Stewart Friesen Brings Red-Hot Big-Block Modified Act to World Finals Nov. 4-6
Stewart Friesen is the talk of the DIRTcar Big-Block Modified world. A personable 27-year-old Canadian with a hard-charging style and an emotional bent, Friesen has won more Modified features than any other driver in the Northeast this season. He's been especially spectacular during the month of October, winning the prestigious SEF Small Engine Fuels 200 Presented by Ferris/Snapper/Simplicity Big-Block Modified Championship at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse and nearly capturing the unsanctioned 49th annual Eastern States 200 at Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown, N.Y.
Now the lanky racer is taking his red-hot act south to chase more acclaim and history Nov. 4-6 at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. He's entering the inaugural Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modified portion of the fourth annual Lowes Foods World Finals Presented by Presented by Bimbo Bakeries and Tom's Snacks, a blockbuster weekend that also includes the World of Outlaws Sprint Car and WoO Late Model series.
"I'm really looking forward to the World Finals," said Friesen, who has not competed at The Dirt Track since the Super DIRTcar Series last visited the four-tenths-mile oval in 2005. "We've had a great season and we'd love to end it with a win in an awesome event at a world-class facility."
Friesen, a native of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., who now resides in Old Forge, N.Y., will be part of a star-studded Big-Block Modified field that also features Super DIRTcar Series regulars Matt Sheppard of Waterloo, N.Y., Jimmy Phelps of Baldwinsville, N.Y., Brett Hearn of Sussex, N.J., Billy Decker of Unadilla, N.Y., and Danny Johnson of Phelps, N.Y. Sheppard brings a 74-point lead over Phelps in the Super DIRTcar Series points standings into the season-ending double-feature meet as he looks to clinch his first-ever overall Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Modified title.
The addition of the Big-Block Modifieds to the World Finals program has produced plenty of anticipation among the division's racers and fans.
Friesen feels the enthusiasm and excitement surrounding the event, prompting him to put extra emphasis on the pair of 40-lap, $6,000-to-win A-Mains that will be contested at The Dirt Track.
"It's gonna be huge," Friesen said of the World Finals. "It's probably the best event of the year for Modifieds other than Super DIRT Week (at the Syracuse Mile). Running in front of a big crowd and having the race televised (the program on Sat., Nov. 6, will be broadcast on SPEED starting at 8 p.m. ET) is a big shot in the arm for Modified racing.
"We're taking the World Finals real seriously. We're preparing our short-track car for Charlotte just like we prepared our Syracuse car. We want to put our best foot forward."
Friesen's Charlotte plans call for him to drive his red No. 1 car, a proven machine that he co-owns with Jeff Daley and carries power from a C.C.
Performance big-block engine owned by Marty Burdick. He steered the machine to a third-place finish in the Outlaw 200 on Oct. 2 at Fulton (N.Y.) Speedway and feels he should have parked it in Victory Lane on Oct. 24 after the Eastern States 200; he led Orange County's long-running event until a controversial - and, track officials would later admit, incorrect - scoring decision following a lap-184 caution period put Tim McCreadie ahead of him for the ensuing restart. Friesen and his crew did all they could to protest the call - the crowd went wild when Friesen stopped his car on the track and sat on its roof to get the officials' attention and prevent the race from restarting - but the decision stood. Adding insult to injury, Friesen was black-flagged for the way he argued his case, though he was allowed to restart at the rear of the field and finished a very angry 20th as McCreadie went on to win.
The Orange County defeat was a bitter pill to swallow for Friesen, who would have become just the fifth driver - and first in 12 years - to win the SEF 200 at Syracuse and the Eastern States 200 in the same season. A victory would have put his name alongside Big-Block Modified superstars Buzzie Reutimann (pulled the double in 1972), Gary Balough (1977), Danny Johnson (1997) and Billy Decker (1998), cementing his status in the division's hierarchy before even reaching the age of 30.
