Friesen Gambles, Wins In Syracuse
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Stewart Friesen of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, already the leading short track winner in the Northeast for 2010, boosted his count to 25 with a $50,000 triumph in Sunday’s SEF Small Engines Fuel 200 on the New York State Fairgrounds mile.
With radio input from car builder Bobby Hearn and Pennsylvania driving star Jeff Strunk, stationed in turn three, Friesen fought off polesitter Jimmy Phelps for the final 14 laps as the huge crowd waited for him to run out of gas.
But Phelps, who clawed his way back through the field after blowing a tire just after halfway, couldn’t get up enough steam to prevent the third-generation racer from becoming the first Canadian winner of modified racing’s most prestigious event.
Jimmy Horton, in full fuel conservation mode like Friesen, was third with Kenny Tremont, Jr. and Ryan Godown rounding out the top five.
Favorites Brett Hearn and Tim McCreadie broke a driveline and a front axle, respectively, while Tim Fuller lost a wheel and crashed hard in turn one, while Billy Decker, Pat Ward, Ronnie Johnson and defending winner Matt Sheppard all suffered engine woes.
“They told me on the radio that Jimmy was coming but his right rear was burned up,” Friesen said. “We’d pulled some gear out of it, but not too much and I could still get off the corners OK and make him work for it. Two years ago I ended up fourth with a pieced together car and team but this year, the car was just perfect.”
Friesen qualified fourth in his Cicci powered TEO, so nobody was surprised he was fast, but they were amazed that he went from his lap-68 pit stop to the checkered flag without running out of fuel, especially when second running David Herbert, who stopped with him, ran dry with 14 laps to go.
“I still can’t believe that he finished,” said Phelps. “I thought I was the first car with the tires and fuel to go the distance. We looked fast because some guys were saving fuel by running half throttle but Stewart was still quick even though he was babying it a little. He should have run out with 10 to go. I can’t believe he ran 132 laps on one tank of fuel.”
Horton said he was “running half-throttle for 75 laps, frustrated that he couldn’t race hard,” but he too made it to the end with a gallon or two left.
After making his pit stop Friesen had been steadily advancing as other cars pitted. He inherited a lead he would never relinquish on lap 122.
Donnie Corellis, who had led the race, had his day end badly on lap 160, when he lost a wheel and flipped twice at the head of the frontstretch, bringing a rare red flag at the Syracuse Mile.
When action resumed, Phelps, with new tires and plenty of fuel, began a rapid climb from 12th, passing a car or two a lap on the hard black surface to show third by lap 80. He moved to second when Hebert ran dry, but that was as far as he got.
Tremont, who’d added fuel again, had been chasing Phelps most of the race and he too caught Horton, but then his progress slowed.
“I thought everybody but Phelps was going to run dry, then my right rear started vibrating and I thought the tire was shot, so I slowed down,” tipped Tremont. “That’s the hardest I’ve driven here in years. I didn’t think that many cars could maintain that pace for the entire race.”
Friesen joked that his car had a Canadian fuel cell with “a million milliliters of fuel” instead of the mandated amount, but his car passed technical inspection and the celebration began.