Friesen and Mahaney Complete Successful Weekend with Podiums, Notes and More – DTD Exclusive

By KEN BRUCE

Stewart Friesen had a very successful weekend at Georgetown Speedway. Friesen won the small-block race on Friday and it looked like he was heading for the weekend sweep after drawing the pole for Saturday’s 49-lap Melvin L. Joseph Memorial race. Friesen quickly jumped to the front of the field and looked to have the race in control until a rim riding Matt Sheppard went past him with under 20 laps to go forcing Friesen to have to settle for the runner-up spot. The Sprakers, N.Y., driver was disappointed with having to settle for second on Saturday, but still knew it was a good run overall and was gracious in defeat knowing how good of car they had for both nights.

“It was a great weekend for our Halmar team,” stated Friesen as stood outside his hauler with wife Jessica going over the race. “You know when Matt (Sheppard) hits it, he hits it out of the park. We were definitely second-best tonight. Maybe we could have made a couple of changes to make it better.

“We ended up just a little too free at the end. We had a lot of luck with the draw tonight which was crazy (in which Friesen was referring to drawing the number one pill for both the heat and the feature). We fired off good in the feature but just couldn’t make it last the whole race. Tommy (crew chief) and the boys have been working hard and all of our sponsors and supporters are behind us and we will just have to march on to the next one.”

Most drivers generally have mixed feelings when drawing the pole starting spot for the feature race. Yes, it is great to start up front, but sometimes it is a detriment because without radios a driver doesn’t always know where the drivers behind them are running on the track and if a certain lane might be faster than the lane, they have racing all race. I asked Friesen if that might have been the case tonight as he stayed down low while Sheppard was making up ground on the high side.




“That is exactly right,” explained Friesen. “You know you are out front doing your thing and you don’t know how good you are or how bad you are or if somebody is doing something different behind you. Matt definitely caught me by surprise rolling the middle or then top like he was. After he got by me and we caught lapped traffic, I thought I could move around a little and try a couple different lines, so I kind of moved up there for a couple of laps and thought here we go, there is some speed there but then the bottom locked down at the end. But hats off to Matt and his guys and we’ll keep working hard to see if we can get the next one.”

Mahaney with Another Podium Finish to Cap Off a Good Weekend

Mike Mahaney and the No. 35 Huttig Racing team have come a long way since they started together in 2019. The team struggled mightily in its initial season suffering parts and engine failures throughout the year. 2020 was a much better year for the team as they were able to notch a few wins and also pick up the Modified championship at the tough Albany-Saratoga Speedway. More importantly the team continued to grow throughout the season. They were consistent and more importantly the parts failures that plagued the team in 2019 were gone.

The culmination of their year other than winning the title at A/S Speedway was how the team performed during Oktoberfast during which was DIRTcar’s version of Super Dirt Week which was postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Mahaney and his team were fast every race and if not for a suspect penalty inflicted on the team in the final race at Weedsport would most likely have finished in the top five each race. With other top finishes throughout the year ending events, it was a very successful 2020 for the team which led to much optimism coming into the 2021 season.

Mahaney and his team made the long trek to Florida for the STSS “Sunshine Swing” in January. Although the finishes didn’t reflect it, the No. 35 team showed good speed throughout the week bringing us to this weekend Northeast Modified opener at Georgetown Speedway. Mahaney finished up Friday nights portion of the weekend with a great second-place finish after leading for a good part of the race and last night Mahaney was up in front once again ending the night with a very strong third-place finish.

“It was a great weekend for our Adirondack Auto team, and I am very happy to say that,” said a very happy Mahaney as the team was loading the team’s pair of cars into the hauler. “We put in a ton of work over the off-season and like I said yesterday, we had good runs in Florida at Bubba’s (Raceway Park) but that was a very unique racetrack that we had never been to.

“We have not been here at Georgetown that much as well.  To come down here and get better like we did is awesome. We ran all weekend consistently in the top three and if we can do that at other racetracks in this series maybe we will end up running the whole series. If you run good, you generally get to run more races and that is what I want to do and that means a lot to me.”

The track at Georgetown is very technical and without many laps on the track Mahaney left this weekend an incredibly happy driver and looked forward to the upcoming season.

