Stewart Friesen expects that he’s going to be by himself almost all day on Tuesday. Not a unique experience for anyone during the COVID-19 pandemic, but very different for a driver competing on the NASCAR Trucks circuit.
Friesen will drive himself to Charlotte Motor Speedway, get changed in his vehicle, then go through the driver check-in, before walking through a virtually deserted venue and to his race truck waiting on the grid as the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series restarts with the NC Education Lottery 200.
“That’ll be different,” said Friesen, who had driven down to North Carolina last week and had meetings at his team’s garage to come up with a race-day strategy. “We won’t be able to do that the morning of the race like we used to in the lounge or in the hallway.
“I think it’s a pretty good game plan, kind of a unique pre-racing circumstance.”
Friesen last raced on Feb. 21, when he finished ninth at the Strat 200 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. NASCAR and its series, like all North American professional sports leagues, then had to put its seasons on hold because of COVID-19.
Getting NASCAR events rolling again has been a blessing, Friesen said.
“It’s a lot harder than just going to a race and racing,” he said. “A lot of preparation and planning had to take place to get approval from the state and county officials to allow the race to take place.
“It’s a couple more hoops to jump through, but we’re just lucky to get to race at this point.”
The native of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., believes that the lack of races might be advantageous since it’s given him time to get used to the new Toyota Tundra he’s driving this season.
“It’s kind of nice to be able to put a couple of new trucks together in that time and refined our engineering program stuff,” Friesen said. “We got out of Vegas, back in February with a ninth-place finish, and then having learned a lot about our Tundra.”
Three races on the NASCAR Trucks schedule were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Friesen has kept busy and behind the wheel. Mainly of a go-kart, granted, but he says it’s been helpful.
“I built a go-kart track behind our shop in New York last summer for my son Parker. We’ve actually been turning lots of laps on that and kept me in some sort of fighting shape,” he said. “I’ve been able to use the simulator and (Toyota Racing Development) session last weekend in Charlotte so that helped me run through some different setups with our crew chief and engineer.”