Jessica Friesen – Parker's mom – will make Truck Series debut at Bristol
By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
Editor's Note: This story is part of FOX Sports' series celebrating Women's History Month.
Jessica Friesen put her racing career on hold several years ago, when she and her husband, Stewart, decided to start a family.
Racing didn’t just drop to second on the list. It dropped to third behind their son, Parker, and the family’s new T-shirt printing business.
But Jessica still has that love of competition and going fast, and she hopes she can make a career memory Saturday, when she makes her NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut on the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track.
She won’t look at it as an opportunity to potentially race again full-time, though few would be surprised if the 34-year-old has a top-20 result, and few would question it if she competed in the series more regularly. She looks at this as an opportunity for Stewart and her to have another family moment with Parker and something they can tell their grandkids about.
"I don’t want to have that thought [of this leading to something big]," she said. "First, I’m a mom. My son comes first. Our business comes second.
"And racing comes third. ... Racing had always been No. 1 before having a family and before having a business. To have this opportunity is amazing."
Before he was 2 years old, Parker was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum, and Jessica said her priority was to make sure he got the therapy he needed.
Racing has given Parker a social gathering spot where he can look forward to seeing friends. Because he enjoys the track, Jessica said she can enjoy competing.
"I’m no longer feeling I’m taking anything away from Parker by getting back into racing and spending more time getting some laps in," Jessica said. "We’re able to do it as a family, and he loves it. ... [It has] helped him grow and develop, and he’s doing amazing.
"Now, Mom gets to have a little fun again."
The opportunity to compete on the BMS dirt track comes from familiar faces – her husband, Stewart, and Halmar Friesen Racing team owner Chris Larsen.
She will be a teammate to Stewart, who is fifth in the truck standings.
Jessica has driven for her husband (and raced against him) in dirt modifieds. The couple met as they raced against each other on dirt tracks across the northeast. Stewart is best known for his prowess in big block modifieds; Jessica thrived in sprint-car racing. Both have raced a variety of vehicles – they finished 1-2 in a modified race last year – and Stewart has focused on trucks the past six years.
"I’m looking at it as just another race just for myself," Jessica said. "Stewart and I talked about it – there is no pressure. Stewart puts more pressure on me racing his modified team than he’s putting on me for this truck team.
"We have a great crew down at HFR and the equipment and the right people."
Stewart hopes Jessica can give him some feedback on the Bristol dirt surface to help both of them run well. If they both qualify for the race, they will be the first husband-and-wife duo to compete against each other in trucks, though it has happened in the Xfinity Series with Patty Moise and Elton Sawyer.
"I’m looking forward to getting on track with her and see what she feels versus what I’m feeling, knowing both trucks will be prepared pretty much identical," Stewart said.
"So I’m looking forward to that side of it more than just we’re going to get out there and bump and grind on each other – which could happen, but we’ll take that as it comes and as the race progresses."
Jessica didn’t know if this race would happen, but she knew Stewart and the crew members had talked about the possibility if an opportunity presented itself.
And this is the best one, considering her history racing on dirt and this being NASCAR’s first attempt to race on a temporary dirt track that covers the Bristol Motor Speedway concrete.
"It’s going to be a huge learning experience, but I’m going to soak it up and take it in," she said.
Jessica knows she needs to because she doesn’t know when the opportunity will come again.
"Starting a family was something we decided to do together, and we knew it was going to affect my racing," Jessica said. "It was going to put racing on the back burner."
Added Friesen with a smile: "That’s why we started our business. Stewart gets to race for a living, and I’m in this dungeon of a T-shirt shop."
Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 following stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!