Stewart Friesen on Eldora loss: “Second sucks. Bottom line.”

Barry Cantrell/NKP

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

ROSSBURG, Ohio — Stewart Friesen was the story of the evening at Eldora Speedway – winning the pole, his qualifying race and Stage 2 while leading 93 laps in Wednesday’s Eldora Dirt Derby.

So when he failed to part his No. 52 Chevrolet in victory lane, the disappointment was palpable.

“It sucks, man,” Friesen said. “Second sucks. Bottom line.”

Friesen was one of two dominant trucks on the day, combining with two-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton to lead 117 laps and take both stage wins.

In the end the race came down to a battle between the two drivers. Crafton prevailed, taking over the top spot from Friesen on Lap 134 and holding it until the checkered flag flew to claim an unlikely dirt victory. Friesen followed in second.

After leading the majority of the race, Friesen blamed himself and his Halmar Friesen Racing team for failing to adapt, while noting that holding the top spot was part of the reason he lost.

“I think we just missed the changing track,” Friesen said. “The top was good early, and then it dusted up and there was some good seams to hit in the middle and the bottom. For whatever reason, that one restart where they got us it just cleaned up and the top came back. We started slipping and sliding in the middle.

“That was it. Being the leader, sometimes in these dirt races you’re a sitting duck. The guys in second and third can move around and find something. That’s what (Crafton) did.”

A native of Ontario, Canada, Friesen has made a name for himself in the Northeast racing Big Block Modifieds. Friesen’s reputation was enough to earn him a NASCAR debut at Eldora in 2016, which in turn led to the formation of Halmar Friesen Racing (HFR) with Chris Larsen and a planned full-time Truck Series effort for 2017.

Financial difficulties ultimately kept HFR from competing full-time this season, but the team returned to Eldora with momentum, having tallied a best finish of 12th in the preceding race at Kentucky Speedway.

Friesen would go on to smash his previous career best at Eldora. Afterward the 33-year-old couldn’t overstate the importance of his good run, though the disappointment cut deep.

“It was super important,” Friesen said of his runner-up result. “A win’s a win – everybody comes to win every week, whether it’s a pavement race or a dirt race. But the first seven races we did was probably the most frustrating racing I’ve ever been a part of in my life. It was a big learning experience.

“I was looking forward to getting to this one. To run good and be up in the top five is good, we just wanted to close it out. There’s a little bit of a silver lining I guess, but not much.”

Friesen also took pride in how he represented the Northeast in a race that’s quickly become one of dirt racing’s biggest showcases.

“Having this opportunity is a dream come true, to race at this level,” Friesen said. “I was definitely racing for all of those guys up there in the pit that have been here for two days and working hard. I really wanted to get this one for them and everybody in the Northeast.”

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