VERNON, N.Y. – Stewart Friesen picked up right where he left at the Utica-Rome Speedway in a sprint car, in Victory Lane. The Sprakers, N.Y., driver took the lead from Paul Kinney in the late stages and never looked back in scoring his first Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprint (ESS) series win of the 2014 season.
It was also Friesen’s first win of the season at the half-mile speedplant, but it wasn’t his only win of the night as he got off the snide in the modified ranks as well giving him the clean sweep of the night at Utica-Rome. It was his fifth career series win and it came in the E&V Energy Tour of America, SUNY Canton Racing series 25-lap main-event.
“I hope we can get a few Modified wins this year” laughed Friesen. “I hope this isn’t the only.”
Jeff Cook was flanked by Jason Barney at the start of the feature with Cook leading the way at the green. Cook paced the field for the first two circuits before the red flag came out as Barney flipped after contact with Shawn Donath. Barney flipped off the outside of turn. He was not injured in the crash.
At the green Cook paced the field with a new challenger emerging into the second spot. Kinney moved into second on lap three and then three laps later he wrestled the lead away from Cook on the bottom.
Kinney was leading when a second red flag stopped the action as Shawn Donath got into the wall off of the second turn. Donath was running the extremely high side on the speedway and he caught the outside wall as he exited turn two causing his car to get upside-down for a second time on the weekend. Like Barney he was not injured.
Kinney restarted the field on the bottom with Chuck Hebing to his outside. Kinney stayed on the bottom of the speedway as Hebing utilized the cushion all the way around the track. Kinney opened the advantage on Hebing as the laps clicked off, but once again a caution changed the complexion of the race on lap 15. Zach Wiegand spun in the second turn just as the leaders came into the corner with Hebing barely missing the Syracuse, N.Y., driver.
The next restart proved to be the turning point as Friesen used an impressive three-wide pass to take over the second position at the green. Like Hebing, he was using the outside of the racing surface. This allowed him to close in on Kinney.
“We were a little too tight to roll the bottom like Paul was,” stated Friesen who once again drove the Doug Emery owned #33. “I knew if I could get my left rear in the brown I could get a little bit of a launch. Cobra (Hebing) struggled on the top and we were able to get in there and fill the hole. Once we got into clean air we could race him.”
The duo battled for the lead until lap 21 when Kinney got too low on the speedway and caught an implement tire. This collapsed his front end and sent him off the speedway into the infield handing the lead over to Friesen. Friesen never relinquished command en route to the feature win.
“What a race with Paul there,” stated Friesen. “He was strong on the bottom. I don’t know we just kind of pecked and pecked at it. The bottom was getting used up. We ended up getting him. That sucks that Paul didn’t end up second, he was down on the bottom doing a hell of a job.”
Hebing, of Ontario, N.Y., finished the second position giving him two podium finishes on the weekend. It was a strong effort from the veteran driver and former Empire Super Sprint champion.
“I guess we had the second fastest car,” commented Hebing. “Kinney had a real good car. We had good cars, just not as good as Stewie is right now. I don’t know if it is the car or driver, but I’ll give the driver a little bit of credit. He’s always tough.”
Cook eventually came home in third earning him two top five finishes in ESS competition for the weekend. Like Hebing, it was one of his best weekends in recent memory.
“We’ll take it any time we can finish in the top three or the top five,” said the Antwerp, N.Y., driver. “Last year we struggled a little bit, this year we got new cars and hopefully we can build on that.”
Part-time sprint car driver and modified regular, Danny Varin, finished in the fourth position while defending series champion and current point leader Steve Poirier completed the top five. Rounding out the top ten were Jessica Zemken, making his return to ESS competition after his back injury was Michael Parent who also earned the hard charger honors, Matt Tanner, Tommy Wickham and Robbie Stillwaggon.
ESS/Utica-Rome Notes – A stout field of 32 sprints filled the pits in front of a huge Utica-Rome crowd…That crowd also helped in donating $2,593.50 for injured drivers Duane Mausteller and Jamie Collard as ESS drivers went through the grandstands with helmet in hand…Mike Stelter, Parent, Varin, Kelly Hebing, Kyle Dutcher and Larry Wight made first ESS starts of 2014…Next weekend it’s the annual sprint invasion of Quebec with stops at Autodrome’s Granby and Drummond for two $1800 to win, $450 to start events.
Lucas Oil ESS A-Main – Stewart Friesen ($1,625), Chuck Hebing, Jeff Cook, Danny Varin, Steve Poirier, Jessica Zemken, Michael Parent, Matt Tanner, Tommy Wickham, Robbie Stillwaggon, Larry Wight, Charlie Donk, Cory Sparks, Joe Trenca, Kevin Ward Jr., James Hanson, Paul Habeck, Etienne Girard, Zach Weigand, Kelly Hebing, Paul Kinney, Shawn Donath, Josh Pieniazek, Jason Barney.
Did Not Qualify – Patrick Vigneault, Tim Axton, Mike Stelter, Kyle Dutcher, Dave Axton, Kory Gurney, Jeff VanDusen, Parker Evans.
Lap Leaders – Cook 1-6, Kinney 6-21, Friesen 22-25.
Car Mate Custom Built Trailers Heat 1 – Wight, Poirier, Sparks, Varin, Stillwaggon, Wickham.
Car Mate Custom Built Trailers Heat 2 – Friesen, Kinney, Tanner, Barney, Pieniazek, K. Hebing,
Car Mate Custom Built Trailers Heat 3 – C. Hebing, Donath, Zemken, Cook, Hanson, Habeck.
Pitre Painting/Cobra Coaches Dash – Friesen
Lacaillade Masonry B-Main – Parent, Ward Jr., Donk, Trenca.
Provisional Starters – Girard, Weigand
Westward Painting Company Halfway – Kinney $100
Insinger Performance Hard Charger – Parent (12 pos). $50
Fondations 55 Pick 3 – Poirier $50
Lacaillade Masonry B-Main – Parent. $50
Car Mate Trailers Heats – Wight, Friesen, C. Hebing $25
Go Nuclear Go Fast Award – C. Hebing (19.526) $25
Bitner Automotive Blistering Fast Time – C. Hebing (19.526) $25