Stewart Friesen Battled His Way To Victory At The First Ever “Battle Of The Midway 100”
By FRANK CATIZONE
MIDDLETOWN, NY – Stewart Friesen is sizzling at the Orange County Fair Speedway.
Since last season’s Eastern States Weekend Racing Festival, Friesen has been nearly unbeatable at the historic racing facility – winning five of the last six races he’s competed in – including last Thursday night’s inaugural Battle of the Midway 100.
The event, which was recently added to the 2018 Super DIRTcar Modified Series, earned Friesen his third OCFS feature victory in as many attempts during the racing campaign and a whopping first-place prize of $10,000. Friesen won two long-distance races during Eastern States Weekend a year ago before settling for a second-place finish to Brett Hearn in the Eastern States 200.
Friesen also picked up his third triumph on the Super DIRTcar tour this season to deadlock Matt Sheppard for the most wins in 2018. However, Sheppard has a decisive lead in the standings after 12 events as he attempts to defend his championship.
Sheppard, who finished a distant second to Friesen, has been the biggest winner in the northeast dirt-track racing circuit during the past several seasons. However, he’s still never savored the taste of victory at OCFS.
Friesen, who is running a limited schedule this season because of his commitment to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, has now notched six career wins at OCFS. He captured his second Hard Clay Open 50-lapper and a regular-season 30-lapper earlier in the year.
However, prior to his recent hot streak, Friesen has also found the going rough at the track. He was winless in 2016 as a weekly competitor before breaking through with his only Eastern States 200 victory later that season. His initial OCFS Modified win came in the 2015 Hard Clay Open.
Friesen showed he was going to be a factor from the get go as he turned in the second quickest lap during the time trial sessions with a clocking of 21.119 seconds – an average speed of 106.539 seconds around the five-eighths mile, hard clay oval.
Anthony Perrego was the only driver to break the 21-second barrier as he turned in the quickest lap of 20.947 seconds for an average speed of 107.414 mph. Perrego, however, broke the rear end on his car and was never a factor in the event.
Friesen, who won the second qualifying heat, drew sixth position for the 100-lap grind as the top three finishers from four heats picked for the top 12 positions. Tim Fuller grabbed the pole and appeared to be the driver to beat in the early going.
Fuller, who finished third to Sheppard and Jerry Higbie in the third qualifying heat, got the quick jump on Jimmy Horton as the 31-car starting field began their quest to earn a guaranteed starting spot in the Oswego Super DIRT Week 200 in October. Sheppard picked up that spot behind his second-place finish.
Fuller was clearly the class of the field in the early going as he enjoyed a comfortable lead over Jimmy Phelps with Horton, Friesen and Peter Britten in hot pursuit. Friesen was already in second place by the second lap as he chased down Fuller and Phelps.
Adams Roberts brought out the first caution after just 10 laps and Friesen slipped past Phelps into second place just moments before Rich Scagliotta’s homestretch incident forced the race’s second stoppage with 15 laps completed.
There were several more cautions before the race reached its quarter mark, but Fuller was able to keep Friesen at bay following each restart.
However, that would all change moments later. Friesen drew even with Phelps while racing down the backstretch on the 28th lap and then forged ahead with an outside pass between the third and fourth turns.
That all came just before a frightening accident involving Danny Johnson, Bob McGannon, Brian Krummel and Scagliotta in the first turn forced OCFS officials to red flag the race. Johnson’s car got airborne and slammed hard into the inside barrier entering the first turn – dislodging a number of tires that needed to be put back in position.
Johnson walked away from the incident, but his car was demolished as well as the car driven by McGannon. Both Krummel and Scagliotta were able to continue racing.
Friesen began distancing himself from the rest of the field when racing resumed until Roberts slowed in the fourth turn with 42 laps completed to force another caution.
Sheppard, meanwhile, was able to work his way past Horton for fourth place as he chased Friesen, Phelps and Fuller. Horton stood fifth and was among the top five throughout the race.
