SYRACUSE, NY — Story, Photo and Audio by Race Chaser Online New York Correspondent Steven Ovens — Stewart Friesen was a 2-time winner of the Syracuse 200 heading into Sunday’s running of the 200. His team hadn’t had the stellar week we are used to them having either as they were scheduled to roll off the grid in the 21st position.
But after running out of fuel in 2013 and getting caught in the rule of having to run the last 25 laps under the green flag- the Jeff Daley and Sons team were not going to allow that to happen again. Friesen came in to pit last on lap 119 and took a tire and filled up with VP race fuel which allowed them to be safe until the end. They also took a D400 Hoosier which is the softer of the 2 compounds they could take which also played a role in the finish.
The race started off like most Syracuse 200’s with drivers trying to log laps and get into their pit windows for fuel and tires. What was a bit different this year were the number of cautions that filled the race. Several drivers chose to stop on the racetrack when they ran into trouble to draw yellow flags. There were also 3 red flags in the event on laps 39, 45 and
Lap 39 would see Ryan Susice in the Jeremie Corcoran-owned 3c make contact with lead lap car Billy Dunn, sending Susice straight into the Turn 1 wall. The contact with the wall was hard, drawing the red flag however both drivers walked away. The red would come back out just 6 laps later when ‘the sensational one’ Jimmy Horton hit the Turn 1 wall driver’s side first and destroyed his #5 machine. Officials initially threw the yellow but safety workers’ thoughts were that Horton needed to be extricated from the vehicle. Horton did climb out and the yellow was displayed to restart the field.
Early leader, Brett Hearn, would come in on a lap 58 yellow flag for what most thought was a scheduled stop. What fans found out when he came into the pits was that Hearn actually had a broken Right Rear shock as he came in to the attention of the Fox Shocks crew. It would take several stops to fix the problem but several caution flags helped their repair efforts.
Lap 74 would see the red flag come out again for an accident in Turn 2 that saw Vinnie Vitale’s 56 car get turned upside down on it’s roof. 2-time Syracuse 200 winner Vic Coffey also got damage in the accident but would be able to return to action. Vitale would walk away from his flip on the Moody Mile.
The lap 74 red flag allowed TIm McCreadie to make his final pit stop of the day for a tire and fuel as his crew was confident they could go 126 laps on fuel. Ryan Godown would beat McCreadie off the pit lane, but a flat Left Front tire later in the race would eventually give the track position back to the man known on the mile as ‘T-Mac’.
As the field approached halfway, Matt Sheppard and Carey Terrance had the fans on their feet with their exciting swaps of the lead. Terrance was using the outside lane in Turns 1 & 2 just as he had the day before in the 358-Modified race. Sheppard in the HBR 9H was also strong and fought Terrance hard for the lead. When Godown got his flat tire, Terrance was running hard and slammed into the back of Godown before he could make it to pit road. The damage to both cars appeared cosmetic as Terrance’s front bumper was quite mangled.
Lap 119 pit stops gave the lead to rising modified competitor Billy VanInwegen in the Ten car. Billy V was sporting pink on the car for Syracuse to support Breast Cancer awareness and had fans and media alike questioning if they were trying to go 140 laps on fuel as their last stop came on lap 60. VanInwegen would leads many laps but eventually had to turn the lead over to Tim McCreadie on Lap 149 as the Randy Sherlock crew knew they wouldn’t be able to make it that far.
McCreadie would resume the lead and appeared to be the car that was going to eventually win the race. But as we all know, Syracuse can make things happen that don’t normally happen to cars as they are beat into submission for 200 long laps on the Moody Mile. Jimmy Phelps lost a rear hub with 44 laps to go which again dealt Phelps a bad hand in the 200. Phelps has yet to conquer the Moody Mile in the Syracuse 200 and will have to wait until Super DIRT Week 44 to try again.
On the restart McCreadie mentioned a vibration, but never spoke to it again and the crew didn’t acknowledge his comment about a potential problem. Friesen, however, had found his line on the top side of the speedway and began picking cars off one by one in his battle to the front.
With 23 laps to go the vibration became a cold reality for McCreadie and his crew. A broken Left Rear hub took the driver from nearby Watertown, NY out of the race. McCreadie was furious on the radio as winning at Syracuse is something he desperately wants to do before he hangs his driving gloves up. “I’m running out of years to get this done,” said McCreadie after the race.
This handed the lead over to Matt Sheppard as the green flag came back out. Friesen would get around Peter Britten with 18 laps to go and set his sights on the 9H of Sheppard, who took D500 Hoosiers on their pit stop earlier in the race. Just 7 laps later Friesen caught the back of Sheppard’s FX Caprara Chevy and looked to make his move. With 11 to go, Friesen made a jaw-dropping pass on Sheppard by saling his 44 machine into the Top of Turn 3 to complete the pass for the lead and the eventual win. The fans and folks in the media center alike were in awe of Friesen’s courageous move into what is a pretty hairy corner of the Moody Mile.
A yellow with 6 laps to go would bunch the field up, but on the restart Friesen lit up his D400 Hoosiers and ran away with the lead and would bring home the win for his third Syracuse 200 victory. He is the only Canadian to have won the 200 and now has three which puts his with select company in the record books. Sheppard would come home 2nd, JR Heffner had a strong showing in 3rd, Duane Howard brought the Atlas Paving 66 home in 4th while Vic Coffey brought a damaged Sweeteners Plus 32c home with a Top 5.
Hear now from Friesen in his post-race press conference after winning the Syracuse 200
Matt Sheppard’s thoughts after coming home 2nd
JR Heffner after bringing his 74 car home in position #3
Duane Howard speaks to us about finishing 4th
Vic Coffey on finishing with a Top 5
Best appearing car and Rookie of the Race Jimmy Davis
Other Audio from the Syracuse 200:
Ryan Godown Pre-Race
Matt Billings Pre-Race
Owner of Troyer Racecars, Billy Colton Pre-Race