By David Morgan, Associate Editor
FORT WORTH, Texas – Stewart Friesen has been knocking on the door of his first win in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, but for one reason or another, the driver of the No. 52 Halmar Friesen Racing Chevrolet hasn’t been able to break though and end the day in Victory Lane.
After several near-misses over the last year, Friesen returns to Texas Motor Speedway for Friday night’s SpeedyCash.com 400 looking to best his 2018 runner-up finish at the track by one position.
“We probably could have won one or two of them if it wasn’t for a couple of mistakes,” Friesen said of coming up short of that elusive win. “Obviously at Kansas, it was just a miscommunication and we ran out of fuel there leading. It’s been good. I’ve been comfortable with the truck. (Crew chief) Trip (Bruce) and I are working really well together. Our engineers are awesome. We’ve got a great group of guys, great group of racers that I love racing with and working with. It’s a great race team. A lot of positivity and it’s fun to be a part of.
“It’s been kind of a frustrating one of those years, or whatever, but that’s how it goes in racing. I don’t sit there and worry about it every day, but there’s been a lot of highs this season, but there’s been a lot of frustration too.”
Friesen and the remainder of the Truck Series teams and drivers took to the track for the first time on Thursday, with three practice sessions to dial in their race machines. Timing in ninth and 11th in the first two practice sessions, the 35-year old native of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada will be playing catch-up heading into qualifying and the race as he crashed in the final minutes of second practice when trying to make a mock qualifying run, forcing his team to have to pull up the back-up ahead of final practice.
With a little more than an hour to get the back-up ready, Friesen went out and put his truck 23rd on the sheet in final practice and the team will have to work through the night to put the finishing touches on it before Friday’s on-track activity.
Should Friesen be able to finally get the monkey off his back on Friday night, he will be able to pocket an additional $50,000 bonus as a part of the Triple Truck Challenge funded by series sponsor Gander Outdoors and CEO Marcus Lemonis. If he wins two out of the next three races at Texas, Iowa, or Gateway, the bonus goes up to $150,000 and if he sweeps all three, the payday jumps to $500,000.
“I think the Truck Series has been intense no matter what,” Friesen said of the added bonus ramping up the intensity of the racing over the next three weeks. “It’s been great racing. It’s been awesome to be a part of from my end and for Halmar and our race team. The money on the line is cool. We’ve been knocking on the door of getting a win obviously and it’d be no better time with $50 grand on top of the winner’s purse and then to win two or three of them would be really, really cool.
“It’s good. It’s neat. In short track racing in the Northeast, there’s a lot of big money races going on and they’re advertised for $10,000 or $20,000 to win the races and they get a lot of hype. For that to happen in the Truck Series and have a little bit more at stake or a little bit more hype because of the purse, that’s what it’s all about.”
Note: Ben Rhodes was fastest in first practice at 29.867 seconds (180.681 mph), with ThorSport Racing teammate Johnny Sauter topping the board in both second practice and final practice. Sauter was also fastest in 10-lap averages in those two sessions.
With Thursday’s on track action complete, the Truck Series will qualify at 5:35 pm Eastern Friday before a 9:00 pm Eastern green flag on FOX Sports 1.