Eastern States 200
By Frank CatizoneFor the Times Herald-Record
MIDDLETOWN – Stewart Friesen brought a packed house to its feet on the final lap of the 2016 racing season as he secured his first Eastern States 200 Modified victory during a heated battle with the event’s all-time winner Brett Hearn Sunday night at the Orange County Fair Speedway.
Friesen, who called OCFS his home for the first time this racing campaign, dove underneath Hearn while racing between the third and fourth turns on the 200th circuit around the five-eighths mile, hard clay oval. Their cars made brief contact while battling for the lead with Friesen coming out on top and Hearn drifting wide towards the outside wall.
Anthony Perrego also was able to slip past Hearn to score an impressive second-place showing in his first race behind the wheel of Bill Pascual’s No. 3 car. Hearn regrouped to place third with Rick Laubach and Kenny Tremont rounding out the top five.
“Brett tried to block the track and I just filled in the gap underneath him,’’ said Friesen about his race-winning move. “I was able to dive down real low and Brett moved too far up. But I knew this was going to be the only chance I had to get past him. We did make some contact, but sometimes you just have to go for it. Things worked out for us this time.”
Friesen, who also captured this year’s Bud Lite 200 during Super DIRTcar week in Oswego, was easily the class of the 44-car field in the early going from his starting pole position. The Sprakers driver was able to lap cars at will as racing was under green conditions until Jimmy Horton came up with a right rear flat with 26 laps completed.
Several other competitors were forced to the pits throughout the race as the abrasive track conditions took its toll during most of the race.
Perrego, in fact, was forced to the pits with a right rear flat after 28 laps were completed. He would rejoin the field just before the mandatory pit stops could begin after 30 laps were scored. Drivers had to take one mandatory stop at any point of the race from the 31st lap on.
Friesen continued to control matters on the race track as he was able to hold a decisive cushion on the field while many of his competitors – including Hearn – made early their mandatory stops early in the race.
Hearn, who was seeking his 12th Eastern States crown, and Tommy Meier were now running first and second as they were in position to produce a repeat of last year’s 200-lapper, which was won by Meier.
“Brett had a real good race car, but I think having fresher tires at the end really helped us,” said Friesen. “We’ve tried all season long to find the right combination at this race track and this race team deserves all the credit for all of their hard work.
“I want to thank Chris Larsen for this opportunity. We’ve struggled to get things right here, but I think we stuck right to our strategy and this was just one heck of a win. It’s something I’ve wanted to achieve for a long time now.”
By Frank Catizone For the Times Herald-Record
MIDDLETOWN – All the attention was focused near the scales in the pits following the conclusion of Sunday afternoon’s Eastern States 100 Small Block Modified championship at the Orange County Fair Speedway.
A large crowd gathered around that area as Brett Hearn was having his post-race weigh-in following his apparent victory in the event. Hearn, however, was 20 pounds light over the scales as the crowd applauded in delight over his misfortune.
Brian Krummel, who took the checkered flag in second place, took his turn over the scales and even a bigger roar ensued as Krummel made weight, and was awarded his first Eastern States victory and the $15,000 that went along with it.
Krummel also checked out legal during the post-race inspection as he picked up the biggest triumph in his racing career behind the wheel of the Dave Zubikowski No. 17Z racer. The Middletown driver recenely became Zubikowski’s main driver and presented his owner with a tremendous win.
“This is just awesone,’’ said Krummel, after getting on the roof his his winning car and bowing to the crowd in victory lane. “I don’t like winning races this way, but I’ll take it. This is my biggest victory ever and I still can’t believe what happened.
“We had a very good race car and I really felt we had a good chance to win. But Brett’s car was really fast and I just couldn’t stay up with him. I didn’t mind finishing second to him, but this feels a whole lot better.’’
Krummel was the early leader in the race as he got the jump on Craig Mitchell when the initial green flag waved. Hearn slipped into second place as he passed Mitchell on the third lap and then put his sights on Krummel.
But Krummel was able to maintain first place over Hearn despite several restarts early in the race. Hearn was able to slip past Krummel with an inside move just before the starter’s stand to complete 20 laps. But he wasn’t able to shake Krummel as the race progressed as the two drivers remained that way until the finish.
Hearn, who still hasn’t won a major race this season, was able to stave off each challenge Krummel had to offer.
“I was able to get underneath Brett several times in the race, but just didn’t have enough momentum to get past him,’’ said Krummel. “He knows this race track and is really tough to get past. I made one last ditch effort to the outside, but he was able to block me and that was pretty much it.’’
By Frank CatizoneFor the Times Herald-Record
MIDDLETOWN – Stewart Friesen will have the best seat in the house Sunday afternoon when the 55th edition of the prestigious Eastern States 200 takes center stage for some of the best Modified drivers in the Northeast and Canada during the Eastern States Weekend Racing Festival at the Orange County Fair Speedway.
Friesen, one of the top Modified talents for the past several seasons, was the only driver to break the 21-second barrier in time trials Friday afternoon as he grabbed the pole for the 200-lap grind with an impressive time of 20.999 seconds around the five-eighths mile, hard clay oval.
Friesen, fresh off his impressive victory in the Bud Lite 200 at the Oswego Speedway on Oct. 9, was among the final group to take time during the day as OCFS track officials worked feverishly to get the racing program completed. The Sprakers driver turned in an initial lap of 21.026 seconds to knock Brett Hearn off the pole. He bettered that with an average speed of 107.655 miles per hour on his second trip.
Friesen, who was a weekly competitor at OCFS for the first time in 2016, is still searching for his first win here this season as well as his first Eastern States 200 crown. But the task won’t to any easy one with several top Modified drivers on hand as well as a mandatory pit stop each driver must take after 30 laps have been completed in the event.
Hearn, who has a record 11 Eastern States Modified titles to his credit, will surely give Friesen all he can handle. The Vernon Township, N.J., driver has amassed 303 victories during his OCFS career and will start alongside Friesen in the front row after posting the second quickest time of 21.041 seconds.
Both Hearn and Friesen will also be contenders in this afternoon’s Eastern States 100 championship for the Small Block Modified drivers. Both will be looking to qualify for the race during time trials, heat races and consolation events. The Capital Region Sprint Agency (CRSA) 305 sprint car drivers will also be in action with qualifiers and a 25-lap feature. Racing gets underway at 11:30 a.m. with time trials.
There is a first-place prize of $15,000 at stake for the Small Block Modified winner. The winner of Sunday’s 200-lapper will earn $35,000. If one driver sweeps both races, a $10,000 bonus will be added – meaning one driver could collect at least $60,000.
Hearn and 2016 Modified track champion Tommy Meier came close to that feat last season. Meier won the 200-lapper but finished second to Hearn in the 100-lap title race for the Small Blocks. Hearn was a close second to Meier in the 200.
Former Eastern States winner Billy Decker turned in the third quickest Modified time aboard Vic Coffey’s No. 32C car with a time of 21.133 seconds. He was followed by Tim Hindley (21.181), Meier (21.187) and Jimmy Phelps (21.261).
There are already 36 cars penciled in for Sunday’s 200-lap race with the remainder of the field coming from a series of consolation races. Those winning heat events were Danny Creeden, Brian Krummel, Danny Johnson, John Ferrier, Ronnie Johnson and Jerry Higbie.