Proud: Stewart Friesen Tops ‘Hard Clay Finale’ Sunday at Orange County Fair Speedway

Written by Chris Moore


At a place of self-proclaimed “ups-and-downs” in his career, Stewart Friesen closed the curtain on the 2023 season for the Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series (STSS) Fueled By Sunoco with a victory in the ‘Hard Clay Finale.’

Orange County Fair Speedway (OCFS) hosted the final race of the ’23 season for the STSS with a $10,500 payday up for grabs, and Stewart Friesen took it home to Sprakers, N.Y. with his 41st win in STSS history, the most all-time.

With the future of racing at OCFS uncertain, the ‘Hard Clay Finale’ may have been the last event ever at the five-eighths mile oval.

“I’m just proud to be here in (Bicknell Racing Products) Victory Lane,” Friesen stated. “This place is special to me; I’ve been racing here since I was 16 in a Sportsman car.”

“If this was it, I’m glad I got the last one, but I sure hope like heck we’re back here in April,” Friesen continued.

Friesen fired from the inside of the second row following the Beyea Custom Headers Redraw, while Anthony Perrego and Matt Sheppard made up the front row for the River Valley Builders North Region finale.

Perrego quickly raced to the early lead, holding off Sheppard and allowing the duo behind him to battle for the runner-up position.

With Sheppard trying to make the outside groove work, Friesen drove underneath him at the completion of lap six to take the second spot away.

Four laps later, Perrego slipped wide off turn four, and Friesen slipped past the fellow No. 44 car to snatch the lead away.

With Friesen leading, attention turned to a hard-charging Mat Williamson who had come from 11th to sixth in the opening 10 laps.

The race’s first yellow came on lap 10 and Williamson seized the opportunity. The St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada native raced from sixth to fourth when the green flag flew and quickly began to apply pressure to Sheppard for third.

Following several mid-race slowdowns, the new runner-up driver would bring out his own caution flag as mechanical issues forced Williamson to retire from the event.

Racing got going again with 27 laps to go and the top five as Friesen, Perrego, Jack Lehner, Andy Bachetti, and Alex Yankowski.

With 15 laps to go, Friesen found himself mired in lap traffic and Perrego was quickly closing in.

“I got to the 555 and the 4 racing side-by-side and I didn’t know what to do,” Friesen said with a laugh. “I saw Perrego’s nose but fortunately we were able to get away.”

Friesen withstood a final restart with three laps to go and hung on for the victory.

Perrego finished in the runner-up spot.

“We got a little lucky to get back to second,” Perrego laughed. “We made it interesting for a lap in traffic, but he (Friesen) was the class of the field.”

Sheffield, Mass., native Andy Bachetti rounded out the podium.

“We would go forward and go back,” Bachetti stated of the up-and-down race. “Once the fuel burned off a little bit we got better.”

Covington Township, Pa.’s Alex Yankowski finished fourth after starting in 16th in his family-owned No. 84y and Mooresville, N.C.’s Max McLaughlin rounded out the top five in the Bernier Racing No. 49 machine.

Finishing sixth through 10th, respectively, were Guilderland, N.Y.’s Marc Johnson aboard the S&S Asphalt Paving No. 9; Newburgh, N.Y.’s Cody Higbie claiming his best career STSS finish in his No. 97; Wurtsboro, N.Y.’s Danny Creeden in the RGH Construction No. 16x; Ballston Spa, N.Y.’s Ryan Odasz who claimed the Hard Clay – After Hours $1,000 Hard Charger Award; and Saratoga Springs, N.Y.’s Jack Lehner rounded out the top ten after getting a flat tire with just three laps to go.

Fifty-two STSS big-block/small-block Modifieds signed in for competition at the ‘Hard Clay Finale.’

Heat winners, receiving $50 each, courtesy of FloRacing were McLaughlin, Brett Tonkin, Danny Johnson, Danny Varin, and Perrego.

Matt Sheppard was lauded as the River Valley Builders North Region Champion following the race as well.

“We had a really good season in the North Region up until tonight,” Sheppard smiled. “It’s just a testament to our whole team and the work we put it in.”

The championship nets Sheppard another $15,000 for his efforts.

That concludes racing for 2023 for the Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series (STSS) Fueled By Sunoco. Stay tuned for exciting updates regarding the upcoming 2024 season, which begins in February at All-Tech Raceway in Lake City, Fla.

To learn more about the Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco, visit www.shorttracksuperseries.com, e-mail bdmotorsportsmedia@gmail.com, check out ‘Short Track Super Series’ on Facebook or @ShortTrackSS on Twitter or Instagram.

