January 19, 2017
And we’re not talking about the thousands of Canadian fans who make the annual pilgrimage down to Florida to usher in the start of the new NASCAR campaign.
This year we’ll have a three headlining Canadian drivers across two of NASCAR’s main touring series to watch on the 2.5 mile super-speedway.
Let’s start with The NASCAR Truck Series and a full-time effort that kicks off the new season at Daytona International February 24th.
Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario’s Stewart Friesen and his Halmar Construction sponsor and partner Chris Larsen have formed Halmar Friesen Racing for a full-schedule attack in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in the # 52 Chevrolet Silverado.
Managing the day-to-day operations a HFR will be NASCAR veteran Tommy Baldwin Jr.
Friesen, renowned for his success in DIRT Modifieds and Sprint Cars, debuted in the Truck Series last summer at Eldora Speedway, then ran five more pavement races with a best finish of 13th at New Hampshire.
They liked the Trucks so much, they’re full-time for 2017.
“I’m super excited to be part of the Halmar Friesen Racing team,” Friesen stated. “We did a bit of racing last year to get our feet wet on asphalt, and we were pleased with our success. Everything we have going on with Tommy is exciting. It’s great to have his experience guiding our team so we can hit the ground running at Daytona.”
Friesen’s crew chief will be Trip Bruce, who worked with Baldwin in the K&N Pro Series East. Bruce won a championship with driver Johnny Benson, with ten Truck wins to his credit.
They chose the # 52 for their truck for personal and historic reasons. Stewart’s grandfather, the late Stan Friesen, long time co-owner and promoter of Niagara’s Ransomville Speedway ran that number during his racing career in the 60’s. Stewart’s cousin James Michael Friesen carries the family number on his Sportsman modified.
Friesen told Raceline Radio Network listeners in a recent interview he’s not abandoning his clay track efforts. Stewart will still race Modifieds and Sprint Cars at selected events, primarily in the North East.
Calgary Alberta pilot Cameron Hayley is back in the NASCAR Truck Series for 2017 as part of a four truck stable for Thorsport Racing out of Ohio. Cameron finished 25th at Daytona last year, winding up 11th in series points.
Now, for the main event at Daytona, the Daytona 500 February 26th, multi-time Raceline Radio Network guest D.J Kennington will tiller an all-Canadian effort in the biggest stock car race in the sport.
The St. Thomas, Ontario resident is a two-time champion of Canada’s NASCAR series and has extensive experience in NASCAR’s Xfinity and Truck Series machinery. He also ran the Cup race at Phoenix last fall.
This is an all-Canadian effort. Kennington’s Toyota Camry will be prepared by Gaunt Brothers Racing, who got their start in Ontario’s late model stock car racing scene, primarily with John Gaunt as a former driver.
“As the Daytona 500 is called The Great American Race, our team will be considered the Great Canadian Invasion,” joked Kennington. “While this will be my first outing in a Cup car at Daytona, I have a lot of experience racing and drafting there, so there shouldn’t be a big learning curve.”
So between Stewart Friesen and Cameron Hayley in the Truck race and D.J Kennington in the Daytona 500 itself, we have a decent Canadian contingent to keep track of as the 2017 on-track racing season hits high gear as we slowly work our way toward spring.
Tale Pipes: Thanks to our friend and partner Greg MacPherson at Inside Track Motorsport News for the notes and quotes on the DJ Kennington story… Congrats to our long-time friend and colleague Tana Robinson, who’s now on staff at Weedsport Speedway. Jennifer Martin takes over administration at Niagara’s Ransomville Speedway, with veteran Steve Petty assuming Media Relations. The Big R’s bringing back the World of Outlaws Sprints this summer. Congrats as well to former Sportsman driver Don Speice and his wife Lorraine on their purchase of Niagara’s Merrittville Speedway, Canada’s oldest and longest running dirt track. 2017 is their 66th season! And Alex Nagy tells us the mild winter’s allowed construction to roll on at the new Jukasa Speedway, formerly Cayuga Speedway, Hamilton. Slated to open in July, they have a pair of events pencilled in for the new season. A NASCAR Canada Series stop is anticipated.