Test of Survival: Stewart Friesen Survives 49-lap Melvin L. Joseph Memorial Marathon, Earning $6,949-Plus
Written by Chris Moore
GEORGETOWN, DE – A field of 46 Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series (STSS) Fueled By Sunoco Modifieds filled the Georgetown Speedway pit area on Saturday.
After an event-filled 49-lap main event, Stewart Friesen survived for a $6,949 payday.
Friesen, of Sprakers, N.Y., bested the 31-car field and a race of tire attrition to win the Melvin L. Joseph Memorial in front of a packed house at the Sussex County oval. Friesen edged rival Matt Sheppard to open the STSS Velocita-USA South Region with a Sunoco checkered flag.
With strong winds and bright sun, an abrasive track surface was in place for the opening round of the Velocita-USA South Region presented by Design for Vision and Sunglass Central.
Joseph Watson and Ryan Krachun started on the front row as New Jersey’s Krachun took the lead and had opened a sizable advantage over the rest of the field. However, after a yellow on lap eight, Krachun chose the outside, and Anthony Perrego, in his new Gary Simpson No. 12 STSS South Region ride, gladly took the bottom and took the top spot.
Drivers continued trying to make the top side work, and right around the halfway point, tires began deflating. Pole starter Watson brought out the yellow due to a flat tire; H.J. Bunting and Krachun both visited the pit area to change tires as well. One lap later, following another yellow, Billy Pauch (second), Stewart Friesen (sixth), and Ryan Godown (seventh) all went to the pit area on lap 25.
Things began to look like the ‘Blast at the Beach’ from last August with Anthony Perrego and Craig Von Dohren running first and second. However, they both fell victim to the flat tire wrath shortly after. By lap 29, all but six cars had been in the pits.
After Friesen’s tire change, he was able to pick spots off one-by-one, combined with overtaking drivers who went to the pit area.
By lap 30, Friesen’s Halmar International-backed DKM No. 44 was back to the lead.
“It’s a weird deal when it comes to a tire game like that,” Friesen said, reflecting on his ascent through traffic. “It wasn’t an artistic success, but we got the win and we will take it. I was definitely nervous about making it to the end.”
On lap 33, defending STSS Halmar International North Region driver Billy Decker flipped on the backstretch. At that point, STSS and Georgetown officials opted to offer teams the opportunity to refuel due to the amount of caution laps run.
Following the fuel stop, Matt Sheppard and Ryan Watt began to climb their way through the field, eventually getting to second and third, respectively, within the final five laps.
Sheppard and Watt chased Friesen across the line at the finish.
The win for Friesen was the 13th of his career with the Short Track Super Series.
“Stew is too good; he’s not going to mess up,” Sheppard said. “We threw everything at him that we could. We just ran out of tires.”
Sheppard had led the race at the lap-27 mark prior to giving it up due to a flat tire.
The defending winner of the Melvin L. Joseph Memorial race, Boyertown, Pa.’s Watt started 18th, climbed fifth, got a flat, and drove all the way back for a third-place finish.
“We got to third, I thought we had something for those two (Friesen and Sheppard), but we ran out of tires and I just had to hang on,” the Boyertown, Pa., driver said.
Billy Pauch Jr. of Frenchtown, N.J., nursed the Pascual Motorsports No. 3 to a fourth-place finish, edging Milford, Del.’s Jordan Watson, who recovered from his own tire misfortune to finish fifth in the family owned No. 1J.
Jeff Strunk of Boyertown, Pa., drove Glenn Hyneman’s Keystone Racing No. 126 from 29th to finish sixth, earning the $249 cash Hard Charger from Ad-Art Sign Company and a $50 VAHLCO Wheels certificate. Duane Howard of Oley, Pa., in Norm Hansell’s No. 357 finished seventh, followed by Craig Von Dohren of Oley, Pa., in the Dick Biever No. 14s; David Van Horn Jr. of Phillipsburg, N.J., in Fred Vahlsing’s No. 323ov; and Sportsman graduate Alex Yankowski of Throop, Pa.
Sheppard was the Beyea Custom Headers Fast Timer at a lap of 19.213 seconds.
Heat winners were Sheppard, Bachetti, Krachun, Van Horn and Von Dohren. Wade Hendrickson, Ryan Godown and Mike Gular took the consolations.
Adam McAuliffe of Broadalbin, N.Y., put his name on the Georgetown Speedway win list, taking home the $1,490 top prize to open the six-race STSS Crate 602 Sportsman South Region. McAuliffe’s win came over a packed field of 53 Sportsman on hand for the opener.
