Dirt Modified standout and current NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Stewart Friesen will soon be adding a new brand of racing to his resume. The 34-year old native of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario will make his asphalt Super Late Model debut on April 7 at one of the most storied asphalt short tracks in the country, the Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville (TN).
Teaming with Minnesota team owner Justin Oertel, Friesen has already taken test laps around the famous high-banks, and it left quite the impression.
“It’s pretty cool. I got a chance to practice it there a couple of weeks ago and they are pretty awesome cars,” Friesen told Speed51.com. “I’m really looking forward to getting into top notch equipment. Fast little cars, lot of grip and stuff. It’s a little different than anything I’ve ever done, but there’s some cool race tracks across the country that I’d like to see along the way, so if I get a chance to do some, I’ll jump at it.”
Running in the North/South Super Late Model Challenge, co-sanctioned by CRA, CARS Tour, and the Southern Super Series, Friesen will take on some of the best in the Super Late Model ranks at Nashville. It is a challenge he is ready to meet.
“It’ll be cool to race against those guys there,” he said. “It’s a neat facility and I had fun getting around there. I’m looking forward to it. I hope I can win, we’ll try our best. It’s a great team with great resources there; it will be a cool experience.”
As for how this union between driver and owner came to be, it can be attributed to one of the greatest short track masters of all-time. Gary Balough, a former winner of the All-American 400, Snowball Derby, and Super DIRT Week, is a mutual friend of both Friesen and Oertel.
“Gary Balough actually put the deal together,” Friesen explained. “He’s been on me to run a Late Model the last couple of years and give it a try. He put the deal together with Justin and his team, that was it. My boss Chris Larsen got behind us and that was it, we’re off and running.”
Despite the large schedule and multiple young drivers also under the Halmar International banner, Halmar Friesen Racing co-principle Chris Larsen is very much on board.
“Gary and I are good friends. We’ve known each other for a while, and he’s really the main reason that this all came about,” Oertel said. “He put me in contact with Halmar, Gary orchestrated the whole deal with us, it’s the perfect combination. I own the race team, Halmar takes care of Stewart, and Halmar sets it up. Gary is like our PR guy, it works out.”
In a salute to Balough’s backing and encouragement, Friesen’s Super Late Model will carry Balough’s famous No. 112 on both doors.
“It’s a pretty iconic number coming back to the race track after many years of not seeing it,” Oertel said. “To have the wrap and the paint scheme we’re going to be putting on is going to be pretty exciting to see, bringing back the 112.”
Not even one race into their new deal, Oertel has already taken a great liking to Friesen, not just as a driver but a person as well.
“We’re grateful to have him next weekend and for a few races after that we’ll put some stuff together. I’m looking forward to doing some racing with him and excited to get to Nashville. He was pretty fast in the test. Going to races five days a week between the Trucks and the Dirt, now he’s going to take on this Late Model, he’s taking on quite a bit.”
Oertel expects Friesen to return for more SLM races, perhaps as soon as the CRA event at Toledo Speedway on April 14, a track Friesen has never seen. Oertel expects no matter where else they might go, Friesen will be ready.
“He’s such a nice guy to work with; calm, collected and just a natural at it. It doesn’t take him much. I’ve had a lot of guys drive my car before and he just fit right in, like an old shoe. Just gets in and starts running.”
Stay with Speed51.com for more on the North/South Super Late Model Challenge at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / MoJo Photos