Friesen Heats Up, Godown There and More from Georgetown – DTD Exclusive

By Ken Bruce

With the summer starting to progress into fall, that means the end of the year’s big money races are upon us. Stewart Friesen is a master of winning those races that bring extra money into a team to help it through the winter months. Last year, Friesen was shut out of those big wins due to some bad luck and the unbelievable season that his counterpart, Matt Sheppard, had. This year, the Halmar Friesen Racing Team is determined to get back to victory lane in those crown jewel races. 

The HFR team has taken a different path in 2023 and has cut back on their dirt racing, with Friesen having more responsibilities on their NASCAR Truck Series team. This has forced Friesen to spend more time at the team headquarters in Statesville, N.C., and thus less time racing his No. 44 dirt modified. With that scenario, along with some early-season engine troubles, Friesen’s dirt wins have been few and far between. At this time last season, Friesen had racked up 12 wins in comparison to his six wins in 2023. However, Friesen is happy with where his team is right now and is very optimistic going forward. Although the wins have not been as plentiful in 2023, the HFR team has been very consistent with many podium finishes and top fives in recent months and is confident going forward with a couple of recent wins under their belt.

“I don’t think we have been out of the top five in the past two months,” said Friesen. “It’s been a good run lately and a good summer. We have been traveling a little more this year than in the past and haven’t raced the maximum number of dirt races we normally do. For me, it was a quality over quantity deal, and it paid off for us. We are skipping Utica-Rome this weekend so we can go up to New Brunswick, Canada, and race a pavement late model at Speedway 660. That’s exciting, and we are looking forward to that deal. Then we are back at Kansas in the truck for the following weekend, then onto Fonda for the 200, and then all of the big races coming up here in the northeast.”

The team made a last-minute decision to head to Georgetown for the STSS Beach Blast, and it paid off for the Sprakers, N.Y., driver on a track that definitely had some character in it.

“It was a real fast racetrack tonight, and we finally brought the right piece to get the job done,” mentioned Friesen, standing next to the team’s trailer after the big win. “We have been working on our big block program, and it feels good to have one that runs really good. The track was a little choppy tonight, and I think we have seen that all over the country this year because of the weather we’ve had. I mean, I can’t remember ever having this much rain all over the east coast. But it is what it is; I have been here when the track takes rubber, been slick and smooth, and seen about all of it down here. The trick is to keep the car as free as you can keep it, and tonight it worked out for us.”

Friesen made his move for the lead on a lap 18 restart, getting by Ryan Godown, but he also talked about how he thought he was going to lose second before getting the lead.

“I think on that restart, we were just able to pack down the crumbs on the top enough,” explained Friesen. “The restart before I thought had Rick (Laubach), but he slid up and Ryan (Godown) got by both of us. We could pace with Ryan there; he would hit it wrong in turn one and get tight, and I would gain on him, then I would do the same thing and get tight, and he would gain it all back. We both fired off good on that last restart, and I really thought Sheppard was going to get by both of us and I was going to end up third, but we were just good enough to get some grip out there and get back by, and then make the outside work in (turns three and four to sweep around Ryan for the lead.”

Coming off a very tough weekend driving the Ferris Mower-sponsored No. 52 NASCAR truck in Milwaukee, this was a good confidence builder for the driver and his team.

“This was definitely good for us after Milwaukee,” said Friesen. “Two different teams, but we are one big Halmar Racing team here. Thanks to Chris Larsen for everything he does for us. We had a shock break at Milwaukee, which was a weird thing, and we kind of had to ride it out. It’s been a little bit of a struggle the past couple of months; we have been up and down with the truck. We’ve had some top fives but some struggles too, but that’s racing, and we just march on.”

Godown is both Happy and Disappointed with Second-Place Finish: The last race that Ryan Godown ran here at Georgetown, he described it in one word: “embarrassing.” After Tuesday’s Blast at the Beach STSS race, Godown was feeling much better about the team’s program away from their home track of New Egypt Speedway.