The Crate 602 Sportsman feature had drama in its own right.
Pole starter Cole Stangle was sent back two after being called for jumping the start twice. Tighe Sherlock would inherit the lead and controlled most of the events.
Scott Hitchens, the all-time winningest 602 crate driver at Georgetown, quickly climbed from 10th to second and was pressuring Sherlock for the lead. All the meanwhile, Craig Whitmoyer, a Grandview (Pa.) Speedway regular, was making hay. After starting 19th, the man they call “Hook”, was working through the field and had gotten to third, right behind Sherlock and Hitchens.
Things all changed with five laps to go, as Scott Hitchens went to change a left-rear tire under yellow.
McAuliffe was the beneficiary as he shot through the top-five.
“I found out under one yellow the top was a little better, so I stuck with it,” McAuliffe said.
The Empire State driver made the trip down, and put on a show in the late race restarts, going to the top every time, and making passes every time. With three laps to go McAuliffe was third when the green flag dropped again. He went to the top, passed Whitmoyer and got under Sherlock. Sherlock got out of the groove off of four, and hit the outside wall hard, ending his story book night.
“I knew we’d be strong at the end,” McAuliffe.
The Delaware Super Trucks saw 15 vehicles take the green with Jerry Hill and Tim Quay on the front row. Matt Esham, who started 12th was making moves early and often. He climbed to second halfway, and was able to take advantage of the push the 69 of Jeremy Hill had. Hill and David Smith ended up making contact, giving Hill a flat tire and ending his chances at a win.
Esham held off the field to pick up his first career win.
A 17-car field of Modifieds and Late Models appeared for the Southern Delaware Vintage Stock Car feature event. Jamie Eicholz started on the outside of the front row, and showed the way, as the Late Models ended up with a strong advantage by the end.
The top-three were all Late Models, with Eicholz picking up the win, and Todd Miller finishing second. Miller started in 15th and ended up being the highest-finishing sportsman finisher in the feature.
Twelve Delmarva Chargers went at it hot and heavy for their 12-lap feature. By lap two, they were two by three nose to tail among the first five cars. Geoff Carey started and seventh and quickly threw his hat in the ring and entered the fray. He and the No. 51 of Jerry Barker began to run away from the field.
“I hope he’s not mad, I leaned on him a little bit,” Carey would say of his pass of Barker for the lead with four laps to go.
Ashley Merritt, meanwhile, would win a three wide battle to round out the top three.
GEORGETOWN NOTES: It was a big day for growing chassis builder DKM, sweeping the open-wheel portions of the event with Friesen in the STSS Modified and McAuliffe in the STSS Crate 602 Sportsman taking victories….
NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Bobby Allison was the Melvin L. Joseph Memorial Grand Marshall and signed autographs throughout the afternoon, while speaking to the crowd before the National Anthem. Allison rehashed memories of racing Joseph’s No. 49 and his affinity for Dover International Speedway built by Joseph….
The pit area was filled to overflow, literally, leading to the Delmarva Chargers and Delaware Super Trucks to be parked in the infield. The total car count was 143….
The two-day event concludes on Sunday with an event comprised of Small-Block Modifieds racing for $4,049 to win (30 laps) plus RUSH Late Models ($1,049 to win), Delmarva Chargers and Delaware Super Trucks.
All gates open at noon on Sunday. Hot laps hit the track at 2 p.m. with racing at 3 p.m.
Sunday grandstand admission is $25 for Adults, $20 for Seniors (ages 65 and up) and Students (ages 13-17), $10 for Children ages 9-12 and Kids 8 and under are FREE.
Pit admission for Sunday is $35 (ages 13 and up), $10 for Kids (ages 6-12) and $2 for Children five and under.
Georgetown Speedway, originally constructed by Melvin L. Joseph in 1949, is located at the intersection of Route 113 and Speedway Road in Georgetown, Del., just miles from the Delaware beaches and less than a 40-minute drive from Ocean City, Md.
A website is live for the speedway at www.thegeorgetownspeedway.com. Like Georgetown Speedway on Facebook, follow @thegtownspdwy on Twitter, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the speedway hotline at 302.563.GTWN (4896).
