One of the most infamous cars in short track racing history was Gary Balough’s “Batmobile,” which won Super DIRT Week in 1980. The car roared to life again this past weekend in anticipation of an exhibition during Eastern States Weekend at Orange County Fair Speedway (NY) on October 25-27.
Big-Block Modified standout and NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series competitor Stewart Friesen will pilot the legendary machine as part of a legendary weekend, and tested it last weekend ahead of that event.
Friesen believes it is so fast, it could outrun today’s Big-Block Modifieds. With a couple of adjustments, he hopes to meet that goal on Sunday.
“To see it run again has been really cool,” Friesen said. “It’s an awesome race car, super stable. We’re going to make some adjustments and I bet it’ll be faster than the cars we have now. We’ll do an exhibition run Sunday of Eastern States weekend and see how it goes.”
Friesen went into more detail about the car during an appearance Monday morning on Speed51’s The Morning Bullring talk show.
“I was really impressed with how smooth and how stable it was,” he said. “It was built for the Mile at Syracuse and then they were going to run it at Eastern States weekend two weeks later and the car was outlawed and black balled and pushed aside. They made a rule that they couldn’t run it.”
Now, that car will get to see action at the Orange County Fair Speedway. Friesen believes after the exhibition he will be wishing he could race the car in the 200-lap feature for Big-Block Modifieds headlining the Sunday card.
“We’re just doing an exhibition run with it. I wish after we did a shakedown with it in practice the other night that we could run it in the 200. I think it would be pretty badass.”
In many ways, it is a full-circle moment for the Ontario native, who first sat behind the wheel of the Batmobile on display at the Dirt Museum & Hall of Fame in Weedsport, New York – even if it was frowned upon at the time.
“The first time I sat in it was in the Hall of Fame a bunch of years ago. I jumped in there while nobody was looking, took some pictures and got kicked out of it. Never would I have thought I’d be able to turn competitive laps in it.”
It didn’t take long for Friesen to marvel at the car’s capabilities and realize why it was outlawed after one event.
“After one trip down the straightaway, absolutely,” Friesen said when asked if it could compete with the Big-Block Modifieds of today. “The wing on the roof, the whole roof is built with a tub and a wing. The sidepods hold a ton of air. I went over to Jimmy Horton right after, he was in that race in 1980, and I said, ‘You guys didn’t stand a chance in 1980.’ He goes, ‘Nope, it wasn’t even close.’ It was super smooth. The front end is super positive and stable. The car was really a dream to drive. That whole front suspension that Weld put together, if somebody was smart enough to figure it out it would probably work really well today.”
After he takes “Batmobile” for a spin, Friesen will look to compete in his own modern Big-Block Modified for one of the most prestigious wins in the discipline.
“It’s been around a long time. After having the New York State Fairgrounds re-excavated and torn down a couple of years ago, the Eastern States is the longest-running big race for the Big Block Modifieds at the same facility. Orange County Fair has had racing since the early 1900s. This year is their centennial, their 100thyear of automobile racing.
However, it will likely be a long trek to the front of the field if Friesen is going to take the checkered flag, as his Truck Series obligations will prevent him from participating in the regular qualifying routine throughout the weekend.
“We’re going to compete with the truck at Martinsville on Friday and Saturday, then shoot up to Orange County Saturday night and run the Small-Block race. Hopefully try to qualify for the Big-Block race. If we can’t make it from the Consi, we have a past champion’s provisional, and we’ll try to race our way from the back in the 200.”
To see the entirety of Friesen’s interview on “The Morning Bullring,” click here to see an on-demand replay of the show. “The Morning Bullring” airs on Speed51.com and Speed51’s Facebook page on Mondays starting at 7 a.m. Eastern each week.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Stewart Friesen Twitter