The Short Track Super Series is presented by American Racer/Lias Tire, Sunoco Race Fuel, FloSports, Bob Hilbert Sportswear, Rent Equip/Party Central, BDR Speed, Bicknell Racing Products, Ollie’s, Penske Racing Shocks, Wegner Automotive, River Valley Builders, Behrent’s Performance Warehouse, DIG Race Products, Velocita-USA, Franklin Products, Design for Vision & Sunglass Central, Belmont’s Garage, Quality Drywall, Precision Hydraulic & Oil, Prime MAC Tools, F.X. Caprara Car Companies, Algonkin Motel, Beyea Custom Headers, Dirt Track Digest, EIBACH, Electric Neon Custom Signs, Fastline Performance, Flach Performance Products, Henry’s Exhaust, Hig Fab, Schultz Racing Fuel Cells, Spyder Filters, Superior Remodeling, Teo-Pro Car, VAHLCO & Wilwood.


‘Hard Clay Finale’ Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco River Valley Builders North Region Round No. 11 Feature Finish (50 laps): 1. 44-STEWART FRIESEN[3]; 2. 44P-Anthony Perrego[1]; 3. 4B-Andy Bachetti[4]; 4. 84Y-Alex Yankowski[16]; 5. 49-Max McLaughlin[8]; 6. 9J-Marc Johnson[14]; 7. 97H-Cody Higbie[10]; 8. 16X-Danny Creeden[12]; 9. 88-Ryan Odasz[24]; 10. 2L-Jack Lehner[15]; 11. 10C-Tanner Van Doren[20]; 12. 4-Michael Trautschold[30]; 13. 35M-Mike Mahaney[21]; 14. 55-Allison Ricci[23]; 15. 27K-Brett Tonkin[9]; 16. 27J-Danny Johnson[6]; 17. 16S-Danny Varin[5]; 18. 6H-JR Hurlburt[29]; 19. 35C-Chris Curtis[18]; 20. 17Z-Dillon Steuer[7]; 21. 555-Leo Fotopolous[19]; 22. 3W-Mat Williamson[11]; 23. 97-Bobby Hackel IV[22]; 24. 9S-Matt Sheppard[2]; 25. 76-Frank Cozze Sr[13]; 26. 51-Jerry Higbie[17]; 27. 97T-Danny Tyler[25]; 28. 24-Chris Shultz[31]; 29. 93M-Craig Mitchell[27]; 30. 25-Steve Bernier[26]; 31. 82S-Will Shields[28]

Did Not Qualify: 26R-Corey Cormier, 2H-Jeremy Hamilton, 8R-Richard Smith, Z-Ed Kitchell, 219-Derek Cornish, 69-Randy Green, 15M-Daniel Morgiewicz, 4SL-Bob Hentschel, 280-Justin Holland, 17F-Frank Frasco, 17A-Josh Allen, 53-Geoff Quackenbush, 15s-Dylan Smith, 81-Heath Metzger, 10R-Ryan Walther, 93B-John Brown, 7-Travis Green, 11-Alissa Cody, 27M-Jared Miller, 87-Neil Stratton, 27-Jason Reome

American Racer/Lias Tire Bonuses (FREE Tire Certificate): Cody Higbie (seventh) & Brett Tonkin (15th)
BDR Speed Winner Bonus ($2,500): Stewart Friesen
Behrent’s Performance Warehouse Bonuses ($50 Gift Cards): Alex Yankowski (fourth) & Ryan Odasz (ninth)
Behrent’s Performance Warehouse Drawing Bonuses ($750, $500, & $250 Gift Cards): Marc Johnson, Stewart Friesen, Cody Higbie (Drawing among Top-10 Drivers)
Behrent’s Performance Warehouse Top-Ten Bonuses ($500 Each): Stewart Friesen (first), Anthony Perrego (second), Andy Bachetti (third), Alex Yankowski (fourth), Max McLaughlin (fifth), Marc Johnson (sixth), Cody Higbie (seventh), Danny Creeden (eighth), Ryan Odasz (ninth), Jack Lehner (10th)
Beyea Custom Headers Redraw Bonus ($50): Cody Higbie (Redrew 10th)
EIBACH Springs Bonus ($100 Certificate): Marc Johnson (sixth)
FloRacing Heat Race Winner ($50 Each): Max McLaughlin, Brett Tonkin, Danny Johnson, Danny Varin, Anthony Perrego
“Hard Clay – After Hours” Hard Charger Bonus ($1,000): Ryan Odasz (24th to ninth)
“Hard Clay – After Hours” Hard Luck Award ($1,000): Corey Cormier
Henry’s Exhaust Power Position ($50 Certificate): Tanner Van Doren (11th)
Penske Racing Shocks Bonuses: Stewart Friesen (first – $150 certificate); Anthony Perrego (second – $75 certificate); Andy Bachetti (third – $50 certificate); Jack Lehner (10th – $25 certificate)
Shultz Fuel Cells Bonus ($100 Certificate): Jack Lehner (10th)
Superior Remodeling Halfway Leader Bonus ($200): Stewart Friesen
Wilwood Brakes ‘Lucky 7’ Bonus ($100 Certificate): Cody Higbie (seventh)

River Valley Builders North Region Champion: MATT SHEPPARD ($15,000)