MELVIN L. JOSEPH MEMORIAL RESULTS SUMMARY – GEORGETOWN SPEEDWAY MARCH 16, 2019
Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco Velocita-USA South Region Event No. 1 Modified Feature Finish (49 laps): STEWART FRIESEN, Matt Sheppard, Ryan Watt, Billy Pauch Jr., Jordan Watson, Jeff Strunk, Duane Howard, Craig Von Dohren, David Van Horn Jr., Alex Yankowski, Demetrios Drellos, Richie Pratt Jr., Mike Gular, Andy Bachetti, Brandon Grosso, H.J. Bunting III, Allison Ricci, Ryan Krachun, Matt Stangle, Ryan Godown, Jimmy Horton, Billy Pauch, Wade Hendrickson, Billy Decker, Joseph Watson, Anthony Perrego, Danny Johnson, Tim Fuller, Mike Mahaney, Rick Laubach, Danny Bouc.
Did Not Qualify: Michael Maresca, Craig Hanson, Kevin Sockriter, Roger Manning, Scott Van Gorder, Roger Henion Jr., Kevin Gardner, Todd Neiheiser, Robbie Emory, Ryan Riddle, Ron Roberts Jr., Mike Franz, Jordn Justice, Sammy Martz, Bobby DeLeon.
Ad-Art Sign Company Hard Charger ($249): Jeff Strunk (29th to sixth)
American Racer/Lias Tire Company Tire Giveaway (FREE Tire): Alex Yankowski (10th) & Demetrios Drellos (11th)
ATL Fuel Cells Bonus ($200 Certificate): Jordan Watson (fifth)
Behrent’s Performance Warehouse Bonuses ($50 Gift Cards): Billy Pauch Jr. (fourth) & David Van Horn Jr. (ninth)
Beyea Custom Headers Fast Time ($100): Matt Sheppard (19.213 seconds)
Bill Brown ‘Move of the Race’ Award ($50): Matt Sheppard (6th-to-second restart)
EIBACH Springs Bonus ($100 Certificate): Jeff Strunk (sixth)
Henry’s Exhaust System Bonus ($100 Certificate): Demetrios Drellos (11th)
Precision Hydraulic & Oil Halfway Leader ($200): Anthony Perrego
Racing Optics Bonus (Tear-Off Sleeve) Ryan Watt (third)
Sunoco Race Fuels Bonuses ($50 Certificates): Matt Sheppard (second), Richie Pratt Jr. (12th) & Billy Pauch (22nd)
VAHLCO Wheels Hard Charger ($50 Certificate): Jeff Strunk (29th to sixth)
WELD Wheels Hard Luck Award (5XL Wheel): Danny Bouc (DNQ)
Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco Crate 602 Sportsman Feature Finish (20 laps): ADAM McAULIFFE, Robert Bublak, Cole Stangle, Jeff Brown, Scott Hitchens, Michael White, Jimmy Johnson, Daniel Morgiewicz, Corey Cormier, Walter Hammond, Ryan Macartney, Jim Housworth, Tim Hartman Jr., Adam White, Stacey Jackson, Craig Whitmoyer, Tighe Sherlock, Joe Toth, Jeff Taylor, Sammy Martz Jr., Tyler Thompson, Connor Cleveland, Steve Davis, Hunter Lapp, Tom Moore Jr , Andrew Belmont, Connor King, Ryan Simmons, Dylan Swinehart, Stephen Kemery.
Did Not Qualify: Jack Butler, Bobby Flood, Samantha Muller, Kevin Borden Jr., Matt Smith, Anthony Tramontana, Dwayne Crockett, Brett Belmont, Derrick McGrew Jr, Dan Fleming, Paul Griffin Jr., John Stevenson, Aaron Doolittle, Jordan Long, Tim Guild, Joel Smith, Sean Metz, Trent VanVorst, Jake Mason, EJ McAuliffe, Brian Hitz, David Jenkins, Scott Hulmes
Southern Delaware Vintage Stock Car Feature Finish (12 laps): JAMIE EICHOLZ, Todd Miller, Robert Paczkowski, Dave Parsons, Dave Schamp, Joe Walbert, Harold Sylvester, John Burton, Don Davidson, David Tucker II, Wayne Roth, Art Workman, Robert Blann, Andy Cassel, Freddie Brightbill, Kelly Putz, Pete Morris.
Delaware Super Truck Feature Finish (12 laps): MATT ESHAM, Robert Smith, David Smith, Dale Elliott, Kurt Miles Sr., George Shupp, Dick Beauchamp, Joe Lopez, Tony Bowers, Jerry Hill, Bill Dean, Kurt Miles Jr, Ryan Efford, Tim Quay, Thomas Jackson.
Delmarva Charger Feature Finish (12 laps): GEOFF CAREY, Jerry Barker, Ashley Merritt, Chris "Tippy" Martinez, Robert Paczkowski, Brandon Riefler, Chris Carroll, Joe Waters, John Chandler, Joe Morrel, Randy Merritt, John Bailey.