Driving for the underdog Halmar Friesen Racing team, Stewart Friesen, a dirt racing specialist, had the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway circled on the calendar as one race that his team could pull off the upset and score his first win.
After Wednesday night’s Eldora Dirt Derby, the Truck Series field certainly knew that Friesen was there.
Friesen kicked off the day by scoring the pole for the race and then going out and backing it up by winning his qualifying heat race to cement his front row starting spot. From the drop of the green flag, Friesen established himself as the truck to beat, leading the first 33 laps of the race before giving way to Matt Crafton.
By the end of Stage 1 at lap 40, that’s where Friesen would finish, providing some foreshadowing on the end of the race.
Though he didn’t get the win in the first stage, Friesen showed off his dirt racing prowess in Stage 2, leading all but 11 laps to grab the stage win.
However, the night wasn’t a complete cake walk for Friesen and his team as Friesen suffered a flat right front tire, forcing him to pit road to change tires and dropping him back in the pack for the ensuing restart.
With a gaggle of trucks between him and regaining the lead, Friesen methodically worked his way back through the field utilizing the very bottom lane of the track to make the most speed, retaking the lead from Christopher Bell after 22 laps.
Though Friesen was back in the lead, he would have to contend with a series of late race restarts to hold off the snarling pack of drivers behind him. Friesen held his ground on the first of the three restarts, but the next restart wouldn’t go quite as well for the Canadian native.
Crafton had been stalking Friesen for several laps prior to the lap 132 restart and just three laps later made his move to re-take the lead, dropping Friesen to second and throwing him into a battle for position with rookie Chase Briscoe.
One final restart would bunch the field back up with 10 laps to go, but Friesen and the others were no match for Crafton as he easily pulled away for the win, while Friesen had an entertaining duel with Briscoe over the closing laps, eventually overtaking him for good to bring his truck home in second place.
“The Halmar team was good,” said Friesen. “Our Chevy was great, you know, we had a good long run truck and those guys just burping it there in third gear kind of snookered us on that restart. It stinks. We didn’t come to run second. That’s for damn sure. But I’m proud of these guys and it’s cool. They knew we were here.”
“Just didn’t play out. Congrats to Matt. He’s been doing his homework running the dirt stuff and racing there with Briscoe was pretty cool. Nothing to really hang our heads about, but, you know, we still lost.”
Despite not winning the race, Friesen still leaves Eldora with his best career Truck Series finish and the most laps led, having led on four different occasions for 93 laps.