Coming off the heels of his debut NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season, Niagara-on-the-Lake native Stewart Friesen is excited about the road and track ahead.
His busy 2018 (23 NASCAR Truck races, 51 DIRTcar Modified races) will be in the rear-view mirror starting Feb. 12. That’s when the 2019 DIRTcar season kicks off at Volusia Speedway in Barberville, Florida, followed by the NextEra Energy 250, the first entry in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, at Daytona Speedway just 3 days later.
Speaking from his home just outside of Albany, NY, where he lives with his wife Jessica and three-year old son Parker, Friesen reflected on 2018 and his goals for the upcoming year. He says his performance in the Truck Series last year was mixed. Though he didn’t win a race, his nine top-five finishes and a chance to compete in the Chase for the Championship (he finished seventh out of eight) were definitely positive signs.
The learning curve was steep for Friesen in moving from Dirt racing to the NASCAR Truck Series. He initially started out more aggressively, and soon found he had to adjust to the longer races in the Truck Series. He was forced to become more patient as a driver, he said, and to learn to run the race based on what his No. 52 Chevy Silverado gave him. Friesen is confident that with one season under his belt, and a great team with Halmar-Friesen Racing, he can attain his goal of winning at least one Truck Series event and placing higher than seventh in the Chase for the Championship this year.
Friesen grew up in the pits at local speedways Ransomville, which his parents owned, and Merrittville. He doesn’t get back to NOTL often, so is looking forward to competing once again at his old haunts when the Super DIRTcar Series returns there this August. Though he definitely has ambitions to progress up the NASCAR ladder, Friesen says Dirt racing is his first love, his “bread and butter,” and he can’t see himself ever fully turning his back on the sport.
He still nurtures a great relationship with the local racing community, he says. Though he builds his cars with his team near his home in New York state, he still uses many parts from local manufacturer Bicknell Racing Products.
About those ambitions: Having started out racing go-karts at 10 years old, Friesen knows his unique selling point to NASCAR success is his almost 26 years of short-track experience. At the same time, he knows NASCAR is very sponsorship-driven. Many of the newcomers to NASCAR are 25 years old or younger, and bring with them a long list of powerful sponsors. Friesen says his own key to success is to do well with the Truck Series, make a name for himself, and to move up the ladder that way.
To that end, he’s been busy with his team, preparing both his DIRTcar and Truck Series vehicles for action next month. He’ll be travelling with Jessica and Parker for most of the east coast dates, hitting the road in an RV and enjoying family time between stops.
When asked if Parker will follow his father’s (and his grandfather’s) footsteps, Friesen says he certainly won’t push him. And besides, he has to learn how to master his tricycle before he can even think about racing.