Stewart and Jessica Friesen have competed against each other before in multiple sprint car and modified divisions, teaming up as a formidable husband-wife combination at local and regional dirt-track venues. They haven’t formed a 1-2 punch on quite as large a stage as they plan to next weekend, with both Friesens entered in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ first race on Bristol Motor Speedway’s dirt surface.
Should Jessica qualify, it would mark her NASCAR national series debut.
The entire situation has the couple’s 5-year-old son, Parker, a bit perplexed.
“He’s still very confused on that, I think,” Jessica said in a Wednesday video call with reporters. “He says, ‘No, Mom. Dad races the truck, you race the modified, and trucks don’t race on dirt, trucks race on the pavement.’ So he was just kind of getting his mind wrapped around all that. He was still, two years ago at Eldora (Speedway), a little bit young to really soak it all up and quite understand exactly what was going on.”
The March 27-28 weekend promises to be a big one for the Friesens. The Halmar Friesen Racing operation will field a second truck, placing Jessica in the No. 62 Toyota with her husband wheeling his familiar No. 52 entry. And Stewart’s weekend workload just increased with Tuesday’s announcement from Spire Motorsports that Sunday’s main event will mark his Cup Series debut in the No. 77 Chevrolet.
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The Friesens’ racing efforts have been mostly confined to a smaller scale on dirt tracks in the northeast, but their success has come in larger measure. The couple — who counts drivers’ meetings at Utica-Rome (N.Y.) Speedway among their first dates in the early 2000s — swept to a dominant 1-2 finish in big-block modified competition as recently as last August at Fonda (N.Y.) Speedway’s dirt half-mile.
Jessica said she grew up in racing, starting with go-karts at age 7 and working her way up the local ladder. She has put her motorsports efforts largely on the back burner in recent years, placing her family and care for her son, who is on the autism spectrum, as a top priority with the family’s screen-printing business — One Zee Tees — coming second.
That pecking order left racing third on the list, but when the opportunity arose to flex her dirt-track skills in the Bristol inaugural alongside her husband, it was too enticing to pass up.
“This will be a story for our grandkids someday,” Jessica said. “No matter what happens at this race, we went and did this. We kind of went out there, had fun and hopefully it turns out well. Hopefully, we’ll see. Who knows what could happen. Stewart says no pressure, so I’m just going to keep having that mentality.”
Jessica said she has been leaning on her husband’s experience with trucks, given that at-track time will be limited before preliminary qualifying heats and the featured Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt (March 27, 8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). He should be a valuable resource, considering the first of his two Camping World Trucks victories came on Eldora’s Ohio clay back in 2019.
When it comes to expectations, Stewart said there are no friendly wagers between the two as to who might fare the best at Bristol. The team, however? Stewart couldn’t help be smile.
“I think on the crew, there’s a lot of side bets going on with our guys,” he said.
As far as the youngest Friesen in the family is concerned, Parker’s rooting interests still appear to be a divided loyalty.
“He’s been asked that a couple times, and he changes his outlook on it depending on what he’s trying to get from mom or dad at that moment,” Jessica said. “I’m not so sure he knows.”