It’s not often that a Big-Block Modified star ends up behind the wheel of an asphalt Super Late Model, but that has been the case for Stewart Friesen in 2018. Now, after a trio of starts this year, Friesen is gearing up for the biggest challenge of them all: the 51st Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway (FL) on Sunday, December 2.
Friesen, a full-time competitor on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series circuit, enters the Snowball Derby following runner-up finishes in the North/South SLM Challenge at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville and the Short Track U.S Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway. He finished ninth in his only other start behind the wheel of a Super Late Model at Berlin Raceway.
Overall, the experience has been one that Friesen has enjoyed and looks forward to expanding on during the most prestigious Super Late Model race of the year.
“I’ve always paid attention that time of year because it’s pretty much the only thing going on and definitely the biggest thing going on,” Friesen said of the Snowball Derby. “Being a racing fan in general, as well as a racer, I’ve always paid attention to the Snowball growing up. I never thought I’d have a chance to compete in it, but always just being a fan of racing I’ve always paid attention to it. I’m pretty excited to be actually competing in it this year.”
Friesen, a native of Niagra-on-the-Lake, Ontario, will make his Snowball Derby debut in a car owned by Justin Oertel. He’ll do so with support from Halmar International and Halmar Racing owner Chris Larsen. The deal is one that was orchestrated by short track racing legend and former Snowball Derby winner Gary Balough.
“When I got hooked up with Chris Larsen and the Halmar International group, I had known Gary for a bunch of years and he kept harping on me, ‘You’ve got to try a Late Model, you’ve got to try a Late Model’ and I was just like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever.’ In conjunction with his book coming out and the stuff we’re doing with the truck with Halmar, it was kind of a fit to go run some races,” Friesen told Speed51.com.
“Gary put the whole deal together and we’re running his throwback, the iconic 112, and his paint scheme. We’re just trying to have some fun with it and it’s been a lot more fun than I even anticipated.”
Friesen’s relationship with Balough has not only helped him gain opportunities away from the track, it’s also helped him with the transition from racing Big-Block Modifieds on dirt to Super Late Models on asphalt. As a former winner of both the Super DIRT Week Syracuse 200 and the Snowball Derby, Balough has provided Friesen with loads of knowledge throughout each race weekend.
“He’s been pretty big,” Friesen said. “I can tell if the car is tight or loose or whatever and he can just break it down a little farther. Between me and whoever is crew chief, we’ve had a couple different ones, he’s just able to help bridge that gap a little bit. If I need wedge or a panhard adjustment or something like that, he’s able to breakdown what I’m relaying and what the car is doing to the crew chief. He’s a middle man that helps make our changes more effective.”
With no prior experience racing at Five Flags Speedway, Friesen knows that every change will be an important one leading up to the 51st Annual Snowball Derby. For that reason, the team plans to take advantage of extra testing time leading up to the event.
“We’re going to be able to go the week before and test,” he explained. “We’ll throw some tires at it and hopefully be able to do some mock runs on stickers, as well as some long runs to burn them up and see how it feels at the end. Hopefully by the time the race rolls around I’ll have some laps under my belt with good gripped-up tires and stuff that is burned off, too. We’ll have some practice and some time to learn all of that different stuff.”
Although Friesen’s main goal is to stand in victory lane at the end of 300 laps on Sunday, December 2, he remains thankful for the opportunity, the experiences and the fun he’s been able to have behind the wheel of an asphalt Super Late Model.
“[Our goal] is just to have some fun and have a couple more experiences with it. It’s been good. Justin and his team that take care of the car are great and I’ve had a lot of fun racing with them. It’s been fun and I’m looking forward to working with them again at the Snowball Derby.”
The Snowball Derby will take place on Wednesday, November 28 through Sunday, December 2 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL. For more information regarding the event, visit Snowball Central presented by Schaeffer’s Specialized Lubricants – https://speed51.com/snowball-central/
-Story by Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / MoJo Photos