AUDIO/RECAP: Stewart Friesen Wins Fourth Syracuse 200 At ‘Finale at the Fairgrounds’

Steven Ovens Asphalt Modifieds, Audio, Dirt Modifieds, Dirt Track Racing, Featured, Northeast, Southeast, Super DIRTcar Series 0 Comments

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Story and Audio by Race Chaser Online New York Correspondent Steven Ovens — Brad Ovens photo —

The finale at the fairgrounds took place at the New York State Fairgrounds on Sunday afternoon under the bright sunshine that had lit NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week 44 times before.  The Syracuse 200 was on deck for the Super DIRTcar Series and all the stops signs had been pulled out of the ground to send off the Moody Mile in grand fashion.

Many of the past champions of the Syracuse 200 were honored in a pre-race reunion in front of a near sellout crowd, led by longtime Dirt Modified television analyst Gary Montgomery.  Names like Buzzie Reutimann, Merv Treichler, Kenny Brightbill, Gary Balough, Jimmy Horton, Bob McCreadie and Brett Hearn all had their moment in front of the Syracuse grandstand.  None was louder though than the cheers for Reutimann.

The former driver of the Dover Brake No. 00 was the Floridian with the signature smile that swept the first two Syracuse 200’s dating back to 1972 and 1973.  One of Reutimann’s cars that has been on display was brought out of retirement to allow Reutimann to pace the 44-car field prior to the green flag.

At the end of 200 laps and 44 years of history, Stewart Friesen etched his name as the third 4-time winner alongside Balough and Billy Decker.  This race was won on a commitment to their pit strategy, as we have seen in so many Syracuse 200’s in the past, and a bad fast race car to finish the job.

‘Lightning Larry’ Wight and Friesen led the field to Dave Farney’s green flag and it was the Phoenix, NY driver in Wight that led the event early on.  Wight would set the pace while Friesen got caught on the outside and fell back several positions on the initial start.

Carey Terrance had another great early run in 2nd as he has done the past few seasons, but a problem with the No. 66x for Terrance saw him go high on the speedway and fall back to the 7th spot.  Terrance would go on to only make it to lap 35, before dropping out of the race finishing a disappointing 42nd.

Brett Hearn’s team tried the short-pit strategy that won Jimmy Phelps the 358-Modified race on Saturday, as he brought the Teo Pro Car No. 20 down pit road for tires and fuel on the Lap 35 caution.

Wight found his own problems as well just 14 laps later on Lap 49.  It was on Lap 48 that Billy Dunn took the lead on a three-wide move in lap cars to put the 2013 Syracuse 200 winner out front.  But on Lap 49, Wight suffered a broken driveshaft forcing Wight onto the backstretch cinder track- ending what had been a perfect week.

Dunn would take over command and looked to improve upon his 2nd place run on Saturday in the 358-Modified championship.  Friesen started to make his move toward the front to be in great position when it came time to make their first pit stop of the day.  The Sprakers, NY driver was up to 4th on Lap 32 and then to 2nd by Lap 58 around Wight’s teammate Pat Ward.

Keith Flach brought out the caution flag on Lap 70 as he made contact with the Turn 3 wall.  This set up the opportunity for the 2015 edition of ‘organized chaos’ as many teams hit the pit road for their first pit stop, and for some teams, their only trip down the pit lane.

The pit road opened up on Lap 73 and saw Dunn, Friesen, Ward, Decker, Duane Howard, Matt Sheppard, Phelps, Dave Blaney, Tim McCreadie, Mat Williamson, Jimmy Horton, Eddie Marshall, Justin Haers, Frank Cozze and Rick Laubach all come in for service.

For Friesen’s crew and their man behind the wheel, the discussion quickly turned to the ‘magic number’ for when they would come back in for tires and fuel?

“Alright Stew, we talked about what that magic number would be.  We really feel like we need to get to the mid 90’s before we come back in to get to the end,” said Friesen’s Crew Chief.

“Yeah I agree, I say we come in mid 90’s and get fuel and cut up tires,” Friesen responded.

For Heinke-Baldwin Racing teammates Sheppard and Phelps, their Lap 73 pit stop would be their only trip down the pit lane.  Based on the Syracuse 200 rule of having to complete the last 25 laps under green flag conditions, this strategy was a gamble.  But a gamble that the team felt would win them the event dubbed the ‘Finale at the Fairgrounds’.

Dunn’s great run early ran into problems as the Watertown, NY native had a flat Left Front tire and had to pit under yellow on Lap 83.  At that point in the race, Tim Fuller led Brett Hearn who still needed to make their final pit stop of the day.

That opportunity to pit came on Lap 93 as Billy Decker also came up lame on the speedway with a flat Left Front as well.  That brought most of the leaders to pit road on Lap 95 including Hearn, Friesen, Williamson, Blaney, Decker, McCreadie and Haers.  Fuller stayed out to lead at halfway, which he did as he brought his No. 19 across the line first at Lap 100.

