Column By: MARTY CZEKALA / RPW – SPRAKERS, NY – The last driver to win a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on a permanent dirt track is Stewart Friesen.
That came back in 2019 at Eldora Speedway.
Friday night, Friesen makes his first start at Knoxville Raceway, “The Sprint Car Capital of the World”, in NASCAR’s first trip there.
Last time NASCAR raced on dirt was at Bristol Motor Speedway at the end of March. Friesen finished in 12th position.
“We got to adjust on our dirt program a little bit,” Friesen told RPW Tuesday afternoon in Ransomville before the Super DIRTCar Series race. “We missed it at Bristol, we’ve got some different packages we’re going to try and practice Thursday night and see how it goes.”
The most recent series to race at Knoxville was the Camping World SRX Series, another asphalt/dirt series. Friesen was asked if there was anything he took away from it towards the truck despite SRX having lighter cars, and he did have discussions with an SRX driver.
“I talked to Michael Waltrip,” Friesen said. “He was looking for some info for their Fox broadcast and I was able to pull some info from him at Knoxville. Kind of comparing Knoxville to Eldora, I think it might be more abrasive than what we saw at Eldora and maybe Bristol. We’ll see what happens. It all comes to track prep.”
Friesen and Waltrip are close friends on and off the track, and Waltrip finished 5th in SRX back on June 19th.
Both NASCAR and SRX use Goodyear Eagle tires, and a similar compound could be used.
Friesen isn’t sure if there is a track in the state of New York that is similar to Knoxville but is hoping it’s similar to a track he is dominant at.
“Hopefully a little bit of Fonda,” Friesen explained. “It’s a big, flat fairgrounds track. Hopefully it’s really similar then I’m right. I think we got a good package. The 52 team has been doing a great job. Trip (Bruce) and Jon Leonard. We went back to work after Bristol and made a lot of changes where we think we missed it a little bit and hopefully we’re right.”
Of course, the big story will be him and his wife Jessica competing against each other, becoming the second married couple to compete in a NASCAR national series race. The latter was scheduled to qualify for her debut at Bristol until heats were rained out, sending the #62 home. Friday night, because the entry list is at 40 teams for 40 spots, Friesen will be in the main event tomorrow night.
“I think we’ll be alright,” Jessica said, who was in attendance at Ransomville Tuesday night. “I got some laps at Bristol and got to get comfortable. Being able to work with Stewart on the dirt and make the right adjustments. The guys have been working really hard to up our program since Bristol and make the right changes and get both trucks competitive.”
“JZF” also got experience with a dirt car that has similar specs to a Truck.
“I got to take out a local Pro Stock car in Georgetown, DE. It has the same suspension as the truck and it’s a lot heavier car than I’m used to driving. That actually helped a lot prior to Bristol,” Jessica said.
She does have experience at Knoxville in the past in a sprint car but expects it to be a completely different style.
“I’ve been there and raced on it, but it’s a totally different car, totally different weight.”
Their son Parker plans on rooting for both, but Stewart said Parker actually hopes Jessica will win.
“It’s all Mom right now. We’ll see, maybe I can convince him. We got a 12 hour drive from here (Ransomville) so there’s some time to win him over,” Stewart said.
The green, and the dirt, fly at Knoxville Friday night at 8pm on FS1.