Stewart Friesen Romps To ‘Hard Clay Open’ Victory At Orange County Fair Speedway

MIDDLETOWN, NY – He just keeps on winning.

For the 11th time in his career with the Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series (STSS) Fueled By Sunoco, Stewart Friesen romped to victory in Tuesday night’s ‘Hard Clay Open’ at Orange County Fair Speedway.

The Sprakers, N.Y., driver earned a $5,200 payday in the opener for the STSS Halmar International North Region at the five-eighths-mile oval in dominant fashion after starting seventh in the 30-car feature field.

“These guys gave me an awesome car tonight,” offered Friesen, 34, after exiting his Halmar-backed No. 44. “When you’re out front you never know who’s coming, especially here. It’s a long race.”

A field of 48 talented STSS big-block/small-block Modified drivers signed in for the first midweek show under a new era of racing at OCFS under the Orange Motorsport and Entertaining LLC banner.

The 50-lap fifth annual ‘Hard Clay Open’ saw Mike Mahaney’s Buzz Chew No. 88 lead the field to the green flag. Ryan Godown, however, put the Lincoln Auto Body No. 5 into the top spot on the opening tour.

Friesen cracked the top-five on lap five. A lap later, he advanced to third behind Godown and Mahaney.

On lap eight, Friesen slipped past Mahaney to the runner-up spot.

Two circuits later, he took over a lead he wouldn’t relinquish.

Behind Friesen, battles raged throughout the top-10.

Godown’s stellar drive derailed with 15 laps remaining when he slowed on the frontstretch with a flat left-rear tire.

Rick Laubach then inherited second in the Ryan Kerr-owned No. 1K.

Despite three cautions inside the final dozen laps, Friesen’s only challenges came on restarts as he was able to pull away during green-flag runs.

“These Short Track Super Series races attract the best drivers from all over,” Friesen said. “It always feels good when you can get a win in one of these shows.”

Hellertown, Pa.’s Laubach enjoyed a steady drive to place runner-up after starting fifth.

“We’re trying to run the whole series – North and South – this year,” Laubach said. “I really wanted to get off to a good clean start here to have a good points position going into the next few races and we did that.”

Driving Steve Lowitt’s United Pump & Tank No. 48, Newburgh, N.Y.’s Jerry Higbie completed the podium. Higbie started ninth and battled back-and-forth on restarts to earn his third-place result.

“That was fun racing out there,” Higbie said. “Every restart I was counting off cars hoping I’d be on the outside. I’d gain a few, get caught in the wrong line and lose a few. This series is the best around.”

After starting 23rd as a consolation winner, OCFS all-time leading winner Brett Hearn of Sussex, N.J., drove to fourth at the finish, surging forward in the race’s second half.

Billy Decker of Unadilla, N.Y., however, was the race’s Hard Charger in Jeremy Smith’s No. 91. Decker started 25th and drove to fifth, an advance of 20 positions. He received $500 courtesy of Grand Rental Station Middletown, $200 from Land Hoe Maintenance and product from QA1 and Beyea Headers.

Finishing sixth through 10th, respectively, were Mahaney, of King Ferry, N.Y.; Tommy Meier of Waldwick, N.J., driving the Jeff Behrent-owned No. 3; Matt Sheppard of Waterloo, N.Y., who pitted for a tire and to repair a right-side sail panel issue on lap nine with the Hurlock Auto & Speed ride; Duane Howard of Oley, Pa., in the first-ever appearance by Norm Hansell’s No. 357 on the Hard Clay; and veteran Jeff Heotzler of Wallkill, N.Y., who recovered from a flat tire on lap 18.

Heat winners – receiving $50 cash from Rock Fantasy Concert, Smoke Shop & Pinball Room of Middletown and product certificates from Beyea Headers – were Mahaney, Meier, Laubach, Godown and Higbie. Consolation victors were Heotzler, Billy Pauch Jr. and Brett Hearn. Bob McGannon won the 3-lap Last Chance Qualifier.

A late arrival to the speedway, Brad Horton pocketed $1,000 in the accompanying OCFS Sportsman 20-lap main. Horton started last in the final heat race after missing the initial draw for position. He worked through for a redraw position and started the main from fourth on the grid.

Horton worked forward and grabbed a lead he wouldn’t relinquish at the midway point of the main.

“We did our homework on this car,” offered Horton. “It definitely paid off tonight.”

Mel Schrufer pressed the leader late in the event, earning a $500 runner-up finish, with Pennsylvania teenager Alex Yankowski in third followed by 12th-starter Cory Cormier and Tyler Johnston, who started 11th.

Crate 602 Sportsman heat winners were Corey Cormier, Jesse Leiby and Johnston. All 27 cars present started the main.

Racing resumes for the STSS on Memorial Day Weekend with a doubleheader. On Thursday, May 24 Delaware International Speedway in Delmar, Del., hosts Round No. 3 of the STSS Velocita-USA South Region plus Crate 602 Sportsman (Race No. 3) and Delaware Super Trucks.

On Sunday, May 27 the STSS Halmar North Region returns to action at Thunder Mountain Speedway in Center Lisle, N.Y., plus the opener for the STSS Crate 602 Sportsman North Series and Street Stocks.

