Friesen Outruns His Grandview Foes
BECHTELSVILLE, Pa. — Canadian invader Stewart Friesen clicked off his first career 30-lap regular season NASCAR 358 Modified victory at Grandview Speedway on a brutally cold Saturday night.
Young Brett Kressley of Orefield, Pa., picked up where he left off last season, claiming another win in the 25-lap NASCAR Sportsman main event. Sean Merkel of Boyertown, Pa., was the winner in a wild 25-lap NASCAR Late Model feature on the 52nd consecutive opening night at Grandview.
In spite of the very chilly weather, a good crowd was on hand to watch some fan-pleasing competition, with more than 80 race cars taking part in qualifying sessions. Since it was the first race of the year, all feature events started heads-up, as they qualified in their earlier qualifying heat races.
In the NASCAR 358 Modified main, Friesen took the green from the pole after winning his heat race steering a No. 357 mount owned by Norm Hansell and the popular driver immediately pulled away. A quick caution on lap three closed the field up again.
Friesen immediately reclaimed the top spot with the new green on lap four over Justin Grim, who started from fourth-place in the 28-car starting field. Meme DeSantis started sixth and was already up to third at this point, with third-place starter Craig VonDohren running in fourth. A caution on lap six closed up the field again and another yellow on lap 10 tightened the field up as well.
A new green saw Friesen back out in front for lap 11 over DeSantis and the No. 1C driven by VonDohren. At halfway VonDohren slipped by DeSantis to steal the runner-up spot, dropping DeSantis to third with 15 in the record books. A caution again appeared after lap 15 when nine-time division champion Jeff Strunk headed to the pit area with his second left front flat of the event.
Again it was Friesen, VonDohren and, now, Duane Howard, the fifth-place starter with the Petruska No. 66 machine, vaulting into third, as DeSantis dropped to fourth for lap 16. With nine tours remaining Jon Kellner Sr. spun it around exiting turn four all alone and, once again, brought out the yellow flag.
Track Starter Ray Kemp waved the green again and Friesen retook the number one position over VonDohren and Howard, with DeSantis running fourth in front of Mike Gular, who was in fifth-place after taking the original green from second spot. Racing through some heavy lapped traffic on lap 26 through turns three and four, VonDohren got collected in a crash with a slower lapped car and the caution brought the field together again. VonDohren continued on, but had any chance at getting a win torpedoed after that unfortunate tangle with a lapped car.
With a single file restart, Friesen powered out in front with the green waving over Howard, DeSantis, Gular and Kyle Weiss in that order. On the final circuit Howard pulled up next to Friesen down the back part of the raceway, but Friesen held on and pulled off the popular win.
Howard finished a strong second at the checkered, followed by DeSantis, Gular and Weiss rounding out the top five finishers.
“The key was getting a good draw and getting the heat win to give us the pole to start the feature,” revealed Friesen afterwards. “This Norm Hansell car is a beautiful piece and this place is a cool joint to race at. It feels good to get this win and a lot of it is the preparation this team does in the shop. I was fortunate to hang on, honestly. The choppy track conditions tonight made it tough racing for everyone and all the cautions kept it clean in front of me as the leader. I am glad to win one for this team and I know the fans had to really enjoy it being out here tonight. It’s freezing for everyone tonight whether you’re watching or racing.”
Feature winner Stewart Friesen was handed an additional $250 bonus courtesy of T.P. Trailers of Limerick, Pa.