No one, of course, can take away what Friesen accomplished over Columbus Day weekend at the famed 'Moody Mile' in Syracuse. Driving the Teo-Pro No. 44 that Daley and Burdick also help him field, Friesen came back from a hard flip in Saturday's 358-Modified Championship 150 to win Sunday's 39th annual SEF 200, the most coveted prize in Northeast Big-Block Modified racing. He was brilliant on the division's biggest stage, making just a single gas-on-go pit stop - on lap 68, which happens to be the old DIRTcar Sportsman number of his late uncle Alex Friesen, a rising track and event promoter who lost his life in a December 1996 snowmobile accident - and then milking his tires and tank of fuel for the remaining 132 circuits.
A third-generation dirt-tracker whose grandfather, Stan, finished 21st in the inaugural Syracuse Big-Block Modified extravaganza in 1972, Friesen understands the significance of winning at the historic track. But he also has come to the realization that it will take awhile for him to fully come to grips with his $50,000-plus accomplishment.
"Tim Fuller (the 2004 REF 200 winner) said winning Syracuse doesn't really sink in until you go there again, have a chance to win and you fall out because something breaks or something happens," said Friesen, who was victorious in just his fourth career start in the Super DIRT Week finale and became the first Canadian to win the event. "Once you win it you think it's something you'll do again and again, but it's harder to win than you ever know. Everything has to fall your way.
"Look at a guy like Frank Cozze - he ran the race for like 30 years before he finally won it (in 2008). I know I'm real lucky to have won it already."
Friesen, a graduate of Ontario's University of Windsor where he studied geology and physical geography, has already experienced the increased notoriety that accompanies a win at the Syracuse Mile.
"After you win it, you're instantly more well-known," said Friesen, who was a Super DIRTcar Series regular in 2005 driving for the Madsen Motorsports team but this year entered about three-quarter of the events as he searches for the right program to make a full-time effort. "If they didn't know you before, now they do. It seems like everybody - Modified people, Sprint Car people, Late Model people - knows about Syracuse and pays attention to who wins it."
Friesen will bring his new-found Big-Block stature to The Dirt Track for the Lowes Foods World Finals, where he hopes to continue his rise with another high-profile success. His two previous starts there resulted in a seventh-place finish in a DIRTcar 358-Modified event in 2004 (he led laps 3-18) and a 10th (from the 24th starting spot) in the 2005 Super DIRTcar Series feature.
"It's going to be so cool to be in the same place with all the top Sprint and Late Model teams in dirt racing," said Friesen, who started his 2010 season with a Big-Block Modified victory during the Florida DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville. "All the professional drivers in dirt racing will be running at Charlotte and it's pretty neat to be on the same level as those guys. Hopefully we can put on a great show, turn some heads and make more people fans of Modified racing."
The Lowes Foods World Finals Presented by Bimbo Bakeries and Tom's Snacks kicks off on Thurs., Nov. 4, with two sets of heat races for the Big-Block Modifieds (one for Friday's program, one for Saturday's card) and two rounds of time trials for the WoO Sprint Cars and Late Models. The Modifieds will compete in consolation events on both Friday and Saturday to complete the fields for each evening's 40-lap features.
Three-day ticket packages start at just $69 for adults and $24 for kids 12 and under. Single-day tickets are also available. For more information or to purchase tickets call the speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267) or go online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.
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For more information on the Super DIRTcar Series, visit www.superdirtcarseries.com.
The Big-Block Super DIRTcar Series is brought to fans across the Northeast by several sponsors and partners, including series sponsors Hoosier Racing Tire www.hoosiertire.com, VP Racing Fuels www.vpracingfuels.com and GM Performance Parts www.gmperformanceparts.com. Promotional partners include the University of Northwestern Ohio www.unoh.com and Chizmark & Larson Insurance www.chizmarklarson.com, and contingency sponsors are Bicknell Racing Products www.bicknellracingproducts.com, Bilstein Shocks www.bilstein.com, KSE Racing Products www.kse-racing.com, Motorsports Safety Systems www.motorsportssafetysystems.com, MSD Ignition www.msdignition.com, Penske Shocks, www.penskeshocks.com, Racing Electronics www.racingelectronics.com, Vicci Racing Apparel www.vicci.com and Wrisco Industries www.wrisco.com.