Stewart Friesen Attempting to Pull Off NAPA Super DIRT Week Trifecta by Winning Syracuse 200, Salute to the Troops 150 and Silver Crown Salt City 78
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Oct. 6, 2014 – Stewart Friesen is one of the most versatile racers in the Northeast, and he’ll showcase his skills during this year’s NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week, Oct. 8-12, at the New York State Fairgrounds.
Friesen is a two-time winner of NAPA Super DIRT Week’s premier Syracuse 200 for the Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modifieds, and he is the only Canadian champion of the event. In addition to racing Jeff Daley’s #44 for another Syracuse 200 Big-Block Modified victory as well as for a Salute to the Troops 150 358-Modified win, Friesen will also be racing in a USAC Silver Crown car for the first time in his career when he tackles the Salt City 78.
Brett Hearn in 1990 and Danny Johnson in 2006 are the only drivers to pull off the double at the Moody Mile by sweeping the Big-Block Modified and 358-Modified main events in the same year. Could Friesen pull off the trifecta and become the first driver to win the Big-Block Modified, 358-Modified and Silver Crown feature events during a single NAPA Super DIRT Week?
The all-New York Silver Crown team is owned by Rochester’s Fred and Gloria Gormly with Albany-native Rob Hart as crew chief and former ESS racer and Central New York native Tom Bliss as team manager. Friesen, a native of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, now calls the Empire State home after marrying sprint car racer Jessica Zemken in September.
While Friesen, 31, has had plenty of racing success in dirt Modifieds and has been gaining experience in winged sprint cars, in fact he recently won a 360-sprint car feature, he has never driven a Silver Crown car. He’ll get his first seat time during Friday afternoon practice on the Moody Mile, a daunting proposition for anybody’s first laps in a different type of car, but one Friesen is looking forward to taking.
So how did a dirt Modified racer from the Northeast hook up with a Silver Crown ride? A connection made a few years ago at the World of Outlaws World Finals in Charlotte finally led to the opportunity this week.
“It started with Rob Hart, who is the crew chief on the car,” Friesen said. “I worked with him a few years ago when he was crew chief for Jessica at the World Finals. I got to know him a little bit. He’s from the Albany area and has ties to Syracuse. Obviously we had some similar interests being from this area and going sprint car racing. We just kept in touch over the past couple of years and once we heard the Silver Crown race was going to happen at Syracuse I tried to beat down every door I could to see if there was an opportunity to get in one of the cars. Actually Rob reached out to me a couple of months ago and asked if I was interested in doing it. I told him yes and he said he might have a couple of leads on rides that might be available. Over the past couple of weeks it came together to do the race with Fred Gormly, who is from the Rochester area but has a USAC team based out of Indy. Rob got the whole deal going for us and put Fred and I in touch. I had met Fred before at the Parts Peddler show and being from the Northeast I knew who he was. Everything came together pretty good, I’m pretty excited to drive it. It’s the car Christopher Bell drove at the 4-Crown Nationals in September at Eldora. It seems like it’s pretty good equipment and I’m looking forward to working with Rob again. He’s definitely a topnotch sprint car crew chief.”
Since he has yet to race a Silver Crown car, which looks a bit like an oversized non-wing sprint car, Friesen is trying to find some common ground in his racing experience.
“I think it’s going to be more along the sprint car, but I think having some sprint car experience it will be a good mix between the two cars,” Friesen said. “It’s a longer wheel-base car. I’m glad we have some extra practice on Friday to get some seat time in it. It won’t be like a normal race weekend where you get three laps of practice and you have to qualify. Hopefully in a couple of laps we’ll get comfortable. I think it’ll be more like a sprint car but without the grip.”
Friesen has been compared to the legendary Billy Pauch because of his versatility. Pauch has had tremendous success in both modifieds and sprint cars.
“I think that’s probably one of the ultimate compliments,” Friesen said. “With what he’s done in the sprint car and the modified, his success is unparalleled between the crossover of the two. Hopefully we can run some more 410 stuff and have some success like he did. He’s a really cool guy.”
The biggest race of the week, of course, is the $50,000-to-win Super DIRTcar Series Syracuse 200, a race Friesen won in 2010 and 2011.
“Both wins were special,” Friesen said. “Winning it the second year was pretty awesome just to back up the feat that we knew we could do it, which was cool. The first year was obviously very, very special, just being the first Canadian with all the Canadians like Joe Plazek, Pete Bicknell, all the guys who have tried over the years and weren’t able to get it done, and to be that guy who got in there, there’s so many Canadian dirt Modified fans and to be able to represent all those fans and give them some bragging rights for a couple of years was pretty darn cool. To be the first guy to get it done from north of the border was very, very special.”
Last year, Billy Dunn earned the first Super DIRTcar Series victory of his career by winning the Syracuse 200. A rule that eliminates caution laps from counting during the final 25 circuits of the 200-mile race definitely shook up the event. As the leaders, including Friesen, gambled on fuel thinking the race would run green to the finish, Dunn pitted late. When the leaders’ fuel tanks emptied while running under caution laps that didn’t count toward the 200 total, Dunn picked off one after the other until finally taking the lead with two to go. Still, Friesen believes he had a chance to win without the late cautions so there’s no need to alter the strategy that nearly earned him a third Syracuse win.
“It’s something we’ve talked about over the past year, it’s just weird the way it worked out,” Friesen said. “The cars that were fastest all week, ultimately we all ran out of gas. It’s one of those deals where an out-of-the-box pit strategy won the race. That’s something we’re not banking on right now to go out-of-the-box like that and try to get off sequence. We’re going to try to do the same thing we tried to do last year, get up front and be in clean air the last 25 laps of the race. When the cautions fly that kind of dictates how much of a gamble it really is. We’ll see how the race gets going and see how it unfolds half way. It’s something we’re thinking about, but it seemed like a weird circumstance to have that many cautions in the last 25 laps.”
If Friesen’s strategy works out this year, he very well could be in victory lane three times during NAPA Super DIRT Week.
“Racing’s Biggest Party” kicks off when campers move in on Wednesday, Oct. 8. For more information and the latest updates on NAPA Super DIRT Week, clickwww.SuperDIRTWeekOnline.com, follow on Twitter@SuperDIRTWeek, or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SuperDIRTWeek.
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