SYRACUSE, N.Y. — One year ago, Stewart Friesen won his first SEF 200 using incredible gas mileage and track position. He notched a second $50,000 win Sunday the old fashioned way, by passing Billy Decker on the track, beating him out of the pits on their final stop and then fighting him off in a bare knuckles battle over their final 42 tours around the sun-baked New York State Fairgrounds mile.
The event closed out Super DIRT Week in style, as the finish was in doubt right to the checkers.
Decker, who edged Friesen to win Saturday’s Nationwide Insurance 150 for 358 modifieds, had to settle for his first defeat of an incredible week that saw him turn fast time and win qualifiers in both divisions.
He led former winners Vic Coffey and Tim Fuller to the checkers for an “all-winners” top four, while Pat Ward was fifth ahead of Jimmy Phelps, David Hebert, Kenny Tremont Jr., Rookie of the Race Mark Flach, Jr. and Vince Vitale.
“Last year it was economy. This year it was run flat out from lap one on,” declared the elated Friesen. “It got pretty hairy lapping some of those guys running a couple of laps down but I had Matt Hearn on the radio keeping me calm and it worked.”
Bright sun and 80 degree temperatures, along with hard work by the Roger Slack led track crew, produced a wide, super fast surface and the race was on from the drop of the green, with fast-timer Decker leading front row companion Billy Dunn away from the field and into the backmarkers by lap 18. Tim McCreadie moved to second in the 20’s with Friesen in tow and together they pressured Decker through a lap 40 caution for a Brett Hearn flat tire that let the leaders make their first pit stop.
The caution was extended when the sweeper was still on the track going to the green but the race then restarted with Matt Sheppard on the point and Decker and Friesen back in the teens. A series of yellows kept the field bunched up through lap 69, when Ronnie Johnson’s engine belched a cloud of steam and smoke to bring a yellow that sent the leaders pitside with Bobby Varin inheriting the lead.
Varin held command through three more caution periods and even got the halfway bonus cruising under yellow before pitting on lap 151. But back in the field, Friesen had hauled his Cicci powered TEO around Decker on lap 92 and when Varin went pitside, Friesen was the new leader.
“That was definitely the move of the race,” declared the grinning Canadian. “I got him in traffic and that let me get in first and beat him off pit road the next time.”
The race went green again on lap 102, with the day’s most serious incident coming six laps later, as Larry Wight got turned around on the frontstretch and hit full bore by Dunn, sending Wight’s mount twirling and ripping Dunn’s frontend to shreds.
At that point, Friesen was leading Ryan Godown, Coffey, Decker and Justin Haers, with Godown getting alongside the leader repeatedly but never putting him away. The top cars then made their second stop on lap 140 after Martin Roy drew a yellow with a flat, all planning on having their fuel and tire work done before the mandatory stop between laps 150 and 175, knowing that would be a stop and go.
That opportunity came soon, with Haers slowing on the frontstretch on lap 153, barely inside the window. Pit road was a mad scramble, with Friesen beating Decker, Coffey and Godown out and Tremont losing a number of positions when cars came together at the end of pit lane.
From that point on, Decker kept trying to dive under the leader going into turn three but never made the pass, as a pair of cautions broke his momentum.
“We weren’t as good as we’d been all week, then the 35 mph pace car speed on pit road killed us there,” said Decker. “I was better on long greens but they were hard to come by today. And every time I got even with Stewart going in, I’d get down in the marbles on the inside. If I didn’t lift, I’d have wrecked us both.”
“Yeah, I saw him there a couple of times,” added Friesen. “I had to close the door pretty hard and force him down where he didn’t want to be.”
With the lap counter approaching 190, the order seemed to be set, then fifth-running Tim McCreadie ran dry, followed by Godown’s mount sputtering, costing him a solid third. But Friesen never faltered, drawing a huge roar from the crowd as he got to the checkers just ahead of Decker.
“I really wanted to be up there battling those guys but we needed long greens too,” said Coffey. “The yellows killed me. We were good when we’d burned fuel off, got tight after our pit stops, then got better again at the end but it always took us three or four laps to get going.”
Fuller too felt he could have done better, saying “I had one of the best cars early on but it was used up by the last 40 or 50 laps.”
Both Fuller and Tremont had a long day, as they had to qualify through the Last Chance race, which WoO Late Model regular Fuller won. He was trailed by Danny Johnson, Tremont, Roy Bresnahan, Brian Murphy and Dan Humes.
In the week’s best race, the Pro-Stock Championship, Rocky Warner drove from 11th to a $2000 payday, winning a protracted battle with front row starter Rob Yetman and Syracuse kingpin Pete Stefanski, up from ninth. Polesitter Joey Ladouceur, Jocelyn Roy and Kenny Martin rounded out the top six.
Stewart Friesen, Billy Decker, Vic Coffey, Tim Fuller, Pat Ward, Jimmy Phelps, David Hebert, Kenny Tremont, Mark Flach, Jr., Vince Vitale, Justin Haers, Eddie Marshall, Mike Perotte, Tim McCreadie, Roy Bresnahan, Ryan Godown, Brian Swarthout, Mike O’Brien, Keith Flach, Donnie Corellis, Rich Scagliotta, Tom Sears, Jr., Tim Currier, J.R. Heffner, Pete Britten, Bobby Varin, Rick Laubach, Bob McGannon, Matt Sheppard, Martin Roy, Brian Murphy, Danny Johnson, Billy Dunn, Larry Wight, Brett Hearn, Steve Hulsizer, Tony Steiner, Jimmy Horton, Ronnie Johnson, Andy Bachetti, Rob Bellinger, Dan Humes, Michael Storms, Chad Brachmann, Billy Vaniwegen.