Sheppard Spins, Friesen Claims Big Show

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Stewart Friesen in victory lane at Albany-Saratoga Speedway. (Dave Dalesandro photo)

MALTA, N.Y. — Stewart Friesen claimed the $10,000 winner’s purse in Brett Hearn’s Big Show 10 Tuesday night at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, besting teammates Max McLaughlin and Jimmy Phelps in the 100-lap Super DIRTcar Series event.

Friesen’s second Series win of the season came at the expense of superstar Matt Sheppard, who drew the pole and led convincingly through lap 96, when he tangled with the lapped car of Willy Decker and spun in turn two.  Sheppard had just prevailed in a 10-lap, side-by-side battle with Friesen following a lap-79 restart and seemed headed to another solid win on the super-competitive tour.

“You never settle for second, you always keep on digging,” said Friesen. “But Matt is really tough. I was hoping to get him in traffic if the bottom got locked up, then that happened.

“We’re getting closer to him with our new design car but Matt is really, really good right now.”

Sheppard had to repel the hard charge of Albany-Saratoga regular Matt DeLorenzo in the early laps but by the 20-lap range DeLorenzo began to fade, with fast-timer Tim Fuller moving to second.  But the ninth-starting Friesen was working forward steadily and by lap 35 he was on Fuller’s bumper and put him away a lap later.

By then Sheppard was out to a full straightaway lead and though the margin ebbed and flowed as they battled through traffic, Friesen appeared to have no chance of catching the leader until Danny Varin slowed on lap 79 to draw just the second yellow of the race.

Besides the battle for the lead, the eight-starting McLaughlin and Phelps, up from 11th, were engaged in a torrid battle for third so there was action everywhere for the overflowing crowd to enjoy when action resumed.

With the racing surface rolling out wide and black, Sheppard and Phelps ran the bottom and Friesen and McLaughlin the high side in their respective battles.  Sheppard was a bit better in traffic than Friesen and finally opened a small gap just before getting collected by Decker, a melee that drew a huge roar from the crowd.

Stewart Friesen (44) en route to victory at Albany-Saratoga Speedway. (Dave Dalesandro photo)

McLaughlin stood second for the ensuing restart and made a run on the leader but Friesen was too strong for the youngster, though Mclaughlin’s runner-up finish did earn him a guaranteed starting spot for Super DIRT Week in October.

Fuller was fourth ahead of Billy Dunn, race promoter Brett Hearn, Peter Britten, Tim McCreadie, Keith Flach and DeLorenzo.  Sheppard recovered for a disappointing 12th place finish.

“Friesen was good,” offered McLaughlin. “He’s got stuff figured out and this is the second time we’ve run second to him this year. Actually, we were lucky to finish, as our car ran out of gas in the pits coming off the track. We just made it.”

“We were better on long runs and that last restart really hurt us,” tipped Phelps.  “We needed to go non-stop.  But we’ll take it!”

In supporting class action, the features only program for sportsman saw Chris Johnson and Jeremy Pitts each claim a $1,000 win. The former was trailed by Scott Duell, Jason Miller and Andrew Buff while Pitts, who got the lead off the last turn, bested Adam McAuliffe, Connor Cleveland and Tim Hartman Jr.