Stewart Friesen came close to picking up that elusive first win on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this past Friday night at the Texas Motor Speedway. However, a pit road speeding penalty forced the No. 52 Chevrolet to rear of the pack on a restart, but the Canadian driver was eventually able to get back up to 11th place when the checkered flag waved to end the event.
But winning has not be so elusive for the 35-year-old driver when he competes in his Big-Block Modified machine on the Super DIRTcar Series. Friesen scored a series-leading five wins in 2018 despite having to miss ten of the tour’s 24 races. Those triumph’s have pushed the driver’s overall win total on dirt near the 300 mark.
But even with all the racing he does, Friesen works to maintain a normal life with his family by taking them on the road with him frequently.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” he declared in an interview with InsideCircleTrack.com from the pit area of The Dirt Track at Charlotte. “My wife and son aren’t here tonight because they didn’t make this trip with me this weekend but they get to go a lot of races and it’s been a lot of fun.”
The native of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario says that the opportunity for him to move from the ranks of full-time dirt racing to one of NASCAR’s top divisions came as a result of the CWTS event held on an annual basis at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway. Team owner Chris Larsen and Halmer International, a large civil construction management company, put the wheels in motion for what was initially supposed to be a one-time deal that ultimately blossomed into a full schedule.
“Honestly it was the dirt race at Eldora that got us started there,” Friesen explained. “I got hooked up with Chris Larsen and the Halmar group three years ago now and they said ‘Wow, that dirt truck race would be pretty cool to do’. I was like ‘Yeah, right’ but we put a deal together and did it. Then it just snowballed from there.”
In terms of the Eldora race, many look to Friesen as a favorite every time the Camping World Truck Series visits the famed Ohio facility. And he has responded by posting two podium finishes, including a third place result this year, as well as a pole.
So does playing the role of pre-race favorite put added pressure on the driver going into that event?
“Not really,” he insisted. “We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform in any race at a high level anyway. Having a little bit of extra experience on the dirt and being able to apply that to the truck works in our favor. It helps a little bit.”
The No. 52 team has scored seven top-5 and 14 top-10 finishes so far in 2018 on the CWTS.
Aside from going fast, Friesen says the similarities between a NASCAR truck and a Big-Block Modified car are virtually nonexistent.
“No, nothing at all,” he pointed out. “But racing on those tracks that I had seen on TV growing up is definitely cool.”
The pit area of most dirt tracks tend to be filled with a ‘blue-collar’ type of crowd while the engineer laden NASCAR realm is far from that. How does Friesen adapt from one world to the other, sometimes literally overnight?
“I just try to be me and I don’t get too tied up in the crazy stuff with the NASCAR thing,” the driver who has scored three second place finishes on the CWTS this season said. “I just try to go race and have some fun. It’s been good because we’ve got a great race team. We should have won that one last night but we made a mistake on pit road. That was definitely a bummer, but we’ll race on. We’ve got fast trucks and we passed a ton of cars last night. We’ll just go on to Phoenix and Homestead and see what happens next year.”
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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