Story By: TERRIN WAACK / NASCAR – BRISTOL, TN – The Friesens are a match made on dirt.
Stewart and Jessica Friesen have been married since 2014, and their history of racing against – alongside? – each other dates back well before then, specifically at dirt tracks. That didn’t stop after marriage, nor did it after their son, Parker, was born.
In fact, both parents are entered into Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway, with the youngster on site.
“It’s a little bit further than Utica-Rome (Speedway), where we met, you know, sneaking dates at the drivers’ meeting back in early 2000s,” Stewart told NASCAR.com. “Jess was running the sportsman, I was running a modified there, and that’s kind of where we met and all this got started. I never dreamed it would end up here at Bristol, let alone with dirt, our kind of native surface.”
The racing duo tried to do this exact same thing last year in the inaugural Bristol dirt weekend, but weather literally washed out the heat races, which Jessica needed in order to qualify into the main event. Before rain ruined her chances to compete, Jessica posted the 19th (of 43) and 27th (of 44) fastest times in the two practices. Stewart then ultimately finished 12th in the feature.
Both Jessica and Stewart raced in the Trucks’ second dirt event in 2021 at Knoxville Raceway, though they wouldn’t call it a big success. Jessica came in 26th. Stewart placed 27th.
“Last year, I felt like Bambi on ice,” Jessica said. “I was not super. I was a little tough on Stewart. We had to totally change a lot of things on the trucks at Knoxville.”
Stewart, a Trucks full-timer and team co-owner, was in his usual No. 52 Halmar Friesen Racing Toyota. Jessica ran the organization’s No. 62 entry.
“Over the winter, our guys went to work,” Stewart said. “We hacked up both the dirt trucks and made a lot of changes from the frame up through the bodywork and everything. That was all due to a lot of Jess’ feedback and her hammering on Trip (Bruce, general manager), saying we gotta get these better.
“So, hopefully, we can unload in practice and see those results.”
The Trucks’ first practice on Bristol’s dirt began Friday at 3 p.m. ET. Stewart topped the leaderboard, turning the 0.533-mile loop in 19.369 seconds at 92.932 mph. Jessica checked in 31st (of 37) with 20.369 seconds and 88.37 mph.
Qualifying – which will consist of four 15-lap heats – is Saturday, starting at 4:30 p.m. ET (FS2). The main feature – Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt – is then at 8 p.m. ET (FS1).
Like last season’s attempt, Jessica will need to qualify into the finale. Stewart, running for points, is guaranteed a spot. As long as one of the teammates wields Bristol’s sword in Victory Lane, they’re a happy family.
“We’re always the first ones to kind of tell each other when somebody is wrong, definitely,” Jessica said. “He’s the first one to critique me when I need to do something better or something needs to be changed.”
Said Stewart: “Which doesn’t happen too often. I mean, you don’t really make too many mistakes.”