Stewart Friesen’s 2018 season has been by far the best of his NASCAR career. Being recently eliminated from the Camping World Truck Series playoffs, the driver of the No. 52’s campaign has seen him challenge for wins week in and week out for the first time in his stock-car career.
In 21 starts this season, Friesen has a single pole, seven top fives and 14 top-10 finishes. Additionally, he’s led 188 laps and currently averages a 9.2 finish with two races to go in the season.
Davey Segal, Frontstretch: I feel like a lot of people know the name Stewart Friesen, but they might not know how you got to where you are. So how did you get into racing?
Stewart Friesen: My family owned and promoted the speedway in Western New York. So I grew up in the sport from when I was born. Started in the go kart program and that was it. Evolved to running some bigger cars, TQ midgets and stuff. Did some pavement stuff from there and then into the modifieds when I was older. Born and raised in the northeast and raced all over New York and stuff.
Segal: You’re Canadian, and Canadian drivers aren’t a popular nationality in NASCAR. Did you ever give the Pinty’s Series a thought?
Friesen: Not really. I grew up in Niagara on the lake, Niagara Falls. A lot of the racing in our area was dirt modified stuff. We had a couple speedways like 10 minutes from home. And then everything else was to the East, Western New York, Central New York and around there. I grew up with the modified stuff and as it progressed, I wanted to go to more tracks, race more, it just moved East throughout New York. Met my wife, built a house a couple years ago and now we’re pretty centrally located for that kind of stuff.
Segal: And your wife Jessica, she races, right?
Friesen: Yeah, she ran 360 and 410 sprint cars for years and years. But she’s slowed down a little bit since we’ve had our son. But we put together a modified that we ran for about 15 races on Saturday nights, we have some fun.
Segal: And you race with her sometimes, don’t you?
Friesen: Yeah, same division. Both in the big block division. That was challenging (laughs), giving her a car that she was happy with. It was a fun year and we’re definitely going to do it again next year.
Segal: When you leave the race track and come home is she still complaining about the handling and stuff like that?
Friesen: Sometimes … it could go on for a whole week. It was fun though, we bickered and argued and that was honestly probably more of the fun. But that’s part of it.
Segal: She ever beat you?
Friesen: Yeah, she beat me a couple times this year in some races.
Segal: How has this season been different for you now that you’re racing in the top every weekend and have the chance to win? Plus, I bet you’re learning a lot from your satellite teammates as well.
Friesen: Yeah, for sure. As soon as the Halmar team got hooked up with GMS here just about a year ago, it’s been a whole change of pace for us. Getting some great equipment, and that was a big part of it. So we went from barely a 10th-place team to competing in the top five basically overnight. That was a strong shot in the arm for us, that was it. And now leading into this year, it’s been a good roll that we’ve been on.
Segal: How did that partnership come about and what were the conversations like leading up to it?
Friesen: Talked with Mike Beam and the guys over there as to what was available for us and we came at a good time when Ben Kennedy was stopping racing XFINITY. And a lot of our guys were with that team, and we were able to put it together.
Segal: If you had to compare yourself and your driving style to one person, who would it be?
Friesen: I don’t know, I don’t think I’ve driven enough … maybe a Tim Richmond. He was a badass racer.
Segal: Did you have a mentor growing up throughout the ranks?
Friesen: I was a big Danny Johnson fan, the doctor, and he’s still racing today and winning. That was cool to grow up, be a fan of his and get to race with him. And guys like Brett Hearn, Billy Decker were big heroes and I still get to race with them today, so it’s cool.
Segal: Have you had an “I made it” moment yet?
Friesen: I made it, in my eyes, 10 years ago when I was able to race and make a living out of it. Went to school, was able to pay for some schooling with racing and then after that, it kind of spiraled and I was able to get hooked up with some really good car owners. That was the moment when I realized if I surround and associate myself with good people, it’s going to be alright. So far so good.
Segal: What do you think your chances of breaking through and winning your first race this year are?
Friesen: I feel really good about them — we just have to execute a whole race and make the right adjustments. We have really good trucks. Chevy has been strong. Our mile-and-a-half program has been really strong. Tripp, Charles and all the engineering guys have been working really hard in the wind tunnel trying to get better every week. That’s cool and if we can get the thing to be consistent throughout one race with different tires and everything else that happens, we can probably win one.