Weedsport, NY — January 8, 2009 – By Tom Skibinski, DIRTcar Racing Northeast PR Director
*Alex Bruce Photo
Short-track racing has a way of carrying on with family tradition from generation to generation. Few are steeped in the Northeast Modified mainstream as much as the Friesen family, a clan recognized as much stateside as closer to its homebase in the city of St. Catharines, Ontario.
When racers arrive in Barberville, Florida for the 38th Annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals By UNOH at Volusia Speedway Park in February, the Modified mini-tour will chronicle the exploits of third-generation driver James Michael Friesen as he makes his Big-Block debut 1,200 miles from home. He’ll have ample opportunity to carve his own niche as three 30-lap main events and a $5,000-to-win 50-lap finale on Saturday, February 14 fill the schedule with an optional night of practice offered Tuesday, February 10.
“Racing was definitely bred in me from day one and I always knew I wanted to get involved in a career around motorsports,” remarked Friesen, 24, who will follow in the tire tracks left by cousin Stewart Friesen after his only showing at VSP in the ’06 Florida DIRTcar Nationals. Before that it was grandfather Stan Friesen, uncles Jamie and the late Alex Friesen, and younger brother Curtis Friesen setting the stage for the newest addition to the mighty DIRTcar Modified ranks in the Northeast.
“When summer time came everything I ever did revolved around racing at Ransomville. From selling 50/50 tickets, programs and popcorn, there was always something to do. And as soon as the go-cart track was built (early 1990s) that’s when I started racing. Having the chance to run in Florida will be a big thrill, so any experience I can take back north will certainly be valuable,” said Friesen, who grew up with racing at Ransomville Speedway every Friday night alongside his parents Joel and Trish Friesen as well as Northeast Modified Hall of Fame honoree Stan, the track owner since 1973.
2008 was a break-out year for James Michael as he captured the Sportsman Modified points title at Ransomville and not only won his first career feature, he went on to claim 10 more regular-season victories buckled into the Blue Moon Potatoes no. 52 Bicknell ride. Friesen will have a similar ride sporting a fresh look just in time for VSP, only with a New Generation powerplant under the hood for the speed week special.
“About a month ago we were planning more of a vacation to Florida, maybe fool around a little down there with the Small-Block car,” divulged Friesen, who took his only other trip to a track in the Sunshine State as part of a Hall of Fame tour at Daytona Int’l Speedway. “But Al (Blanchard, New Generation owner) said he had a big-block motor laying around in the shop and we could be more competitive. So this is also Al’s big-block debut, maybe it can help bring more notoriety to his own business.”
“Right now we’re going down to Volusia only hoping to qualify for all the shows and get a lot of seat time. It will certainly be a lot different running laps with some of the guys I grew up watching. We’ll be prepared as best as possible and give it our best shot, I’m sure it will still be a lot of fun no matter what happens,” Friesen said.
Back up north strapped in a DIRTcar 358-Modified, Friesen will kick of the season with weekend stops at Merrittville (Ont.) and Ransomville speedways, mixing in Small-Block specials every other week at Humberstone (Ont.) Speedway as his budget dictates.
“I never thought the success we had last year would come so quick. You always want to think you’re good enough to win but until it happens most of the time it’s a dream. I started out at Ransomville just hoping to run well against some of the top guys and we got a title at the end. Every young racer has dreams of seeing how far he can climb up the ladder so we’ll just keep taking it one step at a time,” figured Friesen, who recently became certified as a heavy equipment operator while relocating to a house in Beamsville, Ontario with his crew chief Dave Walters.
From go-carts in the 90s to TQ Midget racing in the new millennium, Friesen entered a half-dozen DIRTcar 358-Modified events in 2007 and closed his initial season attending a handful of Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman Series Championship shows in autumn. Last spring he grabbed the spotlight early by registering his first career Sportsman victory against an all-star field at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park, then followed up with checkered flags at Ransomville, Merrittville, Humberstone, Cayuga County Fair Speedway and Ohsweken Speedway to rank second circuit-wide.
“I’d like to win one or two features this year but moving up always means more competition, especially this year,” added Friesen, pointing out the graduation of former Sportsman point chasers Mat Williamson and Justin Sharp to the weekly 358 wars along with the addition of talented teenager Erick Rudolph to the Ransomville roster. “We kept our expectations low last year and came out alright, hopefully we’ll have more good fortune this time around and keep having fun along the way.”
Joining Friesen on the list of more than 35 drivers already signed up for the Alltel DIRTcar Nationals are seven-time and defending champion Brett Hearn, reigning Mr. DIRTcar points king Billy Decker and his Gypsum Express teammates Pat Ward and Larry Wight, all-time DIRTcar Big-Block feature winner Alan Johnson, fellow New Yorkers Dale Planck, Matt Sheppard and Keith Flach, Tuscarora Nation natives Randy and Roger Chrysler, New Jersey star Jimmy Horton, Pennsylvanians Rick Laubach and Ray Swinehart, Delaware drivers Jamie Mills and Matt Jester, Vermont invader Dave Camara, Massachusetts wheelman Andy Bachetti, Jeff Brown and Brad Trice from Maryland, Ohioans Jim Rasey and Rex King Jr., Frenchman Michel Chicoine plus the father/son tandem from Texas, Doug and Jason Ingalls.
Any drivers wishing to update team information for the pre-race roster, please contact DIRTcar Northeast PR Director Tom Skibinski by phone (585/350-8997) or through e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org correspondence. Specific questions regarding rules can be directed to Cory Reed (315/224-9009), DIRTcar NE Director of Competition & Track Sanctioning.
Tickets are on sale for the 38th Annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals, February 3-14, at Volusia Speedway Park, available for any individual night and also in blocks for each headline division. Along with the Big-Block Modifieds, competition also features Sprint Car racing (Feb. 3-8), Late Model action (Feb. 9-14) and UMP DIRTcar Modified activity (Feb. 3-10). For tickets call the track directly at 386/985-4402 or visit https://volusia.ticketdirector.com/ticketdirector.web.ui/SelectEvent.aspx on-line.
For additional information, contact the DIRTcar Northeast Office (315/834-6606) during normal business hours or log into www.dirtcarnationals.com. Advance Series Big-Block Modified news is always available on the internet at www.superdirtcarseries.com.
Headquartered in Roanoke, Va., Advance Auto Parts, a leading automotive aftermarket retailer of parts, accessories, batteries, and maintenance items in the United States, serves both the do-it-yourself and professional installer markets As of April 19, 2008, the Company operated 3,291 stores in 40 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Additional information about the Company, employment opportunities, customer services, and on-line shopping for parts and accessories can be found on the Company’s web site at www.advanceautoparts.com.
The Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series for Big-Block Modifieds is brought to fans across the Northeast by several sponsors and partners, including series sponsors Advance Auto Parts, Hoosier Racing Tire and Sunoco Race Fuels. Promotional partners include AMB i.t., Rite Aid Corporation and the University of Northwestern Ohio and the contingency sponsors are Bert Transmission, Bicknell Racing Products, Bilstein Shocks, Brodix Cylinder Heads, Crane Cams, Integra Shocks, MSD Ignitions, Motorsports Safety Systems, Penske Shocks and Wrisco Industries.