Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, August 22, 2018 11:04 AM EDT
Canada & # 39; s Stewart Friesen has made great progress since adding full-time racing tasks in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series to its already busy schedule.
His next stop on the circuit is a play-off race in his homeland.
Friesen becomes a headliner at Sunday's Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario. It is the opener in the Chase to the Championship, a seven-track schedule that ends with the final in mid-November in Miami.
Friesen, born in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., Florized in the Super DIRTcar series and enjoys a breakthrough season on the Truck Series.
He finished second with GC Johnny Sauter on last week's UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway to take fifth place in the overall standings, making the Chase easily eighth.
"I'm a bit of a stranger, because I'm already out to be a professional driver who makes a decent sandwich and started it late," he said. "It was pretty cool because we created a large fan base from the Northeast."
Friesen, 35, rode karts as a youngster and started his racing career in 1999. He became a regular guest in the mud circuit after obtaining a beta degree at the University of Windsor in 2007.
"I have been racing for as long as I can remember", said Friesen from his home base Sprakers, N.Y.
He has more than 260 victories in his dirt-race career and finished second in Super DIRTcar Series points in 2016. His debut at the NASCAR Truck Series that year was at Eldora Speedway, the only race on the circuit's dirt.
The skillset of Friesen, sharpened from powering 800-horsepower big block modifications, has served him well in the Truck series, where he collaborated with Chris Larsen to create Halmar Friesen Racing.
"We have some sort of branching in this NASCAR truck deal, now everything is going well," he said. "We have had a lot of success with it, I still run the garbage truck as much as I can, so we are definitely busy."
Friesen took the regular season with 2,012 points. Three runner-up finishes between 11 top-10 finishes helped his total.
"We nail setups as we unload in practice and so, that was the biggest," said Friesen. "We just did not have a lot of luck, we did a lot of laps in Michigan (earlier this month) and then put a penalty in the pits to keep the race off.
"So we've had this a few times this year, it has kept us out of the victory track, but we've certainly had the speed all year round."
The Bowmanville stop is the first time in the history of the Truck series that a playoff race is being held on an international circuit. Friesen is the first Canadian to qualify for the playoffs.
"Although we have not yet achieved victory, we are often in the top five and we have a lot of speed," he said. "That was the biggest, only the right parts and people get together."
Friesen has maintained a routine to participate in modified races through the summer – many are in the middle of the week – and then on the weekend to make Truck Series stops. If the timing works, he will even press in two races on the same day.
"Everything is seamless," he said. "I have a lot of great friends with whom I can race in a modernized way, that makes things happen when I'm away to do the truck deal, we can jump back and forth because of a great support group."
Sauter, the champion of the 2016 series, leads a top five that includes Brett Moffitt, Noah Gragson and Ben Rhodes. Grant Enfinger, Justin Haley and Matt Crafton are also in the playoff field.
Friesen had a couple of top five finishes last season and finished 14th in points over 19 starts. He had seven top five results this season and is hopeful that an elusive victory will soon come.
"We are absolutely capable of winning a race, it is just one of those things where we do not let breaks get into races to close the deal," he said. "We won a number of stages and drove a number of laps all year round and it just seems we can not close it.
"So if we have a smooth day without penalties and everything goes as we are, I think we'll be able to win on each of the numbers Canadian Tire is a wild card because I'm pretty light on racing experience, but I have a lot of confidence in the truck that we will bring. "