“We did a lot of work on this car, and it paid off tonight,” said Godown after the race. “This is the car that had at Selinsgrove and hit Watty (Ryan Watt) after he spun out. The second race here, we ended up having to replace half of the racecar frame-wise. After that, we tried to come up with a game plan and use our other stuff. Then we destroyed our 440 motor; it’s just been a long road trying to figure this out. We weren’t sure if it was the setup package or the motor package, so we took a step back, tried to regroup, and now we are getting back to where we need to be so we can race more and build our notebook.”

After some contact with polesitter Jordan Watson on the original start, which dropped Godown back to fourth, he worked his way back up and was able to sweep under Rick Laubach and Stewart Friesen on a lap eight restart to take the lead. Godown was able to hold off Friesen and was slowly starting to put some distance between himself and Friesen when the yellow flag was out on lap 18 for a slowing Ryan Riddle. This was the restart that proved pivotal to the outcome of the race.

“Turn three was the magic turn there; in one and two, I thought I was better than him on the bottom,” mentioned Godown. “I was just really struggling getting through (turn) three there, there was a hole on the bottom, and if I didn’t hit it just right, the car would get tight, and I lost a lot of ground there. That is where he got me and pulled away, and then I was worried about (Matt) Sheppard and losing second to him. I didn’t want to leave the bottom open, but then I didn’t see him and thought I better move up, and that was when we started to catch Friesen there towards the end, but he was just able to navigate the lapped cars better than I did.”

Even though finishing second was disappointing, especially after having the lead, it was a good boost for the R&M Motorsports team as they look forward to the end of the year’s big races.

“Anytime you can finish second with Stew winning and Sheppard in third, you can’t really go home upset,” cited Godown. “Obviously, we are competitive and want to win every race, but being that we haven’t raced as much as we want to this year, we are trying to get our road program up and running again and build our notebook back up. The evolution of these cars changes every day; everybody is getting better, and we are getting back to where we need to be on day at a time. We can see the sunlight again, and that is a good sign. We have to just keep plugging away. We just didn’t come out of the box this year like we should’ve, and that is nobody’s fault; well, maybe that is my fault, but racing is tough, and you just have to look forward. This sport will chew you up and spit you out if you let it, so tonight was a good way to rebound for us. We have a small crew here tonight, but all my guys worked very hard in the shop to get this car ready for tonight, and to come out of it with a top three is great. Hopefully they all got to watch it on TV tonight and see that all their hard work and effort paid off.”

With some big races coming up in the next couple of months, this was a good boost for Godown and his team.

“We are trying to get back to where we were, and I think we are working towards that,” said Godown. “We are getting five percent better every time out, changing our setup, getting faster, getting better. Some stuff doesn’t work; some stuff does, but that’s racing. Look, Stew (Friesen) went through it, but now he is getting it back on his game again, and I think we are working back towards that again as well. Racing is tough, and you have to work hard to keep up with everyone.”

Krachun Marches to a Fourth-Place Finish: Finishing fourth is not something that usually satisfies a race team, but sometimes when you finish fourth behind three of the best in the business, you can consider that a good night.

“We are happy with a fourth; I think it was a good points night for us here at Georgetown,” said Krachun, standing next to his No. 29 after the race. “I think after tonight we were able to take the lead in the points here at Georgetown Speedway points. Overall, it was a good night. I tried my best to get through those holes. The track had a little bit of character tonight, and it made it a little difficult to navigate the car through with the car getting tight through the holes. Solid run for us tonight; we just need to find some more speed to race with those guys in front of us.

“Finishing fourth here at any STSS race is a good night with the level of competition that you have to compete against. But going up against the best can only make you a better driver, and I’m glad I was able to get a top five tonight. Still need to find some more speed in our car, and the driver still has to learn more, but overall, it was a good night for us.”