For Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Stewart Friesen, a weekend that included an uncharacteristically large amount of downtime ended up in two relative successes and one very big disappointment in Bristol, Tennessee.
Saturday was supposed to see the debut of Jessica Friesen, Stewart’s wife, in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Jessica was able to get in some practice laps in her number 62 Toyota Friday, but that would be all the time she would have in the truck on the weekend.
She needed to run a qualifying heat for the chance to end up in the main event, the Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt. But rain and wind wreaked havoc on the track, forcing the cancellation of all qualifiers, after only one muddy lap that left the grilles and windshields of the trucks covered with thick, red mud. Without the qualifier, Jessica was left out of the race, and her number 62 truck was sent home.
NASCAR rejigged the schedule, moving the Pinty’s Truck Race to an earlier time slot on Sunday, with Stewart’s debut in the NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race scheduled for 3:30 p.m. that same day. Again, conditions forced NASCAR to call off both of those races and push them to Monday.
When conditions were finally conducive for racing Monday at noon, Stewart started off strong in the truck, holding the fourth position after stage 1, and the seventh in stage 2. Martin Truex Jr. won the race, holding on to the top spot for 105 of the 150 laps. Friesen finished 12th.
“With the 52, we kind of missed the balance of it a little bit,” he said later via a Facebook video, with the truck going from a little tight on the track to too loose. “We were really good early in the grip, and then just blew off and we missed it.”
The finish earned Friesen enough points to continue his hold on fifth place in the Truck Series standings.
At 4 p.m., Friesen rolled his Halmar Racing Sprite Motorsports Cup car to start in the 32nd position. He entered his first stop with a bit of damage to the sheet metal from contact, but climbed to 25th with 200 laps left.
Friesen continued to move up, and for a while had cracked the top 20. But he finished the race placing 23rd. Thirty-year-old Joey Logano of Connecticut took the checkered flag.
“I’m pretty happy, I brought the number 77 Halmark Chevy home with a top-25,” he said following the finish. “It was a long, really tough, challenging racetrack. Daytime conditions were really tough, we were able to make some passes early, get up on the top and get rolling, then jumped the cushion once. We kind of lost visibility with the dust and the sun on the windshield. All in all, we survived.”
Good news came Sunday, by the way, for Jessica. That day, Stewart announced on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s Morning Drive show that his wife would be returning with the number 62 Toyota Tundra to qualify at Knoxville Raceway on July 9. It will be another truck race on dirt, part of Knoxville’s Corn Belt Weekend.
And more good news followed the Cup Series race on Monday. Friesen discovered NASCAR had announced during the race that Bristol would hold the same race on the dirt again in 2022.
“Hopefully it’s at night,” he laughed. “Daytime dirt-track racing stinks. But it’s just the nature of the beast.”
Patting the NASCAR Cup Series patch on his shoulder, he added, “I’m happy to have this patch on my fire suit. It’s pretty darn cool. On to the next one.”