No matter what he races, Stewart Friesen finds a way to get the most out of his car.
From earning four consecutive big-block modified track championships at Fonda Speedway to claiming three victories in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Friesen has established himself as one of the most versatile drivers of the last two decades.
Crossing disciplines is exactly why Friesen was competing in the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway this week after as he worked out a deal with his friend and long-time competitor Todd Stone to run his super late model last year while balancing out busy racing schedules at Volusia Speedway Park and All-Tech Raceway.
After finishing ninth out of 24 cars in his lone World Series of Asphalt race, Friesen knew he had to come back with Stone for another chance to compete in the nine-day event.
“[Todd and I] have been friends a long time,” Friesen said. “They have a nice shop down here [in Florida] and they offered that up to us to work on our modified stuff last year. We got to drinking some beers and [Todd] asked me if I wanted to drive his car [the following night]. We ran [the Clyde Hart Memorial] and put together the schedule to run [two nights] this week.”
Although super late models are outside of his area of expertise, Friesen is no stranger to how the cars drive.
The first venture for Friesen into super late model competition took place in 2018 and was a successful one. Across his first three starts, Friesen never finished outside the top 10 and tallied two second-place finishes at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway.
Friesen also successfully qualified for the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway that year, but his aspirations of another strong performance ended when he was involved in a crash on Lap 58.
Several factors, including conflicts with his big-block modified and Truck Series commitments, have prevented Friesen from competing regularly in super late models since 2018, which is one reason why he enjoyed being a part of that environment during his two days at the World Series of Asphalt this week.
The race day schedules of a super late model show are much longer for Friesen compared to a big-block modified event, but the extra time allowed Friesen to work more diligently with Stone and his crew to improve their car.
“It’s two different worlds,” Friesen said. “In big blocks, you show up at the track at around 3 or 4 [p.m.] in the afternoon before racing at 9 at night. With [New Smyrna], you get here at 9 in the morning and work your butt off all day. It’s a different world, but it’s a lot of fun.”
Friesen said Stone’s own experiences as a driver was crucial in helping him get more comfortable with the car ahead of Tuesday’s Clyde Hart Memorial.
Among the accomplishments Stone himself has accumulated are five victories in the ACT Late Model Tour and two consecutive track championships at Vermont’s Devil’s Bowl Speedway. He also won a World Series of Asphalt title in 2014 while competing in the Florida Modified division.
For Stone, the versatility Friesen has as a driver provides him with numerous benefits in a World Series of Asphalt environment that continues to see an influx of big-budget organizations with every passing year.
“Honestly, [Friesen] is a really great guy,” Stone said. “He can drive on both dirt and asphalt, plus he’s always competitive in both. Stewart coming from a dirt background is very important, especially when you’re jumping into asphalt. He’s a better wheelman than me.”
Stone split his own car with Friesen during the World Series of Asphalt. The duo spent their first day together battling a tight car in the middle of the corner, while their second outing opened with them repairing cosmetic damage after an incident in practice.
The efforts of Friesen and Stone yielded mixed results. Friesen managed to climb from 21st to 11th on Monday night, but a right front suspension failure relegated him to a 30th place showing in the Clyde Hart Memorial Tuesday.
Although Stone was hoping for a better performance with Friesen during the World Series of Asphalt, he considers himself fortunate to just have him behind the wheel of his car and hopes the two can team up once again when Stone drives back to Florida from the Northeast next February.
“This is probably going to be it [for the year],” Stone said. “I’m leaving the car down here in Florida since I only run it once a year. [Stewart] found out the same things I did, so it made me feel pretty good that he had the same feel for the car I did.”
The established commitments Friesen has during the month of February are going to prevent him from running an expanded New Smyrna schedule, but he did not rule out the possibility of climbing into a modified one year to test his talents against drivers like three-time World Series of Asphalt champion Matt Hirschman.
Friesen admitted there are very few environments in racing that compare to seeing drivers from numerous diverse backgrounds descend onto New Smyrna for the World Series of Asphalt and he intends to make another appearance in the event next year.
“The center of pavement racing right now is right here in New Smyrna,” Friesen said. “With this deal, you get the best guys from all over the country, so it’s a cool opportunity to race with them and see guys from the modified world that I don’t typically see that often. It’s just a fun, couple of days here.”
A personal goal for Friesen within the next few years is to win a big-block modified feature, a World Series of Asphalt race, and the NextEra Energy 250 at Daytona International Speedway all in the same month.
Friesen knows winning in three different cars at three different tracks is a monumental task, but he’s confident his success across all forms of motorsports puts him in a unique position to pull it off.