VERNON, N.Y. — Stewart Friesen beat the cold to win Sunday’s big-block modified feature at Utica-Rome Speedway.
Matt Sheppard and Vic Coffey brought the field to the green flag to begin the 50-lap event with Coffey grabbing the early lead as he led the opening circuit. Sheppard charged by to lead lap two and slowly began to edge away from the rest of the field. The first caution flag of the night came out on lap seven, allowing the field to catch up with Sheppard.
The restart saw Coffey again take the lead, and this time, he was able to hang on to it but Sheppard was all over him as he attempted to retake the lead.
While Coffey and Sheppard battle out front, it was 20th-place starter Friesen who was turning heads as was charging through the pack.
By lap six, he was into the top ten and on lap 15, he cracked the top five just as Sheppard regained the lead from Coffey. Friesen’s charge was not done yet, however as he was into third on lap 19 as the caution flew a second time, allowing him to catch up to the leading duo of Sheppard and Coffey.
The restart saw Sheppard hold off Coffey this time for the top spot with Friesen still looking for more and on lap 21, Friesen made a pass on the low side of the speedway to grab second from Coffey. A lap later on lap 22, Friesen completed his charge to the front as he went underneath Sheppard for the lead.
As the field completed the halfway point on lap 25, it was Friesen setting a blistering pace over Sheppard, Coffey, Larry Wight and Brett Hearn.
The final caution period of the event came on lap 28 which would be the only thing that would slow Friesen’s pace as he again took off from the field when green flag racing resumed. 12th place starter Hearn was now making his presence felt as he began to pick his way through the top five as he was fourth on lap 28 and up to third a circuit later as he began to pursue second place Sheppard.
This dropped Sheppard into the clutches of Ward, who after starting 22nd, was making an impressive charge of his own. As the circuits wound down, Sheppard and Ward would exchange the third spot on several occasions and when the checkered flag waved it was Friesen taking the $5,000 win over Hearn, Sheppard, Ward and Mike Mahaney.
Claude Hutchings Jr. took home the top honors in the sportsman class. Tom Denton made a late-race pass in the pro stock feature to take the victory while Ricky Breed took another pure stock checkered flag.