HARD CLAY HAPPENINGS: Race fans were treated to all-new aluminum seating in the half-covered grandstands as crews worked lateMonday night and into Tuesday to complete the latest renovation project at the fairgrounds track….

The draw for heat-race starting positions was held prior to the drivers’ meeting at the Short Track Super Series trailer….

Mat Williamson’s anticipated debut on the series ended following hot laps with a burned piston in the Behrent’s Performance Warehouse No. 3. The Behrent’s team fielded two nearly identical No. 3 cars with Tommy Meier earning a seventh-place finish….

A late-arriving, but healthy midweek crowd took in the event….

The win for Friesen was his second in the ‘Hard Clay Open’ event, having previously won in 2015 while driving for Jeff Daley. He earned $5,000 from the purse and $200 as the Halfway Leader from Superior Remodeling….

A new engine program has boosted the Jerry Higbie United Pump & Tank efforts as he chases the 2018 STSS North Region aboard the No. 48….

Pennsylvania driver Mike Gular made his first-ever OCFS visit a satisfying one as he recovered from a flat tire to finish 11th in Terry Fasnacht’s No. 2A….

Andy Bachetti pitted with shock issues. He was able to get back on the lead lap via the ‘Lap Down, Go Around’ presented by Algonkin Motel and ended up placing 15th….

To learn more about the 2018 Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco, visit www.shorttracksuperseries.com, e-mailbdmotorsportsmedia@gmail.com, check out ‘Short Track Super Series’ on Facebook or @ShortTrackSS on Twitter or Instagram.

‘HARD CLAY OPEN’ RACE SUMMARY – ORANGE COUNTY FAIR SPEEDWAY MAY 8, 2018

Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco Halmar International North Region Event No. 1 Modified Feature Finish (50 laps): STEWART FRIESEN, Rick Laubach, Jerry Higbie, Brett Hearn, Billy Decker, Mike Mahaney, Tommy Meier, Matt Sheppard, Duane Howard, Jeff Heotzler, Mike Gular, Jimmy Horton, Brian Krummel, Billy Pauch Jr., Andy Bachetti, Anthony Perrego, Craig Mitchell, Brandon Grosso, Craig Hanson, Ryan Jordan, J.R. Hurlburt, Matt Hitchcock, Danny Creeden, Ryan Godown, Nick Nye, Danny Johnson, Mike Kolka, Bob McGannon, Jeremy Smith, Brett Tonkin.

Did Not Qualify: John Ferrier, Tyler Boniface, C.G. Morey, Rich Eurich, Richard Smith, Allison Ricci, Joe Krum, Heath Metzger, Billy Van Pelt, Joseph Judge, Matt Janiak, Roger Henion, Billy Van Inwegen, Joe Bruning, Mat Williamson, Danny Cronk, Brendan Finley, Kurt Hundeland.

American Racer/Lias Tire Bonuses (FREE Tire): Jeff Heotzler (10th) & Brian Krummel (13th)
ATL Fuel Cells Bonus ($200): Billy Decker (fifth)
Behrent’s Performance Warehouse Bonuses ($50 Gift Cards): Brett Hearn (fourth) & Duane Howard (ninth)
Beyea Custom Headers Heat Winner Bonuses ($50 Certificates): Mike Mahaney, Tommy Meier, Rick Laubach, Ryan Godown & Jerry Higbie
Beyea Custom Headers Hard Charger ($100 Certificate): Billy Decker (25th to fifth)
Fast Axle Bonus ($50 Certificate): Mike Mahaney (sixth)
Grand Rental Station Hard Charger ($500): Billy Decker (25th to fifth)
Henry’s Exhaust Power Position Bonus ($50 Certificate): Mike Gular (11th)
Land Hoe Maintenance Hard Charger ($200): Billy Decker (25th to fifth)
QA1 Hard Charger ($50 Certificate): Billy Decker (25th to fifth)
Racing Optics Bonus (Sleeve of Tearoffs): Jerry Higbie (third)
Rock Fantasy Heat Winner Bonuses ($50): Mike Mahaney, Tommy Meier, Rick Laubach, Ryan Godown and Jerry Higbie
Sunoco Race Fuels/Insinger Performance Bonuses ($50 Certificates): Rick Laubach (second), Jimmy Horton (12th) & Matt Hitchcock (22nd)
Superior Remodeling Halfway Leader ($200): Stewart Friesen
WELD Wheels Hard Luck Award (FREE Wheel): Mat Williamson
Wilwood ‘Lucky 7’ Bonus ($50 Certificate): Tommy Meier (seventh)

Crate 602 Sportsman Feature Finish (20 laps): BRAD HORTON, Mel Schrufer, Alex Yankowski, Corey Cormier, Tyler Johnston, Bobby Flood, Kyle Rohner, Daniel Morgiewicz, Greg Sleight, Dylan Smith, Howie Finch, Ryan Neiger, Matt Shultz, Jimmy Leiby, Lem Atkins, Cody Hunt, Jesse Leiby, Bob Jashembowski, Mike Bull, Richard Eggers, Chris Curtis, Bobby DeLeon, Billy Eggers, Leo Fotopoulos Jr., Rafaele Carson, Nick Plumstead, Michael Talmadge.