By Mark Kane

Under bright skies and temps in the 90s there was a freeze warning in the Capital District, and like a hurricane it had a name: Mr. Freeze, Stewart Friesen. The likable Friesen started off the weekend with a win at the “Great Race Place” Albany Saratoga and came right back Saturday to grab his second win of the year in a dominating performance at the “Track of Champions” Fonda Speedway.

The talented Canadian who resides in Sprakers, New York, is at the top of his game in the Halmar-sponsored Bicknell Chassis, Billy-the-Kid-powered hot rod and just seems to get better and better. Most race fans don’t like a winner, but there is something special about Stewie that seems to keep the fans cheering him on. The man behind the wheel of that fast hot rod can plain-and-simple flat-out drive – no matter if it is a regular Saturday night at Fonda or hitting the road to take on the Short Track Super Series, DIRTcar Super DIRT Series, or climb into his NASCAR Gander Mountain Truck Series ride. There have been times he has raced the Halmar Truck early in the day and then climbed aboard a plane and headed back to race Modifieds on the dirt.

Back in the day that was something they did every weekend: racing asphalt one night and dirt the next using the same car. He is more than happy to stay after the races and talk to his fans until the last one has left as well as support what he believes in. During this time of need the Halmar Hauler has delivered 16 tons of food to local food banks, and he supports autism any time and any way he can as it is something that is very close to his heart.

To Stewie as it has been with the entire Friesen family for years, racing is a family deal, and there is nothing better than to see his son Parker put on a roof dance for the fans. I guess you can say he never forgot his racing roots or those champions who have come before him. Yes, some will say it is all about the money behind him and, yes, there is no shortage of that but, still the man behind the wheel has to have the talent to get it done, and that he does with his clean, smooth driving style that has netted him nine wins already in this shortened season.

Last week at the Fonda Speedway fans were allowed in the stands, but only in designated areas with plenty of room for social distancing between rows, and the infield was open and Dirt Tack Digest also had live video coverage. It may not have been the regular Saturday night crowd, but all considered it was another step forward in what we hope is the right direction. That old girl that sits along the Mohawk is responding well to the new surface even under the bright sun beating down and the high temperatures along with a fine field of cars.

Early in the night during the SUNOCO Modified heats Danny Varin showed he was ready for the night turning in some impressive laps on his way to a heat 1 win while Mike Maresca, who has shown early season speed, and fan favorite Jessica Friesen picked up heats 2 and 3. During his heat race Craig Hanson took a hard ride aboard his #20 machine doing heavy damage to the car and forcing him to the backup 20.

At the drop of the green it was Danny Varin picking up where he left off in his heat race win powering to the lead through turn 1 with rookie Adam McAuliffe and teammate Dave Constantino in tow. The caution would fly early for another rookie Rich Christman. Once back to green Varin continued to lead, but now it was Mike Maresca on the move and, oh, was he coming fast and would take the lead, but once again the yellow was out. Back to green and the Varin 93 did not fire stacking up the field handing the lead to Maresca as 10th-place starter Stewart Friesen took full advantage and was now into third as Mat Williamson, the 2019 DIRTcar Champion making a rare appearance aboard the Behrent’s Performance #3, was on the move. Lap 6 found Friesen wound up and flying on the high side and was the new leader out of turn 4 as they crossed in front of the covered grandstand of the historic oval and powered into turn 1 with Maresca in tow. Quickly Friesen started to open up the lead, but just as quick the 247 of Maresca was all over the rear deck of the 44 of Friesen with Williamson working his way past Varin and once again the yellow flew to tighten up the field. Back to green and again the Varin machine didn’t fire, causing the field behind him to take aggressive action, and the fine night for the Varin 93 soon came to an end as he went pit side, ending his night. Once back to green it was Friesen in command, but Maresca was not going to give up as once again he started to reel in the leader as Matt DeLorenzo was on the high side working his way into the top five with the 2019 Track Champion, Rocky Warner, right with him on a very smooth fast surface that had a top and bottom groove. After the final caution Friesen continued to be the leader and began to pull away from the field working his way through traffic and keeping the 44 out front as he cruised to claim back to back wins at the “Track of Champions”, his 62nd of his career and is now only three wins shy of tying Bobby Varin for fourth on the All Time win leader rankings in just nine seasons at the track that has earned its nickname over the years. Following Friesen to the line was Maresca, Williamson, DeLorenzo, with Warner rounding out the top five.

