By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
A quiet Vankor 250 resulted in Stewart Friesen’s best finish in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series of the 2020 season.
Friesen didn’t break into the top-10 until the final stage at Texas Motor Speedway. He battled Matt Crafton, Zane Smith, Brett Moffitt, and Tyler Ankrum in his No. 52 Halmar “Racing to Beat Hunger” Toyota Tundra.
A late-race caution for an incident between Todd Gilliland and Ben Rhodes set up a 10-lap run to the finish. Friesen dueled with Ankrum, Crafton, and Moffitt when the green flag waved. He made quick work of the two Chevy Racing drivers. However, the field became strung out before Friesen could catch Crafton and took the checkered flag in fourth.
“It was a definitely a challenge for us, Tripp Bruce (crew chief) let me make a two-tire call in the first stage and we took lefts; that really wasn’t the right answer,” admitted Friesen. “It got us some track position, but it really wasn’t what our Tundra needed. We fought free most of the race and then was able to get some wedge and trackbar, air pressure in it at the end and get a little bit of track position and get a good top five.
“First top five for the HFR organization out on our own. Proud of all of our guys, thanks to Chris Larson, Halmar, Drive to Beat Hunger, helping local food bank here in Texas and just good deal all around. We’ve got a lot of great product sponsors and a lot of great guys on the team, so this is almost a win for us.”
During the first stage crew chief Bruce called for a two-tire stop. The move gained Friesen some track position, but his Toyota Tundra still required more adjustments.
Friesen had a chance to jump into the top-10 at the end of the second stage. The green waved with two laps to go in the stage as the Canadian driver lined up outside the top-10. However, the stage ended under caution after fellow Toyota Racing Development driver Derek Kraus collided with Tate Fogleman.
The fourth-place finish is the first top-five for Friesen this season. It is also his first top-five finish as a Toyota driver and the first for a relatively independent Halmar-Friesen Racing. The top-five is the 24th of Friesen’s career.
“It helps, still have got a lot of questions here,” explained Friesen. “The whole change, our KBM chassis are beautiful trucks, beautiful bodies and with the TRD support we just got to connect all of the dots. All the stuff is there in front of us, but we’re just trying to figure it all out.
“Gather some good notes and kind of make sense of everything. We’re going in the right direction; we are learning more every race and at least we’ve got a top five to get rolling to the next one.”
The top-five finish moved Friesen up to 13th in the points standings. He is 22-points behind the cutoff for the playoffs, held by Crafton. Friesen is also 97-points behind leader Austin Hill.
Next for the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series is the series’ first ever doubleheader race weekend at Kansas Speedway on Friday July 24 and Saturday July 25.