The Short Track Super Series North Region season for 2017 ended where it began Thursday night on the 5/8 mile “Hard Clay” of Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown, NY. The race provided a fantastic prelude to the 56th Eastern States Weekend, with great racing, high drama and a fascinating points battle headlining the evening.
While Andy Bachetti just needed a solid finish to score his third STSS North title, he would be in a position to win yet again in 2017. However, Stewart Friesen and the track surface had something to say about it.
After a long green flag run in the early portion of the 50-lap Hard Clay Finale, the race would take a much different turn on Lap 29 when Mike Mahaney spun in lap traffic. It was the beginning of a rash of yellow flags as driver after driver would suffer from flat right-rear tires. Bachetti, while leading from the pole, would be forced to the pits on Lap 36 with a flat, handing the lead to Stewart Friesen, but the two would get a flat tire two laps later.
A number of drivers would have flats over the next seven laps, with the lead cycling back to Bachetti when Jerry Higbie lost a tire while leading. But on a Lap 44 restart, Bachetti had Friesen back on his outside, with Friesen getting the superior run on the outside through turns one and two. Friesen would pull away with Bachetti making sure his tires would last this time.
Despite the unusual circumstances, this is not the first time that Friesen has gone full circle in a race to come back and win.
“Yeah, at Ransomville a couple of years ago. It’s crazy when the tracks get abrasive like that and you’re able to pit then come back through,” Friesen told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “It was awesome. The team did a great job. We had a great pit stop and it was cool.”
The Lap 44 restart was just what Friesen was looking for. All he needed was a great restart and he got it, winding up the Big-Block engine which the Halmar team had chosen to run over the usual Small-Block which they usually run in STSS competition.
“I knew if I could just get a little bit of a run on the outside, I knew we had something to stick in one and two,” Friesen explained. “I figured we had a little softer tire than what we started the race on, it would stick on the outside groove. It was two Billy the Kid motors drag racing down the frontstretch. We were able to get a good line into one and two, we rubbed a little bit, but it was rubbing with a guy that knows how to do it, a lot of fun.”
It is great timing for the win, with it being on the heels of Eastern States and ending a tough couple of months.
“Big time. It’s a great way to start out the weekend and we’ve been skunked out here for the last two months or so, it’s great to get back here.”
For Bachetti, second place was more than enough to secure the championship. Despite the implications of the flat tire, he was only concerned with staying out of trouble and knew he could not just get out of the back, but come back to go for the win.
“When you put a tire on here and the rest of the guys are nursing theirs, I knew we’d come back through, so I knew we’d be in the top five,” Bachetti claimed. “Once we got by Jerry there, I figured we’d have a shot at this.”
After Friesen got around Bachetti for the lead, Bachetti immediately went into title defense, knowing that a second flat tire was a possibility. In the end, he was still proud of the effort his team had made on the night and indeed all season.
“Stew drove around me there. I kind of felt the tire starting to get a little thin again, so I knew they hadn’t put a hard tire on it. I knew they put on a semi-soft tire, so I figured I’d back off and take it easy there. Then you go into big-picture mode. We got it done, proud of my team.”
While the Short Track Super Series North season is in the books, the South season still has one race to go on Saturday, October 28 at Georgetown Speedway in Delaware for the season-ending Mid-Atlantic championship.
Full highlights from Thursday night’s STSS North Region finale will be available soon on the Speed51 Network.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA, RI & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / MoJo Photos