 358 Modified for the Salute to the Troops 150 on Saturday, Oct. 7. His ‘150’ win in 2021 was his first in the division at Super DIRT Week.
While most of his year is spent with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, racing his #52 truck at famed tracks like Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, Friesen said Super DIRT Week at Oswego Speedway still ranks as a top priority for him every year.
“It’s the pinnacle of the Super DIRTcar Series,” Friesen said. “It’s the biggest race of the year. It’s got the most focus on it from a national standpoint. Everyone knows what Super DIRT Week is and everybody is watching. We want to represent the Halmar team well and do our best.”