Hoosier Tire champ

Stewart Friesen captured the DIRTcar Big-Block Modified portion of the Hoosier Racing Tire Weekly Championship in 2020.

WEEDSPORT — When the world ground to a halt in the springtime of 2020, drivers were suddenly in a situation no one anticipated. Teams prepared all winter long for another jam-packed season of DIRTcar Racing in the Northeast. Sadly, the global pandemic required many states in the Northeast as well as Canada to restrict large public gatherings.

Despite this, tracks found a way to reopen to put on incredible shows and give competitors a place to race. There is a very short list of drivers that were busier than Stewart Friesen in 2020. In addition to a stacked dirt racing schedule, including 26 DIRTcar races, he also had his full-time NASCAR Gander Mountain Truck Series schedule to tackle.

Out of the 26 DIRTcar races he entered, Friesen took home 22 top-five finishes. That level of consistency was needed to unseat Matt Sheppard, who had won the DIRTcar Big-Block Modified portion of the Hoosier Racing Tire Weekly Championship the last six years in a row.

“Matt Sheppard has been setting the bar in dirt modified racing for the last decade,” said Friesen. “I am happy to hang with him and win this championship.”

This is his first Hoosier Racing Tire Weekly Championship title.

“We’ve got our program operating at a really high level. I’ve had great car owners over the years but having five years under our belt with Chris Larson and the Halmar International group has been very good,” Friesen said. “With the way things worked out this year we were able to chase some point titles, the Hoosier title being one of them. It worked out getting starts at Volusia, Middletown, and running more than we expected to at Albany-Saratoga.”

Friesen piled on the points starting with strong showings in February at the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park, where he recorded three top-five finishes in four starts. But it was at Albany-Saratoga Speedway that the No. 44 was hooked up. He pulled down four wins in eight races.

“We were lucky to have Orange County and Albany-Saratoga put schedules together and run races. They were able to be fluid with the situation and put the online streaming together to support the purses.”

Orange County and Albany were fielding Super DIRTcar Series caliber feature lineups on a regular basis, so the competition was tight every night.

“With having the first couple of months off, guys wanted to race and with only a few tracks opening guys were moving around hitting different tracks. It made every race we went to feel like a big one and it made our team better because of it,” said Friesen.

The No. 44 team recorded four wins in eight starts at Albany. Despite being unable to make all of the races, Friesen finished fourth in track points.

“Albany is only about an hour from the shop. We haven’t been there fully as a regular in a couple of years. With the NASCAR races being single-day shows, my Friday nights were freed up. We perfected our setup there as the year went on,” Friesen said. “It’s one of those places that if you can get good there you can be fast at a lot of places. Bart Contracting is one of our bigger sponsors and that’s his home track.”

Friesen was a big part of the 2020 Super DIRTcar Series races. In addition to the DIRTcar Nationals, Friesen appeared at Bridgeport Speedway and all of the DIRTcar OktoberFAST presented by DIRTVision events in both Big-Block and DIRTcar 358 Modified competition along with his spousal teammate Jessica Friesen in her No. 1Z Big Block.

“OktoberFAST was awesome. Our team is set up for a speed week like that. The car counts were almost too high, but I understand because it was a back gate show without fans,” said Friesen.

At the outset of the COVID-19 race season, the Super DIRTcar Series made a historic trip to Bridgeport Speedway. The race was also the first Series visit to the new four-tenths of a mile configuration.

“Winning the event at Bridgeport was a big one for us. Danny (Serrano) was a good friend of mine. It was also the first Super DIRTcar Series race on the new configuration,” said Friesen, who mentioned Danny Serrano, track manager, who suddenly passed away this year.

The race was a memorable battle for all who witnessed it.

“We got into a big tire war there. We were in conserve mode, Sheppard slipped by but ended up getting a flat, and I was able to hold Decker off at the end. That was big. It’s always good to win a first-time race for the history books.”

Friesen also received news about a shakeup to the NASCAR Gander Mountain Truck Series. His 2019 truck series win at Eldora Speedway will for now be the final truck series win in history there.

“I am glad we got the win at Eldora. That was a goal. That race is what got us in the truck series. It was on Chris Larsen’s radar and everything snowballed from there. Having the win and being the last winner is pretty special,” noted Friesen. “It’s similar to being the last winner at the New York State Fairgrounds. Hopefully, we get back there someday but for now, having that title is pretty cool. I’m really looking forward to the schedule this year with the Bristol dirt race and Knoxville, which is someplace I’ve always wanted to race.”

Knoxville Speedway will prove a brand new challenge for the top tier asphalt series.

“I’ve never raced there. We were close a few times five or six years ago when I was doing more sprint car stuff but it never really worked out. Jess has raced there a handful of times so at least someone in the family has some experience there,” said Friesen.

Racers and fans alike are looking forward to another Hoosier Racing Tire Weekly Championship points battle in all four DIRTcar Northeast divisions. Stay tuned to SuperDIRTcarSeries.com and DIRTcar.com for schedule announcements and more details.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.