By David Morgan, Associate Editor
BRISTOL, Tenn. – It wouldn’t be a race at Bristol Motor Speedway without tempers flaring at one point or another during the event. In Thursday night’s UNOH 200, it was two playoff drivers in Stewart Friesen and Matt Crafton that butted heads in the final stage of the race.
Battling for position on lap 152, Friesen and Crafton got together, sending Friesen for a spin in Turn 4. Though Friesen was able to gather his Chevrolet back up with minimal damage, he was quick to give Crafton a piece of his mind by driving back up to him and making contact with Crafton’s Ford under caution.
Despite the incident, the two drivers had put it behind them by the time the checkered flag flew, with Friesen rebounding to finish fourth and Crafton coming home in seventh.
After a short conversation between the two on pit road after the race, the drivers were all smiles as they laughed off their on-track skirmish.
“Matt was the first guy to flip me off in the Truck Series in my first start here at Bristol in 2016, so we’ve had a relationship since then,” Friesen said. “He’s still an asshole, but he’s my favorite asshole.
“It’s just hard racing. They put that zip strip around the bottom and you’ve got to run over people to make moves. It’s part of the racing. It’s hard, it’s tough, it’s hot, it’s exciting.”
Crafton agreed with that assessment, noting that the two drivers were on the same page about everything that transpired during the race.
“I just wanted to make sure we’re all good and we moved on,” Crafton said. “There’s a lot of other ways we can do this instead of tearing up each other’s equipment. I just wanted to make sure he was on the same page as me. We can let it be water under the bridge at this point.”
Starting the Playoffs with a top-five finish when things seemed bleak with less than 50 laps to go certainly helped the situation between Friesen and Crafton, which the Canadian acknowledged in his post-race comments.
“I probably would have been a lot more pissed off,” Friesen said with a laugh.
Though the end result was a top-five finish, Friesen noted that his Halmar Friesen Racing team has some work to do on restart speed going forward.
“The quick cautions there, I couldn’t time my restarts very good,” Friesen said. “Finally, I figured out the gear to be in on the restarts and that was better. We just didn’t fire off good. That’s been our problem. We didn’t fire off good at Michigan and had to battle back. Then again here tonight, so we’ll work on that.
“Salvaging a top-five out of this deal is good and we can march on.”
Friesen leaves Bristol third in points, with a home country race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park next on the agenda, followed by Las Vegas Motor Speedway to finish out the first round of the Playoffs. He finished in the top-10 on the road course last season and has finished in the top-five in two of his last three starts in Las Vegas.