Column By: TREVOR GAVIN / RPW – FORT WORTH, TX – Stewart Friesen suffered another heart-breaking loss Friday night in the Camping World Truck Series race at Texas with a speeding penalty that may have cost him the win.
However, but the Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONT native will get a chance to redeem himself on Saturday as heads to Charlotte to try and qualify for the Big Block Modified portion of the World Finals at the 4/10-mile clay oval.
“I am going to run the number 88 Buzz Chew back-up car,” Friesen said on pit road before the truck race Friday night. “I am looking forward to it. Mike (Mahaney) was fast in the heats and won both that he was in.”
The logistics came pretty easy for Friesen to make the over 1,000 mile journey from Texas Motor Speedway to The Dirt Track in Charlotte.
“I am going to fly back on the team plane to Charlotte after the race tonight (Friday),” he said. “Then, I’ll head over to the track tomorrow. I’m going to run a B-Main and try to make the show.”
Friesen would ultimately finish eighth on the night in Texas but may be wondering what could have been, if not for his lap 115 speeding penalty as the leader coming in to make his final pit stop.
The second-year full-time NASCAR truck driver started from the third position but quickly took the lead on lap two, moving past 2016 Truck Champion and pole sitter Johnny Sauter. He would hold the top spot through lap six and succumb to Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Noah Gragson on a lap seven restart.
Friesen would hang around the top 5 for most of Stage one and came home third as the green and white checkered flag waved to end the stage, along-side the yellow flag after a caution for the #9 of Codie Rohrbaugh.
Friesen and his Halmar-Friesen Racing team began to put him in a position for the win heading towards the final stage. With nine laps to go in stage two, the #52 team pitted for four tires along with the rest of the leaders…most notable Todd Gilliland in the #4 truck.
As Stage two ended with Myatt Snider taking the stage win, Gilliland, Friesen, the #51 of Harrison Burton all stayed out and cycled through as the top 3.
Friesen would restart third on lap 75 and hold the inside line to get by Burton to take second. He would sit in the runner-up position for several laps, calculating his pass on the race leader.
After 33 laps of seeing nothing but the rear bumper of Gilliland, Stewart pounced and took the lead back on lap 107.
As Friesen clicked off laps in the lead, his crew debated whether or not to make any adjustments on pit road for his final stop. A lug wrench was passed to and fro but ultimately the team decided to go fuel-only.
On lap 115, Friesen hit pit road only to see his hope of his first career truck win speed past. He was too fast entering pit road in section one and after the fuel only pit stop was forced to serve a pass-through penalty two laps later.
That penalty cost the 52 team a chance at the win and Stewart ultimately come home in eighth, on the lead lap.
“Missed the win tonight by .22 mph coming onto pit road after some confusion on the radio,” Friesen said in a tweet post-race. “Thanks to everyone that has busted their ass to build me fast trucks and Halmar for the support to live my dream and compete at this level. When it’s meant to be, it will be.”
The eighth place finish is the 14th Top 10 of the season and is the 12th race he has led this season out of 21 starts. The series will head to Phoenix next week where Stewart will make his third career start. He finished 18th in only his fifth NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start there back in 2016 and inside the Top 10 with a sixth place finish last year.
Now, for those who would like to follow Stewart’s quest for the win at Charlotte with a pick-up Big Block ride, the schedule will go as follows. The Super DIRTcar Series will have their held-over Friday night feature fire off at 1:30 pm. ET on Saturday. The feature will be followed by the World of Outlaw Late Model feature and then the World of Outlaws Sprints Feature.
Fans should expect to see Friesen hit the track after the opening ceremonies scheduled at 4:45pm in one of the two scheduled Last Chance Qualifiers, running 10 laps.