HEDGER: The Long Look
BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. — How good is Stewart Friesen?
Nobody knows because it appears he hasn’t peaked yet. But the answer is somewhere above terrific.
The two-time Syracuse winner closed out the 2013 season with a modified win during the World Finals at the Dirt Track at Charlotte, then opened 2014 with a non-point win in the DIRTcar Nationals at Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park. Since then he’s had multiple wins in New York with Fonda Speedway railbirds still arguing about which was his most impressive there.
A couple of weeks ago, he won with a car that had a cross member torn out by a rough surface that broke the rear suspension and left the rear axle swinging back and forth. Still he won. Then this week he drove from 14th to the lead at halfway, then disappeared, winning the Lou Lazzaro Memorial in a cakewalk.
But the 30-year-old Canadian expatriate’s best showing of the season may well turn out to have come on Memorial Day weekend at Utica-Rome, where he has become the perennial modified champion. Sunday night he won his heat in both the modifieds and Empire Super Sprints, claimed the ESS dash, then won both features.
The next night he came right back and won the Victoria 200 for modifieds for a $14,000 sweep.
We old timers can remember when one-division tracks ran heats, semis and a feature and those who won all three were said to have “cleaned house.” Friesen is doing that in today’s multiple division shows and is, as the saying goes, the “real deal.”
With new promoter Matt DeLorenzo and his crew’s rainout hampered attempts to get a handle on the Fonda Speedway surface still a work in progress, many critics are overlooking all the positive changes that DeLorenzo’s organization has orchestrated at the venerable Montgomery Co. Fairgrounds.
For starters, they painted the entire wooden grandstand, something we don’t recall happening in our years there. And we’ve been going since 1957.
The much-hated concrete inside wall no longer narrows the frontstretch, concrete barriers now stand between the backstretch and the Mohawk River, with huge billboards above the concrete, and Jersey barriers now protect infield viewers. Part of the expansive infield is now used for tailgating, offering fans yet another option.