One of the most commonly used phrases during television broadcasts of NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series races is “Stewart Friesen has more second place finishes than any driver in series history who doesn’t have a win”. That phrase can now be put to bed as the Canadian racer finally scored his first win on Thursday night when he captured the Eldora Dirt Derby at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, OH. The 36-year-old driver put his Halmar Friesen Racing Chevrolet in the lead on lap 93 of the 150-lap event and held off the pack until the checkered flag waved.
Friesen is no stranger to winning races as the regular on the SuperDIRTcar Series Big Block Modified tour has claimed more than 200 feature wins on dirt surfaces all over the northeastern United States and in his native Canada. But this NGOTS win was a long time coming for the driver who has seemingly been in contention for victory multiple times throughout his three-year career in the truck series.
It was altogether fitting that Friesen would win on the dirt surface at Eldora considering his record of success on clay. After coming so close in 2017 and 2018 with second and third place finishes at the Tony Stewart-owned facility, the driver was thankful for the chance to finally take the checkered flag.
“Oh man, thank you to all the race fans that stuck with us, that kept pulling for us,” Friesen told Fox Sports 1 reporter Hermie Sadler during an emotional victory lane celebration. “To everybody who came to the Dirt Modified hauler and said, ‘Man, I thought this was the week’- Today, this is the day. This is the week. Thanks to everybody. This is meant to be. We needed to get it done on the dirt. We missed the last two years. Thanks to everyone. What a special event. I don’t know what to say. These guys have been down and out but they keep working their butts off for me.”
After being given options by his crew, Friesen decided to remain on the track rather than pit for fuel and tires just before the end of stage 2 of the race. That decision provided the track position that would prove to be crucial in determining the outcome.
“Just getting clean restarts,” Friesen explained of his decision not to pit. “I knew that was going to be tough. We just couldn’t get a long run going. Those first two stages we couldn’t get a long run and I thought we couldn’t be too hard on the tires and we weren’t using a lot of fuel. They left it up to me and the driver always wants track position. We took it and held them off.”
The win was particularly well timed considering that last week at Pocono Raceway Friesen had spun on the first lap of the race and was slammed into by another truck relegating him to a last place finish. That setback had put the No. 52 in jeopardy of missing the cut for the NASCAR Playoffs as Friesen left the Pennsylvania track with a meager 13-point cushion above the cutline.
Friesen’s win in Ohio on Thursday night assured him of the opportunity to race for the NGOTS title. The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series has one race remaining in its ‘regular season’ before the start of the seven-race run for the championship.
Friesen will be one of eight drivers vying for the title.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
Respond to this piece on Twitter –> @RichardAllenIDR
or on Facebook –> InsideCircleTrack/Facebook