Friesen Does the Double Saturday Night at Utica – DTD Exclusive

By Bill Foley

Stewart Friesen drove his 44 Halmar Modified into his pit stall. Once he stopped, he just sat there, took a deep breath, and exhaled a huge sigh of relief.

Saturday night at Utica-Rome Speedway, the curtain came down on the 2023 edition of Thunder on the Thruway, and a solid field of Modified competitors made their way to the Route 5 speedway for the 30-lap $4,000 to win event.

Starting 13th in the feature field, he methodically worked his way toward the front.

Early leader Bobby Hackel IV was solid until flames and sparks poured out of the rear end of the 97 on the 15th lap, thus giving the top spot to Justin Wright.

Wright would then lead until the 27th lap, when Friesen would take the lead for good. Previously, the 44 went to the top on the 24th lap restart after Alex Payne went off the bank in turn three, but that was called back, and Stew had to do it all over again.

Talking with Dirt Track Digest, Friesen said, “It’s been a couple of months since we’ve won. We’ve had a lot of good runs, top two and threes, and been traveling a little bit again the last few weeks. We’ve been close, but it’s like maybe we just can’t get a break.”

Situations would develop as Stew explained, “We would get the lead, and it was called back for a caution, and that happened tonight. With the caution in the same lap as the previous one, we went single-file, and I thought this was gonna be tough because Justin Wright had that just float in the middle line. “That New Yorker line was working really good here.”

There appeared to be some smoke coming off the leader, Wright, but Stew noted, “I don’t know. I could maybe smell a little.”

Stew continued, “It’s great to get another one at Utica because it is awesome. Big thanks to the whole team and all the great sponsors, Bart Contracting and Ferris Mowers.”

Friesen had a busy night as he started 13th in the All Star event in the Thomas Racing-owned No. 79.

He gained three spots on the very first lap and was running seventh with 10 laps to go, but down the stretch he was able to get past the likes of Chris Windom, Sye Lynch, and Kerry Madsen to finish a solid four behind Danny Varin, Tyler Courtney, and Zeb Wise.

Reflecting on the All Star main event, Stew said, “Big thanks to Spider Thomas and Doug Emery for letting me run the 79 while Jordan was away tonight. It was a blast. I haven’t been in a 410 in probably seven years or so, and then I rarely run the 360. I did get to run a 360 in a Glen Styres car earlier in the week at Ohsweken, and running those two races was cool. This opportunity came right when we were getting ready to do the 360 race, so I said okay, cool. I’ll get a little bit of practice; get some laps under my belt before we get to Utica and go fast with it with the big boys, so it was cool.”

Continuing, he said, “We came up through, you know, big congrats to Danny Varin. It’s pretty awesome. He was on point all night long, and for him, a local Modified guy, I still think of him as a Modified guy, and getting a win on the national stage with the All Stars is pretty cool for himself obviously, but cool for our area.”

He hadn’t been in the 79 previously, and starting back in the field it took him some time to adjust.

Stew told DTD, “I was just getting comfortable. It took a little bit. I was just racing through the pack and felt,’It’s like okay’, I had been just figuring out what the car could do, where it wanted to be, and what it could do, I guess.”

Continuing, he said, “It was a lot of fun, and it kept getting better as the race went on. So big thanks to Spider and Doug and his whole race team for having me and getting a good setup underneath it.”

Even though Stew is a national-level driver with the NASCAR Craftsman Trucks, he isn’t a national name on the Sprint car circuit.

He more than held his own against the All Stars and said, “You know these guys are national racers, and they race all over the country. They’re among the best in the business, and when you can get into the top ten with the All Stars, it’s pretty wild.”

He went past many of the name drivers and remembered about Chris Windom, saying, “It’s pretty wild that Chris Windom and I were actually teammates in the Silver Crown race at Syracuse the last two years with the team Robbie Hart was working with, so to race with them and be able to compete, it’s pretty darn cool.”

However, the Modified victory was meaningful as he said, “It’s been a couple of months, but we got things going the right way.”

And if things continue to go the right way, it could be an interesting fall-modified season.