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Stewart Friesen had himself a day on Thursday (July 11) at Kentucky Speedway. But when the checkered flag flew, the Canada native picked up yet another runner-up finish.
Friesen’s nightmarish day began prior to opening Gander Outdoors Truck Series practice when NASCAR confiscated the No. 52 Chevrolet because it didn’t like the way the rear rear firewall placement was in relation to the rear clip. That forced the Halmar Frisen Racing team to roll out the backup truck.
The two practice sessions were subpar for Friesen. Qualifying was even worse, though by design, turning the slowest lap in the session knowing the No. 52 would have to start at the rear of the field. But the opening stage wasn’t by design, only racing up to 17th.
A caution-filled second stage allowed Friesen to score five stage points by finishing sixth. But the third stage is where the No. 52 shined, playing the right strategy to earn a second-place finish for the sixth time in his career.
“We fought it, that was a battle,” Friesen said after the race. “We started the race and we were dead loose. We were racing back in 15th to 20th place. Worked on it, got it decent, was able to avoid a bunch of wrecks and crazy stuff happening in the middle part of the race. … It was a bummer of a morning and afternoon, and learned a lot today, that’s for sure.”
For nearly the past two calendar years Halmar Friesen Racing has had a technical alliance with GMS Racing. Ultimately, the No. 52 receives all of its chassis from GMS.
Because of the confiscated truck, Friesen isn’t sure what to think, as the No. 52 team will likely be facing a points penalty early next week.
“It says a lot about Tripp Bruce [crew chief] and my six guys is what it says,” Friesen added. “The rest of the organization, I don’t know what it says about that. They put us in a bad place there with that truck and [I’m] bummed out about that.
“My guys bust their butt to put these things together. They work on what they get and it is what it is. We don’t get to pick the trucks we run, we just get to run them. Tripp has had my best interest at heart all year long. He’s been like a big brother. That relationship has been pretty cool, it’s been up and down, but after today I know he’s on my side.”
Despite finishing second, Friesen believed the No. 52 truck would have won had it played the same pit strategy race winner Tyler Ankrum played. With Ankrum’s victory, Friesen is now seventh on the playoff grid, though sitting second in the overall championship standings.
With the possibility of a points penalty next week, it could make Friesen’s chances of making the postseason just a bit more challenging.
“We’ve got to win, that’s all it is,” he said. “Second’s aren’t good enough. We’ve been running backup trucks for three weeks in a row [and that] isn’t good enough. Tripp’s battled for me all year long and I appreciate that.”
The series has an off week before heading to Pocono Raceway (July 27). In a pair of starts at the track, Friesen has a best finish of fourth.