A lot has changed for Stewart Friesen since he first ran around the grounds of Ransomville Speedway as a young boy helping his family with the various odd jobs and tasks that had to be completed at the Niagara County dirt oval they owned.
Fast forward to the present day and Friesen, 32, has come a long way in a very successful racing career that has seen him win numerous races and track and series championships in many forms of competition all over, primarily the Northeastern United States.
Last week, he gained his most prominent national exposure yet when he competed on the FOX network in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Eldora Speedway in Ohio.
Friesen returns to his racing and family roots when he competes next Tuesday at Ransomville in the annual Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modified 32nd Annual Alex Friesen Summer Nationals 100. The night before, he will compete with the same series at Merrittville Speedway in Thorold, Ont., in the Bob St. Amand Sr. Memorial 100.
Friesen, a native of Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, has also undergone many changes in his personal life including becoming a husband and father. Now residing in Sprakers with his Sprint Car driving wife Jessica Friesen and the couple’s eight-month-old son, Parker, Stewart has found happiness on and off the track.
Stewart has won the Summer Nationals on four occasions including 2006, 2010, 2012 and 2015.
Friesen’s return to Ransomville will be even more emotional than normal as this is the first time he will compete there after his family sold the track to the Atwal family last December. The Friesen family had owned Ransomville for the previous 42 years.
“I will enjoy coming back to the area because I will see my cousins and other relatives next week at Ransomville but it will still be somewhat bittersweet because it will be the first time in my life that I will be there and my family no longer owns the track,” said Friesen.
“I guess all things sometime change. I guess it’s the circle of life.”
With Ransomville sold, it has allowed Stewart’s parents, Jamie and Yvonne Friesen more time to travel and attend Stewart’s races as well as visit Sprakers more often to see Jessica and Parker. Jamie and Yvonne helped co-manage Ransomville for many years along with many other members of the Friesen family.
That’s not all that has changed for Stewart.
Stewart is driving in both Big Block Modified and 358 Modified competitions this year for the first time for the Halmar International team. In recent years, Stewart often drove for many different teams in the same season.
Stewart drives for Halmar on the Super DIRTcar Big Block Modified Series where he has wonthree times in 2016 and is currently second in points. He competes with Halmar in weekly Big Block competition at Albany-Saratoga on Fridays where he has three wins this season and still is seeking his first win of the year at the Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown where he runs Saturdays.
In 358 racing, he competes in Brett Deyo’s Short Track Super Series and leads the South Region points and is second to Erick Rudolph in North Region markers. He also occasionally races in Sprint Cars.
He is enjoying his first season with Halmar, particularly on the Super DIRTcar schedule.
“This experience with Halmar has been awesome,” said Stewart. “It’s allowed me to compete at a higher level and I feel more unified as a driver now and can concentrate on one team because I’m racing every night with the same team instead of the five or so teams I was driving for over the last few seasons.”
“I’ve had a good year in the Super DIRTcar Big block series, with three wins and I finished every race in the series so far except one. I had my first (Did Not Finish) of the season last week at Sharon, Ohio, but I’m going to turn that one around.”
While a winner at so many tracks, Stewart’s career has been defined on the former one-mile dirt oval at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse where he has won the most prestigious annual Big-Block Modified event, the Super DIRT Week Syracuse 200, four of the last six years.
Since his most recent Syracuse 200 victory last October, the track and grandstand at the State Fairgrounds have been demolished to make way for many non-racing renovations. Super DIRT Week will move this October to the Oswego Speedway, where several inches of dirt will be laid over the asphalt surface.
“I’m pumped that we’re going to Oswego,” said Stewart. “I will miss Syracuse but I think Oswego is a great natural replacement choice because of all the track history at that place. It will keep the Super DIRT Week tradition alive.
“I got the chance to race on the asphalt at Oswego two years ago when I drove in a ROC asphalt Modified event for Ricky Kluth and I finished ninth. Of course, now it will have dirt on it. I think three weeks will be plenty of time to get the dirt on the asphalt and get it set up properly.
“I’ve raced on the dirt at both Fulton and Albany-Saratoga and they were asphalt tracks many years ago, that were permanently converted to dirt, and it’s worked out fine for them even though there is still the asphalt underneath.”
Friesen performed very well last week in his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on dirt Eldora Speedway. On lap 108 of 150, while entering the top three running order, the oil cooler cracked on his Halmar-owned truck and drained oil everywhere, ending his race. He hopes to enter a couple more truck series races this season but first will concentrate on his Super DIRTcar responsibilities this coming week at Ransomville and Merrittville.
Elsewhere, Holland NASCAR Motorsports Complex will host a big race Saturday when the NASCAR Pro Modified/Sportsman cars return for the annual running of the George Decker Memorial 75. The NYPA TQ Midgets will co-headline the show, competing in the Jerry Gradl Sr. Memorial Indy 50.