“The track here is very tricky,” explained Mahaney. “It seems like on the restarts there was grip in small spots, but it was hard to find it and hit it right. Georgetown is a very hard track to master, Matt’s (Sheppard) runs on the outside after the track got slick were really impressive to me and his tire wear at the end was just as impressive. Stewie and I both had bald right rears and Matt had a lot of tire left which just shows that if you are hooked up you don’t wear them out. You know, there were a lot of places on this track that worked and a lot of places that didn’t work.  Making a lot of laps here will make us better and I definitely think we improved here this weekend.”

Mahaney went on to talk about how much it means to him and the team to be able to come down here this early in the season and be so competitive right from the start and the confidence that goes along with it.

“This is absolutely a big confidence booster for our team. I mean really, it’s been a while since I have been ready to race this early in March. To get to come down here and race means the most to me and to be able to come down here and get some experience can only make us better the rest of year. I am really glad to be here and run good. It shows we should come down here every year and get started early.

“I think when you race more you get better, and this weekend we raced right with the two best guys in dirt Modifieds right now and that’s what we need to do to improve.”

Melvin L. Joseph Notebook

A strong field of 54 STSS Modifieds signed if for action at Georgetown with Friesen, Matt Stangle, Mahaney, JR Heffner and Cale Ross winning the five qualifying heat races. The two consi’s were won by HJ Bunting and Duane Howard…

Provisionals for the race were given to Mike Gular (2020 South Series Points), Rich Pratt Jr. (South Series Points) and Jordan Watson (Georgetown Points)…

Friesen had already locked himself into the redraw by virtue of having the fastest time during Friday’s three Modified test sessions elected to race in his heat race to try and improve his picking position in the redraw. If Friesen decided to take his time and not race in his heat he would’ve been the eleventh driver to draw.  By virtue of winning his heat race he ended up being the first driver to draw. That move proved to be the right decision as Friesen drew the number one pill to start on the pole for the feature race…

On the other hand, Joseph Watson who was the other driver locked into the redraw from Friday night decided to just use his heat race as a practice session for the feature…

STSS regular Mike Gular took a hard tumble in turn three during the feature race in his No. 2A. Gular was okay after the crash, but the same could not be said for the car. Texting with Gular earlier today, he said he felt surprisingly good and was planning on going to the shop late this afternoon to assess the damage to car…

Jordan Watson took a slow rollover in his heat race, but the crew worked hard and had the No. 1J fixed and ready to run in the consolation race…

HJ Bunting had a very strong feature race. Starting in the 22nd spot, Bunting was a ended-up finishing in seventh aboard the No. 65…

The quality of drivers who were not able to qualify, just goes to show you how strong the STSS field of cars has become. The list of drivers who were DNQ’s would make a very good starting lineup for a feature event that would have any promoter proud of. Included in the list of DNQ’s were Alex Yankowski, David VanHorn, Jimmy Horton, Ryan Krachun, David Schilling, Danny Hieber, Danny Creeden, Allison Ricci, Brett Haas and Danny Tyler just to name some of them…

Stangle and Demetrios Drellos had good runs go for naught when the tangled on a restart with both drivers exiting the race…

It was tough weekend for Billy Pauch Jr., who damaged a motor on Friday night in his own No. 15. Saturday night Billy was back in the Rick Holsten No. 96 and the night just didn’t go there way starting with a bad draw for his heat race. Pauch had to qualify through the consi and was never a factor in the feature ending up finishing out of the top 10…

Duane Howard and the Butch Getz Racing team had a bad weekend in their debut suffering DNF’s in both feature races. I still look for a lot of good things from this team in 2021…

Craig Von Dohren made his return to racing this weekend after being forced to take some races off at the end of last season due to a bothersome back. Von Dohren, driving for the Brueche Racing team in 2020, dropped out on Friday night in the No. 30 after hitting the implement tires very hard going into turn three. Saturday night the team looked much better as they raced towards the front only to end up dropping out of the race and suffering another DNF…

Next weekend the STSS South Region will be back in action presenting a double header weekend. On Saturday night March 20th, the STSS Modifieds make their debut at the Selinsgrove Speedway with the running of the ‘Ice Breaker’ along with the STSS Crate 602 Sportsman. Then on Sunday March 21st, the STSS Modifieds return to the Port Royal Speedway with the running of the ‘Spring Speed Showcase’. Joining the modifieds at Port Royal will be the ULMS Super Late Models…

If you have any questions or comments. I can be reached at dirtracefan25@hotmail.com or on Twitter @dirtracefan25.