Friesen was able to build nearly a straighaway lead as the race progressed until Perrego slowed action with 67 laps down when his car came to a halt because of a broken rear end.
Friesen assumed command once again as Phelps, Fuller and Sheppard battled it out for second place as the race entered its latter stages. A three-wide maneuver down the homestretch on the 99th lap left Fuller into the outside wall as racing was slowed for the final time. Phelps was also involved, but Sheppard continued and was able to gain second place.
Friesen then went on to post the win after 101 laps with Sheppard, Erick Rudolph, Horton, Billy Decker, Britten, Higbie, L.J. Lombardo, Billy Pauch Jr. and Jeff Heotzler Sr. rounding out the top 10.
Perrego bounced back to capture his third Small Block Modified victory of the season as he utilized a late-race pass to capture the 25-lapper and first-place prize of $3,000.
Perrego, who raced among the leaders throughout the race, found an opening inside of Shane Jablonka while racing off the fourth turn on the 23rd lap to grab first place and then went on to score his fourth OCFS career win.
Jablonka, who started on the pole, was able to stay out in front despite several mid-race cautions, which helped Perrego move into third place ahead of Gary Edwards Jr. Perrego was able to move ahead of Krummel on the 20th lap and then powered past Jablonka three laps later.
Jablonka was able to hold on for a second-place performance with Krummel, Matt Janiak, Mike Ricci, Chris Stevens, Danny Creeden, Bob Hentschel, Tyler Boniface and Allison Ricci rounding out the top 10.
Battle of the Midway Modified Feature Finish, 101 Laps: 1. Stewart Friesen, 2. Matt Sheppard, 3. Erick Rudolph, 4. Jimmy Horton, 5. Billy Decker, 6. Peter Britten, 7. Jerry Higbie, 8. L.J. Lombardo, 9. Billy Pauch Jr., 10. Jeff Heotzler Sr., 11. Ryan Godown, 12. Brett Hearn, 13. Billy VanInwegen, 14. Andy Bachetti, 15. Max McLaughlin, 16. Jimmy Phelps, 17. Tim Fuller, 18. Rich Scagliotta, 19. Chris Shultz, 20. Dave Rauscher, 21. Anthony Perrego, 22. Brian Krummel, 23. Adam Roberts, 24. Danny Johnson, 25. Bob McGannon, 26. Tommy Meier, 27. Gary Edwards Jr., 28. Richie Eurich, 29. Rusty Smith, 30. Craig Mitchell, 31. Danny Cronk. Did Not Qualify: Rick Laubach, Brendan Finley, Matt Janiak, C.G. Morey, Joey Falanga, Matt Hitchcock, Corey Lowitt, Jack Kitchell, Danny Creeden, Butch Tittle, Kyle Armstrong, Matt Stangle, John Lieto.
Small Block Modified Feature Finish, 25 Laps: 1. Anthony Perrego, 2. Shane Jablonka, 3. Brian Krummel, 4. Matt Janiak, 5. Mike Ricci, 6. Chris Stevens, 7. Danny Creeden, 8. Bob Hentschel, 9. Tyler Boniface, 10. Allison Ricci, 11. Gary Edwards Jr., 12. Roger Henion Jr., 13. Dillon Steuer, 14. Tim Hindley, 15. Chris Grbac, 16. Craig Mitchell, 17. Anthony Falanga, 18. John Ferrier, 19. Michael Storms, 20. Andy Bachetti, 21. Tom Hindley, 22. Joe Bonetti, 23. Tyler Treacy, 24. Frank Venezia, 25. Tommy Meier, 26. Alan Houghtaling, 27. Jeff Heotzler Sr. Did Not Start: Kurt Hundeland. Did Not Qualify: Frank Doty, Joey Bruning, Milton Mann, Tommy Vigh Jr.