Dirt Track Racing

Q&A with Jessica (Zemken) Friesen

A quick question and answer with NASCAR trucks and Northeast Modified star Stewart Friesen's wife, Jessica, a great driver in her own right who looks towards racing more in 2018.

Luke: Are your plans to just run Fonda this year? What’s your race schedule look like for 2018?

Jessica: Some Fonda, some Malta, really no schedule just whenever it works with Parker and shirt business and when we don’t go truck racing.

Luke: Is this your first time out racing since having Parker? Do you think it will change your perspective at all racing?

Jessica: I was in my 360 I believe twice in 2016 and 2-3 times in 2017. It was too hard to prep car, run a business and make sure Parker was happy. I had a 3rd at the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals and only one other top 10 the last two years. It was clear that I didn’t belong behind the wheel [at the time after just having Parker]. My perspective on not just racing but life has changed. I grew up wanting nothing more then to race. Today it’s my son Parker #1, my family, our business, and then racing.

Luke: How many races do you think you’ll run this year?

Jessica: Hope to run around 15-20 but it’s really week to week.

Luke: Why modifieds and not sprint cars?

Jessica: With the modified if I wanted to I could run Friday, Saturday, and Sunday all within an hour and a half from home. The travel is too much with the sprint car having a son and a business. The resources to run a modified are at my fingertips. I have the help, knowledge and the equipment. The sprint car tends to be a lot more work on me. With the sprint I do the setups, fuel the engine, drive the hauler, and it tends to be too much, and the stress sometimes overrides the fun, and that’s what it’s about at this point in my racing career. I’m super competitive and I’m still out to race hard and win races don’t get me wrong. Things are just a little different.

Jessica [cont’d]:I don’t want it to sound like a pitty party or anything like that, but maybe it would be cool if this comes out sometime in April. April is Autism Awareness Month, and our son Parker was diagnosed last June. I have pretty much committed myself to doing anything and everything I possibly can to help him get the therapy he needs. 8-9 months ago the doctors and therapist had us believing he may never talk at all. We were on waiting lists for speech OT and ABA therapy for months. Parker now gets ABA therapy everyday 9am-12pm and then 3 days a week we go to a center for an hour and a half for speech, OT and special instruction. The therapy time makes it hard to run a business and even harder to think about going racing. He is my number one.

Luke: Oh man that’s awesome dedication and for sure I’ll get this out this month. What has that taught you?

Jessica: Stay positive, work hard, and enjoy life… I would say Stew [Stewart Friesen] and I have both learned to have more of a positive outlook. Not focusing on negatives and over celebrating the positives in hopes that they just keep coming. Everyday is an adventure!

Luke: That’s a beautiful outlook.

Jessica: … And I certainly wouldn’t be racing right now if Parker hadn’t grown so much developmentally in the last 4-5 months.

Luke: What’s it been like standing next to Stew through all this? You’ve known him a long time, he’s really grown as a driver… you had some great opportunities racing in other cars too… what’s it been like being around NASCAR race weekends and the times you’ve spent in the “scene” there between races or at the garage?

Jessica: We’ve dated for over 14 years on again off again, but never spent much time away from each other. When we started dating Stew was living in a camper at Madsen’s (his DIRT modified car owners) campground, I was living at home with my parents, we were kids, we were broke, we had no idea what we wanted in life, what our goals were, what direction we were going. We just both wanted to race and we were both willing to work hard for it. That may have been the only goal we shared for a very long time [laughs]. That may have been why it took us so long to get it together and finally start heading in the same direction together and be a team. Since that has happened we have accomplished some amazing things together. Running our own race teams, getting married, building a house, starting a business neither of us knew the first thing about, winning some cool races together, having our amazing son, and the list just keeps growing. We are so fortunate to have such amazing people behind us with Halmar, who treat us like family, and Corr Pak merchandising who has been with me through so much. We have a great circle of friends and family some of who also work on the cars or help in shirt shop and we couldn’t accomplish what we have today without those people behind us. For Stew to be given this opportunity by Halmar to run in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series it’s been a dream come true for him. I am so unbelievably proud of him and the person he has become on and off the race track. He has and continues to work so hard. Sometimes we just look at each other and say is this for real? We live a wild and crazy life [and] there is nothing smooth or easy about it. There’s never a dull moment there’s always something going on, or someplace to be and we love it and love that our son is now getting to experience it with us. It’s sometimes hard to travel to the NASCAR weekends and not have some place at the track for Parker to run wild or to take a nap or just get away from the craziness. Stew promised that no matter what it took we would figure out a way to make it easier for us to travel more with him so we could do it as a family as much as possible. It’s sometimes hard with shirt shop or with Parker’s therapies but we have figured out how to be able to rent a motor home for a few NASCAR weekends. It may not always be feasible or the best option for us financially but “we’re doing it” is what Stew will say looking at me with a big goofy smile when we are there as a family for the truck races. It’s pretty cool. We don’t exactly fit into the “scene” but we are a living it up and having a blast doing it. We can usually be found sitting outside once we get Parker down for the night having a cocktail just taking it all in. We have met some great people along the way. We love racing and we are so fortunate to be able to live the life we live.

Luke: That’s awesome. Sounds like you’re in a good place as wife, mother, business owner, and racer. Cool to see a formal deal for you in 2018 running DIRT modifieds this year, good luck, and hope to catch a race you guys are at soon. 

Jessica: I’m rusty and it’s going to take a little to get the mod deal rolling but it’s fun to do it as a family! Hope to catch up with you someplace this summer!

Jessica Zemken Friesen is a dirt sprint car and modified driver from Upstate New York. Friesen is set to run 15-20 races this year in the surrounding New York area racing dirt modifieds.

1 comment on “Q&A with Jessica (Zemken) Friesen

  1. Kelly and Dave Holt

    Awsome job by Jessica and Stew. Grama Jan keeps us posted on all your hard work and Parkers progress. You guys are amazing role models for him. Wish you both all the best in raceing. And all the love and patience in the world with Parker.💞 🏁💕


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