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Friesen Takes Truck Race at TMS

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 21 2022

Stewart Friesen takes the checkered flag ahead of Christian Eckes to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

FORT WORTH, Texas _ Owner-driver Stewart Friesen needed two laps of overtime Friday night to finally _ finally! _ dispose of Christian Eckes and score his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at Texas Motor Speedway. 

Friesen completed the pass that won the 24th annual SpeedyCash.com 220 exiting Turn 2 of TMS’ high-banked/1.5-mile oval on Lap 149 of an event originally scheduled for 147. After clearing Eckes, Friesen wheeled his No. 52 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro to his third career series victory by a margin of 0.122-seconds.

Friesen’s first victory since 2019 snapped a 53-race winless streak. His most recent series win was at Phoenix Raceway with GMS Racing in November 2019.

Ryan Preece finished third in his No. 17 Ford F-150 after giving Friesen a big push on the night’s final restart on Lap 148. Eckes had the lead in his No. 98  Toyota at that point but Friesen was able to remain alongside heading to the white flag lap.

Eckes and Friesen lined up on the front row for the two-lap overtime shootout after reigning series champion and point-leader Ben Rhodes spun his No. 99  Toyota after contact Tanner Gray’s No. 15 Ford F-150 to bring out the final caution on Lap 143.

“When the No. 17 (Preece) lined up with me, I was like, ‘OK, I’ve got a real racer in my back pocket’ and he shoved the heck out of me,” Friesen said. “I’m terrible on restarts and that was probably the best one on old tires. Just didn’t spin the tires and got a jump then threw a slider in (Turns) 1 and 2 and it stuck.”

Preece appeared to have the truck to beat after winning the first two 35-lap stages.

“I made all the mistakes that I needed to make in the first two segments,” Friesen said. “At the beginning, I didn’t get into it (PJ1 traction compound) quick enough and Preece got around me. That was mistake No. 1. Then mistake No. 2 was when we got with the lapped cars and Preece got by me again. Then I was like, ‘This thing is good. Needs to be a little tighter and change the balance a little bit.’ (crew chief) Jonathan Leonard just got it where it needed to be and it definitely was there at the end.

“We had an awesome truck _ thanks so much to Chris Larson and everyone at Halmar International. The whole group, there’s a huge office there that pulls for us every week. So excited to celebrate with them.

“Thanks to everyone at Toyota and TRD (Toyota Racing Development). This TRD PRO was bad-ass. Thanks to Slugger (Labbe, TRD) and all the guys who’ve worked with us side-by-side building this team; we’re proud of that. Proud to get this Tundra that’s built in (San Antonio) Texas into Victory Lane here.”

Despite Preece’s early presence at the point _ he paced the field three times for 27 laps _ Friesen led seven times for a race-high 60 laps, 20 more than Eckes.

Carson Hocevar finished fourth in the No. 42 Sparco Chevrolet Silverado, with Ty Majeski rounding out the top-five in his No. 66 Toyota.

Friesen said he hopes this will be the “breakout win” for an organization he has built from scratch.

“You have no idea the work that’s gone into this race team over the last three years with Trip Bruce, Jonathan Leonard and all our guys,” said Friesen, a 38-year-old native of Niagara-on-the Lake, Canada. “It’s been a trying three years trying to build this. It’s been tough. We’ve had some good trucks but haven’t been able to put a good race together. Hopefully a lot of long hours are paying off.

“It’s nice to get one during this stretch and something we can build on. We’re in the Playoffs _ how about that!”

Friesen and his team have joined four drivers who have locked themselves into the Playoffs by virtue of their wins this season _ Zane Smith of Front Row Motorsports (three wins: Daytona, Circuit of The Americas, Kansas); Chandler Smith of Kyle Busch Motorsports (Las Vegas); Rhodes of ThorSport Racng (Bristol) and KBM’s John Hunter Nemechek (Darlington).

