VERNON, N.Y. – Stewart Friesen captured the first trip for the Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco to Utica-Rome Speedway on Thursday night, holding off Matt Sheppard during the Richie Evans Remembered 61.
“I was worried, starting up front, somebody behind you can find something and run you down. But Matt (Sheppard) started up front with me, so I knew we’d be searching together,” explained Friesen in Victory Lane.
Friesen’s win pocketed him $6,161.61-plus and extended his record as the all-time winningest driver on the STSS. Friesen, who entered the night fourth in Hurlock Auto & Speed North Region point standings, drew closer to the point lead as well.
Following the Beyea Custom Headers Redraw, Sheppard and Friesen occupied the front row, and the battle was on. The two sit atop the Utica-Rome all-time win list and the STSS all-time win list.
When the race began Friesen jumped off the outside and darted to the lead, before a yellow on lap one for Billy Van Pelt facing the wrong direction in turn two.
After another early yellow, Friesen set the pace, while Sheppard continued trying to reel him in. The two caught the back half of the field by the 10th circuit, as
Sheppard continued to try to seize an opportunity to sneak by Friesen.
Meanwhile, Mike Mahaney was reeling in Bobby Hackel, slipping by for third on lap 13. Two laps later, Alan Johnson drove around Hackel to take fourth.
A few laps later, Johnson continued to work forward, reeling in and slipping by Mahaney on lap 23 and taking the third position.
Friesen and Sheppard continued to knife through lap traffic, lapping into the top-10 before a lap-37 yellow came out for fourth place running Mike Mahaney breaking on the front stretch.
After another yellow on lap 38, the green flag fell for the final time and Friesen went right back to work. Sheppard tried the top and bottom in each corner, but Friesen’s No. 44 was too strong.
While Friesen led Sheppard, Rocky Warner came to life, climbing to the third position all by himself. While Warner camped out in third, Alan Johnson battled with Jessica Friesen, Mat Williamson, and Anthony Perrego for the fourth spot.
In the end, Friesen never made the mistake Sheppard needed, capturing the historic event at Utica-Rome.
Sheppard finished in the runner-up spot in his Hurlock Auto & Speed No. 9s, and Rocky Warner rounded out the podium finishers in the Jason Simmons Racing No. 98.
Mat Williamson won the battle for fourth in his Behrent’s Performance Warehouse Mo. 3 and Alan Johnson grabbed fifth in the Friendly Ford No. 14J.
Sixth was Anthony Perrego, who salvaged a good finish after going a lap down. Jessica Friesen ran in the top-10 all night, coming home seventh, and Andy Bachetti snagged the eighth spot.
Ninth was Erick Rudolph in the Revive Spine Center No. 25 and Dave Marcuccilli rounded out the top-10.
In companion action, Payton Talbot picked up his first STSS SCrate 602 Sportsman victory.
Stewart Friesen, Matt Sheppard, Rocky Warner, Mat Williamson, Alan Johnson, Anthony Perrego, Jessica Friesen, Andy Bachetti, Erick Rudolph, Dave Marcuccilli, Alex Yankowski, Bobby Varin, Tyler Dippel, Brett Haas, David Schilling, JaMike Sowle, Shaun Walker, Bobby Hackel, Billy VanPelt, Joe Judge, JR Hurlburt, Mike Gular, Mike Mahaney, Willy Decker, Marshall Hurd, Ronnie Johnson, Billy Decker, Randy Shantel, Sean Beardsley.