Another yellow on Lap 111 saw early week favorite Ryan Godown slow on the speedway.  Blaney’s last run at the mile ended on this caution as he was pushed behind the wall with a problem, on a day where the former Syracuse World of Outlaws winner was never a factor.

Lap 113 found Fuller, Hearn, Howard, Dunn, Gary Tomkins and David Hebert on the pit lane.  This handed the lead over to Sheppard’s No. 999, a throwback paint scheme honoring Sheppard’s father Stu who is never far from Matt’s racing endeavors.  At that point, it looked as though the pit strategy the HBR team had crafted would pan out favorably.

Lap 111 through 175 were littered with caution flags which never allowed the drivers a chance to get into a rhythm like we have seen late in the race in recent years.  Two drivers this seemed to help was Hearn and Friesen.  The Teo Pro Car duo picked their way through the field after their pit stops, knowing that they needed to race the HBR cars to hopefully pass them or run them out of fuel at the end.

Friesen was working the top lane, which has been his bread and butter for many years at the one-mile track.  Only Dunn has sailed his car into the corners on the high side like Friesen has over the years and it was fitting that the outside was the way to go in the finale.

A Lap 166 restart saw Friesen get by Hearn for third place and set his sights on attacking the HBR cars for the lead and the win.  Former Syracuse 200 winner Kenny Tremont Jr also began making a push for the lead as he worked his way by Hearn for fourth on Lap 168.

Phelps gave up second to Friesen as the field worked Lap 173 as the three-time Syracuse 200 was determined to make it No. 4.  Lap 174 saw Friesen sail it in on the high side of Turn 3 around Sheppard for the lead, just as he had done in 2014 for the win at Super DIRT Week XLIII.

After the pass by Friesen, Sheppard’s car seemed to have dropped anchor as the No. 999 fell through the top ten positions.  Sheppard would pit and not be a factor the rest of the afternoon.

Tremont Jr. took over the runner-up position on Lap 178 and set up a 22-lap dash to the final Syracuse 200 checkered flag.  With 20 laps to go, Friesen had a 1.1 second advantage over Tremont.  But Tremont would not go without a fight as he closed in on Friesen with just 10 laps remaining.

Once Tremont closed back in, Friesen’s crew gave him the green light to let the ponies in his Billy the Kid engine run.  Friesen would pull away easily and race on to his fourth Syracuse 200 in six years at the Moody Mile.  Tremont had to settle for 2nd in what was one of his best Syracuse 200’s in recent memory.

Jimmy Phelps made the fuel stretch until the finish for third, giving him podium finishes for both Saturday and Sunday’s races.  Brett Hearn broke a brake line with 14 laps to go and nursed his No. 20 home for fourth place.  Billy Decker ended his Moody Mile career with a top 5 finish.

The races hard charger, Gary Tomkins, finished 7th in a great story for the Mike Payne Racing 7z.  Payne and Tomkins teamed up on Thursday morning after talking at Weedsport Wednesday night, giving the Clifton Springs, NY pilot a shot to capture one last great charge to the front at Syracuse.


Post-Race Audio from the Syracuse 200:

Syracuse 200 Winner- Stewart Friesen


Syracuse 200 2nd Place Finisher- Kenny Tremont Jr


Syracuse 200 3rd Place Finisher- Jimmy Phelps


Syracuse 200 4th Place Finisher- Brett Hearn


Syracuse 200 5th Place Finisher- Billy Decker


Listen to the entire Post-Race Press Conference with Friesen, Tremont and Phelps


Syracuse 200 Finishing Order:

  1. Stewart Friesen 44
  2. Kenny Tremont 115
  3. Jimmy Phelps 6
  4. Brett Hearn 20
  5. Billy Decker 91
  6. Billy Dunn 49
  7. Gary Tomkins 7z
  8. Tim McCreadie 39
  9. Frank Cozze 35
  10. Pat Ward 42p
  11. Rick Laubach 7
  12. Tim Fuller 19
  13. Justin Haers 1H
  14. JR Heffner 74
  15. Eddie Marshall 98
  16. Jimmy Horton 12a
  17. John Ferrier 220
  18. Pierre Hebert 71
  19. Bob McGannon 21m
  20. Rich Scagliotta 8
  21. Duane Howard 66
  22. Jamie Maier 31m
  23. Tom Sears Jr 62s
  24. Keith Flach 43
  25. Matt Sheppard 999
  26. Peter Britten 21a
  27. Ronnie Johnson 2rj
  28. Mat Williamson 6m
  29. Andy Bachetti 34
  30. Dominick Buffalino 51m
  31. Eldon Payne 28p
  32. Mark Forte Jr M40
  33. Brian Swarthout 14s
  34. Jeff Rockefeller 816
  35. Danny Johnson 27J
  36. Ryan Godown 747
  37. Dave Blaney 74d
  38. Vic Coffey 32c
  39. Tyler Dippel 1t
  40. Rob Bellinger 11
  41. Larry Wight 99L
  42. Carey Terrance 66x
  43. Jesse Mueller 19m
  44. Steve Paine 7x

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