Nemechek, meanwhile, rallied for a sixth-place finish after qualifying on-pole Friday afternoon at 182.359 mph. But his No. 4 Toyota was forced to start at the rear of the 36-truck field for an unapproved change. Specifically, a crew member was spotted stepping on the truck’s front splitter after qualifying _ an act interpreted by NASCAR’s garage police as an attempt to create more front end downforce.

Undaunted, Nemechek wound up leading 14 laps, thanks primarily to strategy in the pits orchestrated by crew chief Eric Phillips.


A two-time Cup Series event-winner this season, William Byron says the NASCAR All-Star Race requires driver and crew chief to concoct an on-the-fly game plan. Byron, of Hendrick Motorsports, is one of 20 drivers with a secured starting spot in Sunday night’s four-segment, 125-lapper at TMS.

“Yeah, it definitely is a little weirder preparation for the week,” said Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 overseen by crew chief Ryan Fugle. “It’s probably the least that I know about this race of any race every week. I feel like you get in a rhythm when you go to certain racetracks. You know how the stages are going to play-out. You know how long the race is and you kind of plan all that in your head of what’s important. And then you’re also kind of worried about getting a good finish.

“I think at this race, you’re not as worried about getting a solid finish. You’re kind of just worried about winning it.” The winner of the race’s 38th edition will collect a $1-million payday.

“That definitely brings a different preparation leading up to the week, just to think about what’s it going to take to win, instead of what’s it going to take to get myself in a position to win,” Byron said. “You’re really just thinking about the qualifying format; you’re thinking about how do I maximize that to get on the pole.”

The multi-layered qualifying process was scheduled to begin at 6:45 p.m. (CDT) Saturday.


Lil’ Texas Motor Speedway is about to undergo more than a Lil’ renovation. The 1/5-mile asphalt oval is scheduled for a major facelift to help realize NASCAR Cup Series driver Christopher Bell’s vision of bringing Micro Sprint racing to the facility the Norman, Okla.-native has long considered his home track.

Converting the track surface from asphalt to dirt and the addition of a number of improvements will highlight the project for the modest venue that sits adjacent to the Texas Motor Speedway Dirt Track on the 1,500-acre property.

“From the first time I saw Lil’ Texas I couldn’t stop thinking about how cool it would be to have a Micro Sprint race there,” said Bell, driver of the No. 20  Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Cup Series and a champion Sprint Car racer. “I’m super-excited about seeing it actually happen and can’t wait to be a part of it.”

Bell, 27, won’t have to wait long to participate, with a four-day Micro Sprint event scheduled in conjunction with TMS’ NASCAR Playoff doubleheader set for Sept. 23-25.

Lil’ Texas Motor Speedway will host the inaugural “C. Bell’s MICRO MANIA” event Sept. 21-24, featuring practice on Wednesday (Sept. 21), qualifying races Thursday and Friday (Sept. 22-23) and mains and finals Saturday (Sept. 24).

Micro Sprints are smaller versions of full-sized Sprint Cars with side-mounted 600cc “crotch rocket” motorcycle engines that can generate 140 horsepower with similar chassis and body styles to the larger versions.

“We’ve always had a great relationship with Christopher, and he approached us with this intriguing concept for Lil’ Texas Motor Speedway,” said Kenton Nelson, TMS vice president of operations & events. “His extensive knowledge of the sport will be extremely beneficial to us in the renovation of the track as well as getting connected with the Micro Sprint car community.

“In addition to the Micro Sprint race, Christopher also discussed that with all the drivers with kids starting their racing careers that Lil’ Texas Motor Speedway could also serve as a great on-property opportunity to compete when their dads come to town to race.”

The renovation project is slated to begin following this weekend’s NASCAR All-Star Race at TMS, with the initial undertaking being removal of the asphalt. Among the additions or upgrades will be a scoreboard, PA system, front stretch wall/catch fence, caution light system along with a Lil’ Hoss screen, pit area amenities and a 3,500-seat temporary grandstand.

(Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1997) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was inaugural recipient of the Texas Motor Speedway Excellence in Journalism Award (2009). His list of freelance clients includes Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Rome (N.Y) Daily Sentinel, Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times, NASCAR Wire Service and Ford Racing). 


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 21 2022
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