All is well that ends well for Stewart Friesen, but the start of Friday nightâs penultimate NASCAR Truck Series race at ISM Raceway in Phoenix could have proven costly to both his race and championship ambitions.
Friesen captured his second career victory, and first on a pavement track, but had to recover from a first-lap penalty for jumping the initial start on pole sitter Austin Hill.
It was a sloppy start, with Hill appearing to spin his tires and getting hit from behind, allowing Friesen to cross the start/finish line first. NASCAR rules mandate that the pole sitter must cross the line first. This is different from restarts, in which the leader has to fire off first, but can be beat to the start/finish line.
Fortunately for Friesen, he caught a caution after being shown the black flag, which allowed him to remain on the lead lap and restart the race from the rear of the field. He methodically drove his way back to the front, winning the raceÂ and punching his ticket into the Truck Series championship race next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“Dick Berggren once asked me, ‘Have you ever been screwed?’ and I said, ‘yes,'” Friesen said after his victory. “He then asked me, ‘Have you ever been unscrewed?’ And I said, ‘no.’ That’s how racing goes. I filed it away. You can scream and holler all day. They’re not going to reverse it.”
His crew chief, Trip Bruce, did most of the shouting.
“I was mad, and I never get mad,” Bruce said. “I just knew we had a winning truck, and I felt like we were getting the short end of the stick.”
Steve OâDonnell, NASCARâs executive vice president and chief racing development officer, addressed the topic on Monday morning during his weekly radio segment on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
“At the beginning of the race the leader earns that right with the pole and has to be the car to cross the start/finish line first,” OâDonnell said. “In this case, we canât make judgments on what may or may not happen to the pole sitter. When Stewartâs truck beat the pole sitter to the line, thatâs an automatic penalty for us.”
OâDonnell also detailed how the initial start is different from restarts.
“When we have a restart, the rule is the leader at that time earns the ability to restart the race and get on the gas so to speak first,” OâDonnell said. “But then once the leader does that anything goes and the race is basically started back up again and the line doesnât come into play.”