Friesen Sets The Pace At Syracuse
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Racers from the Capital District of New York swept the Super DIRT Week qualifying program Thursday afternoon at the New York State Fairgrounds with Fonda Speedway champion Stewart Friesen blistering one-mile dirt track with a lap of 30.327 seconds to claim the pole for Sunday’s Syracuse 200.
Fonda and Albany-Saratoga regular Ronnie Johnson had already claimed the pole for Saturday’s “Salute to the Troops 150 for 358 modifieds with a 31.754-second run around the sun-drenched mile.
Friesen was joined in the “locked in” top six by Brett Hearn, Jimmy Phelps, Jeff Rockefeller, Matt Sheppard and Carey Terrance, while Johnson was trailed by Chris Raabe, Terrance, Marc Johnson, Larry Wight and Willy Decker.
The story of the day, however, was big-block rookie Rockefeller, who turned a 31.101-second lap midway through the third of five qualifying groups and held the pole until just a handful of cars remained in line.
Brett Hearn, sixth from last to take time, finally knocked the modified rookie, who races at Fonda and Glen Ridge Motorsports Park, off the pole. But then Hearn fell moments later to Friesen, the final qualifier.
For the first time, drivers timed in order from slowest to fastest in their final practice session, with Rockefeller holding his breath as nearly 40 others took a shot at his time.
“I worried about every single one of them,” declared the elated Rockefeller, whose JPM powered Bicknell was purchased from longtime car owner Jake Spraker. “I never thought this would happen as I ran six races in a 358 last year and just one big block show this year at Utica-Rome.”
Friesen was equally happy when he climbed out of his CC Performance fired TEO, saying: “That lap wasn’t easy. I took it into turn one flat out and it stuck. Now we’ve got some leeway on the others and besides, it was a big morale booster after our new small block engine went up in smoke during practice.”
Johnson’s pole-winning effort came in the Alton and Carole Palmer No. 76, a car he described as “Awesome! This JPM motor and TEO chassis are an awesome combination. The track tightened up and we hit the setup perfectly. I gave it all I had and for sure, there was no more left in it.”
Super DIRTcar Series point leader and defending race winner Hearn was satisfied with his time of 30.963 seconds in his Performance Technology powered TEO.
“I was more impressed with Stewart’s time,” Hearn said. “That was an amazing lap. Mine wasn’t one of my best but it was good enough to put us on the pole in tomorrow’s heat, which is always good.”
Phelps, third fast in his Bob Bruneau powered Troyer, said: “It wasn’t what we wanted but it’ll work. The frustrating part is to be in the top six and still be so far off Stewart’s time.”