Column By: JOHN DOUGLAS / RPW – FORT WORTH, TX – Stewart Friesen was impressive in Friday night’s Truck Series event. His battle with Kyle Busch over the race’s final run was something we haven’t seen much of when Kyle Busch Shows up to an event.
He had to race for the win.
Most days, Kyle gets in his No. 51 KBM Toyota, leads the most laps and dominates. Friday Night was anything but truly dominant. Friesen, who started dead last after an engine change, drove through the field as if he were starting a Saturday night feature at one of the myriad of dirt tracks across the northeast and Canada.
Proving to be one of the only trucks who could make the outside grove work, by the closing laps Friesen found himself in second place hot on the heels of Kyle Busch. Running side-by-side, closely drafting and giving everything Kyle Busch could handle, Friesen legitimately put the fight to the 17 season Cup Series veteran.
With five career second place finishes to his name, Friesen is primed to win his first NASCAR event. A happening that will send a big jolt through the dirt racing community where Friesen cut his teeth.
Ironically, his first win in the Truck Series is starting to look like it will come on the pavement at a super speedway rather than the dirt race at Eldora Speedway. Something most would have never expected.
TOO MUCH TOO SOON FOR KYLE BUSCH?
Kyle Busch is a freak of nature. We know this. We know he’s capable of amazing things in just about any race car you put him in. What we don’t know is how long he could sustain this level of dominance across the top three series of NASCAR.
Busch took home the trophies in the Friday and Saturday events leading up to Sunday’s 500 miler from the Lone Star State. However, Busch also showed a lower level of performance than has become the norm.
Friday night’s truck race gave the younger Busch brother quite the wake-up call as Stewart Friesen gave chase in impressive fashion over the race’s final run. Though Busch prevailed, it looked for some time as if Friesen could pressure him into a mistake or outright pass the former Cup Series Champion, as he ran within .2 of a second of the leader for almost 20 laps.
Though Busch won Saturday’s event as well, his teammate Christopher Bell was the driver dominating the field for most of the day. Leading over 120 laps of the 150 laps scheduled, Bell looked to be on his way to his first victory of 2019 until a final six lap shootout. Busch used his experience to muscle his way to the front.
Whether it be the performance of the vehicles, or if Kyle is starting to feel the fatigue of front loading his season with a majority of his Truck and XFINITY race allotment, Busch did not crush the competition the way most have come to expect.
With only five Truck Series and seven XFINITY Series race to run this season, Busch may have stacked the opening stanza of the 2019 season a bit too deeply.
HAMLIN BEATS THE COMPETITION, ALMOST BEATS HIMSELF
What turned out to be an interesting display of pit strategies, unexpectedly fell right into Hamlin’s lap after a day full of ups and downs.
Hamlin’s No. 11 Fed Ex Toyota showed good speed all weekend, though Jimmie Johnson had won everything at the track that weekend in his Hendrick Chevrolet. Through both practices and qualifying, Johnson had been atop the scoreboard.
The only thing on Sunday that could beat Denny Hamlin was himself and at times, it seemed like he would.
Two separate pit road penalties and two missed entries to pit road under green flag conditions could have and probably should have killed any chance Hamlin had to win, yet each time, Hamlin’s driving, coupled wit the team’s excellent final stop were enough to solidify the lead and the win for the Virginia native.
Days like that are what a championship caliber team are made of. Taking on all challenges, Hamlin and his team rose above adversity, admittedly self-caused adversity, but adversity nonetheless, to win their second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event of a young 2019 season. The first team to capture two wins on the season.