Column By: DYLAN FRIEBEL / RPW – FONDA, NY – Stewart Friesen finally broke through at the end of the year at Fonda, and what a race to win.
The first Fonda 200 trophy awarded in 17 years is heading back to Sprakers, NY along with the big $53,000 first place check. However it was not an easy road for Friesen.
With a 13th-to-first victory in his qualifier on Friday night, the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series regular started on the pole for the 200-lap main event Saturday, and he drove a perfect race.
While never really being challenged other than on one restart, Friesen had to play the strategy game and he played it well. With the rain moving in and having led all 74 laps to that point, his team got together in the trailer during the almost two-hour rain delay and came up with a game plan. They elected to pit once the cars rolled onto the track. They believed the worse they could start was around 25th, so that’s what they did.
When the cars went back on track, Friesen, along with Brett Hearn and a host of others, went to pit road for new rubber. When the race hit the midway point at lap 100, Friesen had already worked his way back up to tenth.
“We talked as a team during the rain delay,” Friesen said. “We decided to take the chance and change our right rear and hope it holds on for the next 100 laps.”
It did. Other than one restart where he did not pull away from Matt Sheppard until the following lap, the former track champion had the field covered and finally won the big end-of-the-year money show at Fonda.
“The end-of-the-year races have been tough,” he said. “They’ve just been tough for us. This car was good here tonight though. Two weeks ago, we brought this new Bicknell out and it was flawless. Along with being good last night, it’s an awesome race car. It stuck to the race track and had a lot of grip.”
With as many crown Jewel events as Stewart Friesen has won in Big Block Modifieds over the years, including five Super DIRT Week Championships and two Eastern States 200’s, this one might be right at the top.
“I ran my first 200 here about 17 years ago,” he said. “To have won the next on here at Fonda is special. This is a big one. My dad said the Fonda 200, Eastern States 200, Super DIRT Week is the Triple Crown of Modified racing and now we’ve gotten the first leg of it this year.”
The decision to change a tire was not an easy one for the Halmar team as they had a lot of time to think and mull it over.
“I just didn’t know what the track was going to do,” he said. “I thought it was going to lay down rubber again. I went and looked at the track and saw it was going to be pretty wet and not as abrasive for the next 25 laps before halfway. That’s when we decided to short pit.
It was then the quick work by the crew that helped get Friesen out in good position.
Our guys did a great job changing three tires on mine and Jess’ (Friesen) car,” he said. “We rode on through and got to 10th at the halfway break. We then restarted sixth and that was key for us.”
Stewart Friesen, who has called Fonda Speedway his home and won a lot over the last nine or so years, has been a favorite when the end of the year weekend at Fonda rolls around. He’s never been able to put it all together though, until Saturday night.
With the Return of the Fonda 200, he did just that. The feeling and tension in the air before cars even hit the track was there and Friesen capitalized on the moment. He is now a Fonda 200 champion.
SUNOCO MODIFIED “FONDA 200” FEATURE FINISH $53,000 TO WIN – 200-LAPS – STEWART FRIESEN, Rocky Warner, Mike Mahaney, Billy Decker, Brett Hearn, Brian Pessolano, Anthony Perrego, Brian Gleason, David Schilling, Bobby Varin, Mike Gular, Jessica Friesen, Dave Constantino, Josh Hohenforst, Craig Hanson, Scott Huber, Allison Ricci, Brian Calabrese, Tyler Thompson, Cory Costa, Darwin Greene, Matt DeLorenzo, Roger Henion Jr., Ancel Collins, Frank Cozze, Danny Varin, Demetrious Drellos, Steve Akers, Tim Fuller, Alex Tonkin, Jim Introne Jr., Andy Bachetti, Ricky Newton, Aaron Jacobs, Danny Johnson, Elmo Reckner, Tim Clemons, Bobby Hackel IV, Alex Yankowski, Matt Sheppard (DQ)
DID NOT QUALIFY: Dylan Scribner, Danny Carlough, Jeff Rockefeller, Korey Wilder, Vincent Visconti
HARD CHARGER AWARD SPONSORED BY ORANGE COUNTY FAIR SPEEDWAY – BRIAN GLEASON
HARD LUCK AWARD SPONSORED BY BOB HILBERT SPORTSWEAR – ALEX YANKOWSKI