HEDGER: Watching From Afar

Ron Hedger

BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. – We’ve been watching the racing action from afar this summer, as we’re a triple risk factor for the COVID-19 virus and have been staying away from crowds as much as possible.

Hopefully New York’s closely watched statistics will continue to improve and before the leaves begin to turn we can get back to our usual haunts for a race or two.

Right now we’re waiting to see if conditions will allow the Labor Day weekend International Classic for supermodifieds and October’s Super DIRT Week to run at Oswego Speedway. So far the Steel Palace has yet to hear engines roar in 2020 and the Super DIRTcar Series has run but one event, at New Jersey’s reconfigured Bridgeport Speedway, but hope springs eternal.

Locally, Albany-Saratoga, Fonda and Lebanon Valley have been racing without fans, though the latter two did have infield spectators at a couple of events and one night each with fans in the stands only to have the State of New York intervene.

The big winner, not surprisingly, has been Stewart Friesen, with a half dozen scores at Fonda and another handful at Albany-Saratoga despite absences for NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series events.

His truck team may be struggling to equal the success with their new Toyotas that they achieved in the past with Chevrolets but Friesen has again proven himself to be the leading light in the modified world, recently running off a Kyle Larson-like four wins in six day streak that saw him score at Five Mile Point, Bridgeport’s Super DIRT Series event and back home at Albany-Saratoga and Fonda.

The Albany-Saratoga win was highlighted by a last lap pass of Marc Johnson while at Fonda Friesen had to hold off his wife, Jessica, to get to victory lane. If they are ever home long enough for a family dinner, there will certainly be plenty to talk about.

Kyle Busch and others have recently pointed out that a few Cup drivers have never won more than a race or two at any level and lack the experience and instincts necessary to compete at that level. Wouldn’t it be nice if bringing money was not the chief criteria in moving to NASCAR’s top level and drivers like Stewart Friesen could get a chance in the big league?

Sprint car racing has benefitted greatly this summer from the exposure Kyle Larson’s win streak has brought the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions and the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series and one has to think that once he has done his penance, he will return to the Cup Series and, hopefully, reach his so far unfulfilled potential.

Larson would be a great replacement for Clint Bowyer, who appears to have a bright future in broadcasting, and there is no doubt that he and Tony Stewart are on the same wave length as lovers of the sport and devotees of all sorts of racing.

Meanwhile, we’ll be hoping that somehow the stars align as well for Stewart Friesen, one of the top half dozen talents we’ve had the pleasure to observe over the last six-plus decades.