The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will end its regular season on Saturday on the road course at Watkins Glen International. When the checkered flag waves on the ‘United Rentals 176 at the Glen’, the NASCAR Playoffs field will be set for the seven-race run to the championship.
There are seven drivers already locked into the playoff field with three spots still in question. While drivers Carson Hocevar, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith are positioned well going into the deciding race, they are not yet assured of a place. But one of those three drivers goes into the weekend with more than just the NCWTS title chase to think about.
In 2019, Friesen won two races and found himself among the Championship 4 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. But 2020 did not prove to be so successful for the Halmar Friesen Racing team after a switch from an alliance with GMS Racing and Chevrolet to an alliance with Toyota Racing Development with technical support from Kyle Busch Motorsports. The No. 52 did score a win last season and failed to make the playoffs.
Now back in contention, Friesen realizes what needs to be done on Saturday in upstate New York.
“We just need to go and race and run well, whether we try some short pit strategy or this and that to try to get up front,” Friesen remarked during a recent NASCAR Media availability. ‘I believe being up front at the end of the race will seal our fate as far as the playoffs go. That being said, if we can score some stage points somehow or someway, we’ll try to do that too. We need to go have a clean race, a good race, and have something that has fenders and a rear tailgate on it at the end.”
Although Friesen has a 53-point cushion over the playoff cutline, there is still the chance he could miss the final cut. Should he have a poor run and be passed in the standings by Smith then a driver who currently resides outside the top-10 in the standings win the race, Friesen could find himself on the outside looking in when the NASCAR Playoffs begin for the NCWTS on August 20th at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
But there’s more on the line for the native of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario who now lives in Sprakers, New York. With the schedule winding down in the track’s season, Friesen is in contention with his Big-Block Modified for a championship at Fonda(NY) Speedway.
“I’m going to run Utica(Utica-Rome Speedway in NY) on Friday night and jump in my truck and run over to the Glen and then when that’s over try to get back for Fonda on Saturday night,” Friesen explained of his weekend schedule. “We kind of found ourselves in a points run at Fonda where we’re less than 10 out of the lead with only two more regular races at Fonda on Saturday nights and we’ve got a chance to win so we’re going to try and see what happens.”
Friesen also sits atop the Super DIRTcar Series season standings for Big-Block Modified cars after scoring five wins and nine top-10s in ten starts. The No. 44 Modified machine pulled into victory lane after winning the second two Twin 60 Super DIRTcar Series sanctioned races on Wednesday night at Land of Legends Raceway in Canandaugia, New York.
The 38-year-old driver largely finds himself in contention for dirt racing titles because of the oddness of NASCAR’s weekend schedules due to pandemic limitations. All three of the sanctioning body’s top divisions have had practice and qualifying almost completely eliminated since the return by the sport from the coronavirus shutdown in 2020. As a result, multiple drivers have had more time for other activities such as dirt racing.
“I wish there was practice every week,” Friesen admitted. “At Nashville we had practice and were able to turn that into a really good run and dial our truck in for race trim. Hopefully we can get back to more of a regular race schedule. On the flop side of that, it’s allowed me to run a lot more Modified races than I had planned on running this year because we’re not away the day before doing practices.”
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One benefit Friesen could gain from more practice with the truck would be to strengthen his relationship with new crew chief Jonathan Leonard, who replaced Tripp Bruce atop the pit box midseason.
Watkins Glen International is the closest track to Friesen’s New York residence. Although some of his friends and family from Canada will not be able to make the trip across the border to see the race, the driver looks forward to racing so close to home.
Just because he lives near there, however, does not mean Friesen is familiar with the track. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has not competed at The Glen since 2000.
“Obviously I watched them all on TV, a lot of them,” Friesen pointed out of the NASCAR races at WGI. “But I’m going to be going in there a true rookie to Watkins, especially without having practice. We did a lot of sim, on the TRD sim a week ago, and learned a lot so hopefully that applies and we can have some speed when they wave the green.”
The United Rentals 176 at the Glen is scheduled to take the green flag on Saturday at 12:42 with television coverage provided by FS1.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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