Column By: MARTY CZEKALA / RPW – SPRAKERS, NY – Stewart and Jessica Friesen have been known for racing against each other in Modified races in New York. Most notably, their 1-2 finish at Fonda Speedway last August, respectively.
That combination gets turned up a notch next weekend. Jessica attempts to make her NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 27th in the Halmar Friesen Racing #62 Toyota Tundra.
Should Jessica make the field, this would mark the first time a husband and wife have competed in the same race since Elton Sawyer and Patty Moise back in the 1990s.
Jessica and Stewart spoke with the media on Wednesday afternoon, detailing how the deal came together.
“There’s been a truck that HFR had acquired when they went on their own, and it was an older speedway truck that has been sitting in the corner in the shop for quite some time,” JZF said. “The best option for that truck would be to turn it into a Dirt truck. It was too much work to turn it into anything else. They were going to put together a second dirt truck. Stewart had mentioned it a couple of times…I’m like, ‘well, I’m up for it. I’d love to do it.’ Chris Larsen [co-owner] has been amazing, everything he’s done for us, he said ‘wanna give it a try?’ and I said ‘of course I do, why not’”
Jessica has been relying on her husband for advice in preparation for her debut, having many random conversations nightly on how the truck drives different from the modified.
“I’ve never been in a racecar that I’ve ever had to have a manual transmission at all,” Friesen added. “He’s [Stewart] out there with a Sharpie, showing me on a piece of paper, and I had to take a picture and save it for the archives. These are our nightly conversations, any random thing about the truck that we can compare with the Modified. He’s been able to help me soak up my questions and make me feel a little bit more at ease with everything.”
The advice should come in handy, especially with the first of Friesen’s two career Truck wins in the #52 that came at Eldora Speedway in 2019.
Jessica confirmed this race is a one-off deal, but there could be options for other opportunities if she performs well. Keep in mind, this is not the lone trip for the Truck Series on dirt in 2021, as they will head to Knoxville for a July 9th date.
What happens, though, if Jessica does beat Stewart? While there aren’t any bets in place between each other, Stewart confirmed, “on the crew, there’s a lot of side of bets going on.”
The news amongst the Friesen family got bigger Tuesday. Stewart announced plans of his own to pull double-duty during that weekend, driving a NASCAR Cup Series car in Spire Motorsports’ #77 Chevy Camaro the day after. With Spire having a charter for the 77, Friesen will be locked into the 250-lap feature, making his Cup debut on March 28th.
“Halmar had our back on trying to do something there,” Friesen responded. “We talked to a bunch of different teams and obviously had our blessing from Jack Irving and the whole group at Toyota to be able to go do something with another manufacturer. Things kind of fell into place; Spire had an open seat. We’re looking forward to it.”
The car will carry the traditional Halmar colors with Spire preparing the Cup cars. Kevin Bellicourt will act as crew chief that weekend.
“It’s a dream come true to compete in the Cup Series. It’s the pinnacle of motorsports in North America. As a race fan myself, it has always been something I’ve dreamed about doing,” Stewart stated in the team’s press release. “There’s some stuff we can take from our dirt experience with the truck at Eldora and apply to the Cup car to hopefully be very competitive at Bristol.”
But how has their 5-year-old son Parker reacted to these unique rides? Would he be dancing and jumping like he does on top of the roof of the Modified whenever Stewart or Jessica win?
“He’s still very confused on that,” Jessica confirmed. “He says, ‘No, Mom. Dad races the truck; you race the Modified. And trucks don’t race on dirt, trucks race on the pavement.’ So he was just kind of getting his mind wrapped around all that. He was still, two years ago at Eldora, a little bit young to really soak it all up and quite understand exactly what was going on.”
Who would he root for?
“I don’t know…” said Jessica.
“…Me!” interrupted Stewart.
“He’s been asked that a couple times and he changes his outlook on it depending on what he’s trying to get from Mom or Dad at that moment,” Jessica said. “I’m not so sure he knows.”