BARBERVILLE, FL – Stewart Friesen hasn’t won a main-event at Volusia Speedway Park since 2015. On Saturday night in the 50-lap finale at the DIRTcar Nationals for the Super DIRTcar Series his winless streak finally came to an end.
A well-timed caution after a restart in which he gave up the lead to Larry Wight allowed Friesen to keep the top spot. He led the final two laps to earn $5,000 and the Gator trophy. Wight finished second which was good enough for his second DIRTcar Nationals title.
“With a guy like Larry running second with Chili Bowl experience, and with this track like a big Chili Bowl with slide jobs, I didn’t know what to do,” Friesen said. “I picked the top and made a mistake, luckily I got a mulligan and got to go again. I’m just so happy to be here, we’ve ran second so many times the last few years and gave them up, so when that last caution came out I was like ‘Oh no, not again.’”
Danny Johnson jumped out front at the beginning of the event, with Billy Decker slotting into second. A lap two yellow for Will Thomas slowed the pace, and when racing resumed, Decker and Johnson fought over the lead.
After a lap and a half of fighting, Johnson secured the spot and Decker had to defend against Friesen and Matt Sheppard. On lap six, Friesen banged off the cushion and drove by Decker for second.
Friesen was wide open around the top, and it did not take him long to catch Johnson. Johnson slid off the bottom, and Friesen switched lanes, driving under Johnson and to the lead on lap 10. Behind them, Sheppard skated by Decker for third.
Despite catching and passing Johnson quickly, Friesen could not run away and hide. As the pair raced through traffic, Johnson hung within a carlength, ready to pounce on any error. On lap 19, Friesen was hung up behind a lapped car, and Johnson drove by and regained the lead.
Johnson and Friesen continued to put on a show through traffic, with Johnson finally able to open up some distance at halfway. Sheppard continued to lurk in third, but Johnson slowly stretched out the lead in traffic. JoJo Watson slowed with motor issues on lap 30, erasing Johnson’s one second advantage and giving all the leaders some clean track.
On the restart, Friesen shot a slider on Johnson, but a wreck involving Billy Pauch and Erick Rudolph negated the lap and pass. On the subsequent single file restart, Friesen went back to the top and blasted to the lead, instantly putting space between himself and Johnson. Meanwhile, Wight has climbed to third, as both him and Decker got around Sheppard.
Once out front, Friesen set sail and drove away from Johnson. Wight and Decker slowly closed on Johnson, with Justin Haers now in fifth. With ten laps remaining, the battle for second was fierce, but Friesen firmly had the lead.
Wight snuck under Johnson on lap 41, and Haers now went after a podium position. With seven to go, Johnson slipped back to fifth, with Wight separating himself from that battle. Out front, Friesen had extended his lead to over five seconds.
Friesen fought for the lead during much of the race, but once securing the lead with 20 laps left, completely ditched the pack and took off. As Friesen held onto a comfortable six second lead, Ryan Godown made hard contact with the turn two wall just as Friesen took the white flag, forcing a two-lap dash to the finish.
On the restart, Friesen jumped the cushion and handed the lead to Wight. However, Tyler Thompson found the turn two wall in similar fashion to Godown, and the yellow flag rejected Wight’s probable winning pass.
Friesen got a much better restart this time, a single-file restart due to the last caution. Instantly, Friesen put distance between himself and Wight, as Wight now had to fight off Decker for second. As the checkered flag fell, it was Stewart Friesen claiming the $5,000 check.
“It worked out in our favor,” stated Friesen. “We’ve had an awesome car all night. “I’m absolutely excited, when you run second as many times as we have, we needed to get a monkey off our back. We went through enough overtime stuff last night (at Daytona), I didn’t want to do it again, but here we are.”
Entering the final race, Sheppard had a six-point lead on Wight. To win, Wight needed to beat Sheppard by two spots, and Wight did just that by virtue of his second place run and Sheppard finishing in seventh. The title is Wight’s second in the DIRTcar Nationals, the previous in 2015.
“We would’ve liked to take the little gator and the big gator, but we’ll take the big one home with us,” noted Wight. “We’ve had a phenomenal week, we came down and were fast out of the trailer. It’s a great start to the season.
Wight’s teammate Billy Decker finished in third followed by Justin Haers and Johnson.
UNOFFICIAL VOLUSIA SPEEDWAY PARK SUPER DIRTCAR SERIES FINISH (50-LAPS): 1 Stewart Friesen 2 Larry Wight 3 Billy Decker 4 Justin Haers 5 Danny Johnson 6 Anthony Perrego 7 Matt Sheppard 8 Peter Britten 9 Pat Ward 10 Brett Hearn 11 Jack Lehner 12 Jessey Mueller 13 Mat Williamson 14 Demetrios Drellos 15 Kyle Coffey 16 Rich Scaglotta 17 Jim Britt 18 Kyle Sheldon 19 Ryan Godown 20 Tyler Thompson 21 Yan Bussiere 22 Will Thomas 23 Billy Pauch 24 Erick Rudolph 25 JoJo Watson 26 Tim Fuller 27 Scott Hitchens 28 Tyler Siri