BRASSTOWN, N.C. (NEWS10) — For the first time in 72 days, Stewart Friesen got behind the wheel in a race on Thursday. He wasn’t at Fonda Speedway, Albany Saratoga Speedway, Lebanon Valley, or any other track in upstate New York because they’re still closed. So Friesen, his crew, and several other local teams went south to North Carolina. He raced back-to-back nights at Tri-County Racetrack, and scored a win in his return.
On a Zoom call from the track before the action began Thursday night, Friesen gave a quick tour.
“Everything’s all you know distanced. Everybody’s all kind of spread out. There’s our stuff,” Friesen said as he pointed the camera at the cars and haulers of the Halmar Frisen Racing team. “It’s a pretty good facility here, all spread out.” Most importantly, the track is open, unlike those in the Capital Region. It’s the first stop on his three-week road trip, that’ll take him, his wife Jess (who is also a driver), their son, and their crew to five different states.
“It’s neat. Especially with all this corona stuff, we’re able to see some new racetracks, which is cool. It’s kind of the silver lining.” New also means unfamiliar when it comes to racing in places he’s never been before.
“It’s a little bit more nerve-wrecking. You have to be a little bit more prepared as far as different combinations, different tire combinations… so I hope we’re prepared,” he said, joking that they brought every tool they could think of from the shop.
In his return, he didn’t run a flawless race. He went sideways around turn three, causing a few cars to stack up. But he guided the No. 44 modified to victory lane yet again, picking up his 21st career Short Track Super Series win, the most of any driver.
The race was streamed on dirttrackdigest.tv. In a victory lane interview after the race, he said, “Hopefully the people in upstate, in the northeast get some satisfaction watching these cars down here in the south. This is awesome.”
Without fans, there wasn’t the same energy for drivers to feed off, nor were there the same interactions they have in the pits, but the joy apparently outweighed the “weird.”
Friesen finished third Friday night in a 50-lap feature at the same track. He’s headed to South Carolina next, where he expects a full crowd Saturday night. Then he’ll renew the NASCAR Truck Series circuit Tuesday.