ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — From chasing checkered flags to their five-year-old son, Stewart and Jessica Friesen have been teammates for the better part of a decade. This weekend, the regular Fonda Speedway drivers could become the first married couple to race in the same NASCAR event since the 1990s.
It’s a long way from where the pair started.
“We’ve built so much together,” said Jessica. “We were living in campers and spending the night in trucks and couldn’t afford our cell phone bills. We were just kids and had no idea what we were doing. We just knew we wanted to race.”
Both Stewart and Jessica have spent a lifetime in motorsports, growing up on the track. The couple fell in love while racing modified and sprint cars, often against one another until their son was born.
“The last five years or so, I haven’t raced a whole lot because Parker needed a lot of help,” said Jessica.
When Parker was one-and-a-half, he was diagnosed on the Autism spectrum. Since then, they’ve used their platform in motorsports to give back to the Crossroads Center for Children and raise awareness for ABA therapy—which Jessica said “really changed our lives and changed our son’s life.”
“Now he’s doing so well,” said Stewart, “and [Jess] has gotten back into it the past couple years, and having her as a teammate on the modified has been excellent.”
They’re leveling up as teammates this weekend, with Jessica getting behind the wheel of the No. 62 Halmar Toyota pickup truck. She’ll get a chance to drive it around the shop in North Carolina Wednesday, which will be her only experience before hitting the track at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“This is our first time running two trucks,” said Stewart who drives Halmar International’s No. 52. “Having my wife as a team driver is pretty cool.”
Jessica will see her first action during Friday’s practice sessions. With 44 entrants and only 32 spots, she’ll have to qualify on Saturday for the race, but her background could help.
“Even though I’ve never been in the truck before and have no experience in the truck, I have a ton of experience on the dirt,” she said.
She also has her husband to get tips from and compare notes with. And regardless of what happens this weekend, the two feel like winners.
“I think we already kind of count it as a success,” said Stewart. “Competing at this level is kind of beyond our wildest dreams.”
“It’s definitely a dream come true,” Jessica agreed, “and something we’ll be able to tell our grandkids someday, talk about, look back on, and it’s going to be pretty cool.”
Stewart will make his Sprint Cup debut on Sunday in Spire Motorsports’ No. 77.