After winning Friday night’s SpeedyCash.com 220 at Texas Motor Speedway, the smile on Niagara-on-the-Lake native Stewart Friesen’s face during the post-race interview was about as big as the state he was in.
“Finally we’ve got something to celebrate,” he enthused to the crowd. “Thank you guys, thank you everybody at Toyota. You have no idea the work that’s gone into this race team over the last three years. Trip Bruce, Jonathan Leonrard our crew chief, all the guys. Such an awesome group.”
Pumping his fists in the air, he yelled, “We’re in the playoffs, how about that?,” then let out a huge “Woooo!”
It was the first win for Friesen on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series circuit since the November 2019 Lucas Oil 150 in Phoenix. More importantly, it was the first time the 38-year-old driver took a chequered flag in a Toyota truck since his Halmar-Friesen team switched from Chevrolet following that 2019 season.
“It was a long time coming,” Friesen told The Local Monday. “We’ve come close a few times. The last couple of weeks at Darlington and Kansas, we just weren’t able to put the whole race together. This time, the truck was solid the entire day. It’s great to finally get through that.”
Friesen led for 60 laps Friday, more than his total number of laps led the entire season thus far. But it wasn’t enough for him to avoid a final overtime restart and a close battle with Christian Eckes before he could claim his first win in 53 races.
“We should have won both segments,” he said. “I made a little mistake in the first segment when (Ryan) Preece got to my outside and took the lead. I made another mistake in lap traffic, and some guys did some pit strategy, so we found ourselves a ways back midway of the last stage. But we were able to race back through and get the lead.”
Friesen crossed the finish line just 0.122 seconds ahead of Eckes on the 1.5 mile high-banked Texas track. Preece, who won stages one and two, finished third.
Following Friday night’s victory, Friesen was scheduled for a Super DIRTcar Series big block modified race in Middletown, NY Saturday. He and his wife Jessica scrapped that plan to stay closer to their Sprakers, New York home rather than tow their cars more than three hours south.
“The travel just kind of got to me,” he explained. “I flew with the team from Texas to Statesville, North Carolina, and stayed up and celebrated with the guys for a bit. Then (Halmar-Friesen teammate) Todd and Jenn Bodine drove us to the airport. By the time I got back to Albany, it was late afternoon, and we were just shot.”
Instead, the couple headed to their home track at nearby Fonda Speedway, where Jessica finished second Saturday and Stewart followed in fourth.
The win at Texas leaves Friesen solidly in fourth place in the NASCAR Truck Series, only 21 points behind leader
John Hunter Nemechek. It also bodes well for Friesen’s confidence for the remainder of the Truck Series season.
“I feel like our stuff has been pretty good, and we’ve had confidence in the speed all year,” Friesen said. “Being able to finally check that box with a victory, to know we can do it, that’s huge. The green and white chequereds have always been a thorn in my side. I’ve really worked at my restarts all year and it finally paid off.”
“We’re even with the guys who have won already,” Friesen added. “We need some more stage wins and race wins to earn more bonus points to take into the playoffs. We’re in better shape than last year. We got to the playoffs without winning a race, and we just missed it in 2020, too.”
On Tuesday this week Friesen was scheduled to race at New Egypt Speedway in the 50-lap $5,000 Short Track Super Series Dirty Jersey Modifieds. And he’ll be back trying to earn those NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points Friday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the North Carolina Education 200.