MALTA, N.Y. — After missing the Super DIRTcar Series Feature at Albany-Saratoga Speedway in June, Stewart Friesen returned to Malta Saturday night for a massive result.
Along with claiming the Malta Massive Weekend victory, worth $11,500, he also scored the final Super DIRT Week guaranteed starting spot, locking himself into the 2023 Billy Whittaker Cars 200.
His journey to that triumph starting with lining up to the outside of polesitter Adam Pierson for the 115-lap feature. When the green flag waved, Friesen rocketed past Pierson and ran away with the lead. Pierson trailed in second and James Meehan settled into third.
The positions stayed the same for the next 20 laps, before Meehan passed Pierson to move into second. Rookie of the Year front runner Felix Roy also wanted in on the action, making his way into third by lap 22.
In a matchup that saw six cautions, Friesen showcased the stamina of his #44 machine on every restart, maintaining his lead. He kept Meehan at bay behind him, until Roy was able to make a play.
It took over 50 laps of persistence, but Roy eventually passed Meehan on the lap-79 restart to move into second. The 18-year-old had yet to score a podium finish entering the matchup but could sense this was the night it was within his reach.
The race continued with Friesen extending his sizeable lead in clean air. He navigated his way through the spider web of lapped traffic, welcoming the reprieve of the cautions to cool down his tires.
“About lap 80 or so, I could kind of feel the fuel burn off and I started to get a little bit free,” Friesen said. “I wish I would have tightened up a little bit more at that point. But then we got some cautions and I think it let the tire cool down and it just kind of came back to me there.”
Behind the first three drivers, nine-time and defending series champion Matt Sheppard did not have the same luck with his tires. He started in 10th place and charged his way up to fourth by lap 51. He stayed there for the next 36 laps, lying in wait for an opportunity to advance.
The opportunity unfortunately did not come, as he rolled to a stop around turn one on lap 88 with a flat tire.
With the threat of a charge from the current points leader diffused, and a sizeable lead over second-place Roy, the Ontario driver kept his stride in check for the remaining laps and cruised his way to his first series victory of the season – and fourth series win at Albany-Saratoga.
“I think we made the right choice for the track conditions tonight,” Friesen said. “It paid off tonight. I’m proud of the whole Halmar (Racing) Team…a lot of hard work goes into this and hopefully we can carry this momentum into (Super) DIRT Week.”
Behind the Halmar Team, Roy held on to finish second – his most successful finish of his rookie season.
“We made the bottom work on the restarts,” Roy said. “That really helped us. But after that, I was just doing my slider line, going up to the cushion. I think that was the way to go…starting from the middle and sliding to the top.”
Meehan rounded out the podium for an encouraging result.
“To be able to battle with professional race car drivers and guys that run the Series is up there,” Meehan said. “We try really hard. Racing here weekly, it’s the best track around, we got the best competition around, and that helps us get better. You only get better when you race against the best.”
Larry Wight scored his second top-five finish of the season, charging up 18 positions to fourth place.
Feature (115 Laps): 1. 44-Stewart Friesen; 2. 91-Felix Roy; 3. 32C-James Meehan; 4. 99L-Larry Wight; 5. 21A-Peter Britten; 6. 91D-Billy Decker; 7. 98H-Jimmy Phelps; 8. 88-Mat Williamson; 9. 83X-Tim Sears Jr; 10. 115-Kenny Tremont Jr; 11. 3J-Marc Johnson; 12. 215-Adam Pierson; 13. 5H-Chris Hile; 14. 2-Jack Lehner; 15. 12-Darren Smith; 16. 3-Chad Brachmann; 17. 9S-Matt Sheppard; 18. 99-Kolby Schroder; 19. 55H-Brett Haas; 20. 8H-Max McLaughlin; 21. (DNF) 15X-Justin Stone; 22. (DNF) 2RJ-Ronnie Johnson; 23. (DNF) 4-Anthony Perrego; 24. (DNF) 87-Neil Stratton; 25. (DNF) 35-Mike Mahaney; 26. (DNF) 6H-Josh Hohenforst; 27. (DNF) 14-CG Morey