Few drivers who compete regularly in any of the top NASCAR divisions are more accomplished at dirt racing than Stewart Friesen. The native of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada is a veteran of Big Block Modified racing and has won many of the top events contested in that form of competition on clay surfaces. So needless to say, when the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series takes to the track on the dirt covered Bristol Motor Speedway later this week, the 37-year-old driver will be counted among the favorites to hoist the winner’s trophy.
Aside from his prowess on dirt, there is ample reason to look at Friesen as a potential contender in any NCWTS event. The current resident of Sprakers, NY has won two races on the tour and has amassed 27 top-5s and 51 top-10s over the course of a career that has spanned four full seasons.
After ending his 2019 season as one of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship 4 title contenders, the Halmar Friesen Racing team opted to end their partnership with Chevrolet and GMS Racing in favor of Toyotas with technical support from Kyle Busch Motorsports. Friesen and business partner Chris Larsen hoped the move, which involved much more than simply changing the logo on the front of the truck, would further improve their organization’s performance.
The initial results following the switch were not encouraging as Friesen spent much of the first half of the disjointed 2020 season racing in mid-pack. However, the finishes started to improve as the campaign wore on with the No. 52 eventually collecting twelve top-10s. The driver now believes his team has begun to get a handle on their truck during this early portion of the 2021 season.
Evidence of that was shown when Friesen placed 4th in the recent race held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway then followed that up with a 10th this past weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He currently sits fifth in the NCWTS standings.
“Yeah, we’re getting there,” Friesen declared in an interview with InsideCircleTrack.com. “It was a big change for us because we basically started up a new team from scratch. Chris and Toyota were supporting us. We had been getting our stuff from GMS Racing for a couple of years. Now we’re working with KBM for technical support.”
The change made by his team was more than just a switch in manufacturers. Halmar Friesen took on more responsibilities in terms of doing their own work rather than having to rely completely on other organizations.
“We have a little bit of a fab shop and we can do some of our own body repair and stuff like that,” Friesen explained. “It’s been pretty neat to be a part of, not only driving but that backside of it, building the team and working with the guys. It’s been a lot of work but really a lot of fun and its been really worthwhile. We got it rolling at the end of last year with a couple of top-5s and it was really special to be a part of that progress.”
Now, the racer who has won the prestigious Syracuse 200 for Big Block Modified cars five times looks forward to racing on the dirt covered Bristol Motor Speedway. Friesen has already won a NCWTS race on dirt when he took the 2019 Eldora Dirt Derby at the famed Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. That said, however, he believes this weekend’s race as well as the race scheduled for the Knoxville(IA) Raceway later in the year will pose a new set of challenges for truck teams.
“Bristol is going to be really unique because of the banking,” Friesen said. “A lot of the knowledge we’ve built up over the last couple of years at Eldora, I think we can apply some of that at Bristol and Knoxville. We were able to win one at Eldora and feel really confident about racing the truck on dirt. I’m really excited about not only having one but two dirt races on the schedule this year.”
But the NASCAR dirt races come with additional pressure for Friesen. Because of his past successes on that type of surface, the driver expects more of himself in those events.
“Yeah, definitely,” he admitted. “I do put a lot of pressure on myself when we race on dirt. We have a lot of dirt experience and really want to take advantage of that when we can. We were lucky enough to get a win at Eldora and we had three top-3 finishes in a row up there. We feel like the dirt tracks are places where we should do well when we get a chance to race on them.”
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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