In the Swagger Factory Apparel 602 Crates it was a first-time winner as Joe Williams who has been an off-and-on regular over the years used his front row starting spot to pick up the win holding off Chad Edwards. On the night Williams would be the class of the field but Edwards who had started seventh worked hard to get to the runner-up spot in the highly competitive 602 class then ran down the leader and going down the backstretch in heavy traffic was all over Williams who was able to pick the right lane between turns 3 and 4 and hold on for the win.

Once again the Pro Stocks put on a great show with Josh Coonradt picking up another hard-fought win. Any win in this class is hard to get. It was Justin Knight taking the early lead before 2019 Track Champion Luke Horning took over the top spot on lap 4. The caution was out for Nick Stone who slowed in turn 1 as the hood on his 27 had come up and he headed to the hot pit where they removed the hood and sent him back to the track. Once back to green Horning continued to lead as it was Coonradt now on the move working his way to third and would take over second from Knight. Behind the leaders, all-time win leader Kenny Gates was on the move and moving to the front. Deep in the pack Stone was picking off cars two and three a lap. With 10 laps in the books Coonradt was closing on the leader and quickly was all over the leader as Gates had now moved into third and still charging as was Stone. Using a great move in turn 3 Coonradt would be the new leader as Stone had worked his way into the top five. With Coonradt holding the lead after a restart Stone worked his way past Knight, and Gates then set his sites on second-running Horning, now the war was on over the last hand full of laps as Horning and Stone raced hard as they have many time over the last few years as Coonradt continued to set the pace. A late-race caution gave Stone his chance as he would move to second on the restart and was quickly working on Coonradt. The full fender Pro Stock of Coonradt on the bottom and Stone on the top side – where you can find him most Saturday nights – put on a show for the lead with Coonradt able to hold on for the win. Following Coonradt to the line was Stone after a great drive back to the front, Horning, Gates and Devon Camenga rounding out the top five with a fine run looking like he has really stepped up his game for the season.

In other action Al Relya picked up the Street Stock feature as Ken Hollenbeck picked up his 51st win in the Four Cylinders.

Friday night at the “Great Race Place” Albany Saratoga it was Stewart Friesen picking up the Modified win over last week’s winners Mike Mahaney, Mat Williamson, Jessey Mueller and Matt DeLorenzo. During the event Kenny Tremont went for a wild ride aboard his 115 after contact with rookie driver James Meehan as the two made contact just before turn 1, sending the Tremont car high into the air and then into a series of flips. One of the nice guys of our sport Kenny Tremont walked away from the incident, but the car was said to be a total loss. In other action Tim Hartman picked up the Sportsman win, Josh Coonradt started of his weekend with the Pro Stock win, Bryant Moore was the Limited Sportsman winner, and Kaleb Sheppard was the Street Stock winner.

At the “Valley of Speed” Lebanon Valley Speedway it was Andy Bachetti in for the win over Ronnie Johnson, Eddie Marshall, Olden Dwyer, and local star, the “Ravena Rocket” Keith Flach rounded out the top five. Other action found John Virgilio with the Sportsman win, and Pro Stocks were won by Chad Jeseo.

At Glen Ridge it was Travis Green picking up his first win at the Ridge in the Red Chair DIRTcar Sportsman over Tucker O’Conner, Bill August and Cody Ochs, with Justin Buff rounding out the top five. Other action saw Nick Stone pick up the DIRTcar Pro Stock win, Troy Zillies Limited Sportsman, Damon Anderson was the Street Stock winner.

Well, folks, let me tell you how exciting it was to see cars on the track again. It was a long time coming. Please be sure to support the sponsors that support the great sport of racing. Be sure to check out our Facebook page (and “Like”) DIRT Central.

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