SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Stewart Friesen is ready to chase history during NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week XLI at the one-mile New York State Fairgrounds.
The cancellation of Wednesday afternoon’s ‘Happy Hour’ practice session due to wet conditions didn’t dampen the positive outlook of the 29-year-old star from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., who will bid to become just the second driver to win three consecutive editions of the prestigious DIRTcar big-block Modified VP Small Engine Fuels 200.
“It would’ve been nice to get some laps today, but we’ve been good here the last two years and we’ve got the same team, all the same stuff and all the right pieces,” said Friesen, who now resides in Sprakers, N.Y. “We have a good setup and we have a good gameplan for this place. That takes a lot of ‘what-ifs’ out of it.
“It’s nice to have the confidence that we’re not gonna be searching for speed when we do get on the track.”
Friesen will now begin his quest to match Gary Balough’s record of three straight VP Small Engine Fuels 200 triumphs – a standard the Floridian established from 1976-78 – on Thursday. Practice is tentatively scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. and time trials for Sunday’s 200-mile big-block Modified classic and Saturday’s Gander Mountain 358-Modified Championship 150 are slated to get the green flag at 1 p.m.
The same Jeff Daley-owned Teo-Pro car that Friesen steered to the checkered flag in the 2010 and ’11 VP Small Engine Fuels 200 events will be his stead again. The CC Performance-powered machine continues to carry sponsorship from Original Pizza Logs and M.R. Burdick Enterprises.
Friesen’s Syracuse Mile 358-Modified effort this year is also fielded by Daley, marking the first time the two have partnered to run both marquee races during NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week. A CC Performance Ford engine is under the hood of Friesen’s small-block mount, a Teo-Pro car he debuted in August’s Super DIRTcar Series event at Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y.
“We’ve been really good with the big-block so we know what we have there,” said Friesen. “We really want to put a lot of emphasis on the small-block and do well in that race this year. It’s equally as important to us – the way we look at it, we have two super-big races.
“Running a Ford (358) is a little bit of an out-of-the-box combination for us, but we think it could really work well. (Engine builder Chuck) Cici has some things he wants to prove with the motor.”
Friesen, meanwhile, has one big reason to put the 358-Modified 150-miler on his resume.
“Billy Decker has been sort of the king of the small-block race here (winning the last four Gander Mountain 358-Modified Championship 150s), so we’d love to knock him off,” said Friesen, whose five career starts in the event include two runner-up finishes (’07 and ’11) and a fifth in ’05. “We finished second to him last year – and just about passed him at the end – so we know we can do it.”
Friesen already understands the joy of standing on the mile’s winner’s stage in front of a roaring crowd thanks to his back-to-back triumphs in the VP Small Engines Fuels 200 – an accomplishment achieved by just five other men.
“It’s awesome,” said Friesen, whose five career starts in the VP Small Engine Fuels 200 show two victories and finishes of fourth (’08), seventh (’05) and 33rd (’09). “Guys race their whole careers and don’t get a win here, so to be able to do it fairly early in my career is awesome. I’ll never have a moment where I’ll be saying, ‘Woulda, shoulda, coulda…’
“I don’t know how long I’ll race for, but when my career is over I’ll always have (the Syracuse wins). It’s like a life lesson you’ll always have, more or less.”
Friesen, of course, has some extra incentive to pull off a hat trick in the concluding event of NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week XLI. His victory in last year’s 200 was clouded by a controversial fuel-cell technical penalty that resulted in him being fined half of his $50,000 first-place check.
“We definitely would like to come out on top again and shut up all the critics – because there are a lot,” said Friesen, who is approaching the 30-win plateau in overall 2012 feature wins. “We’re super determined (to win). It’s just a matter of having all the luck on our side again and going out there and doing a good job.”