Same race, same team, same last name — but that doesn’t mean it’ll be any less competitive.
On Sunday, husband and wife duo Stewart Friesen, 37, and Jessica Friesen, 35, will race against each other at the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at the Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. The pair compete against each other frequently, but this is their first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event as competitors. It is the first time in NASCAR history a husband and wife will race each other at this event, and on the same team.
“When it comes to the race, it’s just, ‘Good luck, love you, see you when it’s over,” Jessica said. “We’re competitors when we put our helmets on.” Her husband, Stewart agreed, saying, “When the racing happens, they throw the green flag, and she’s just another competitor.”
The pair were both racing professionally before they met. On Sunday, they’ll hit the track with their Toyota trucks, Jessica in No. 62, and Stewart in No. 52. They’ve been on the same team for the last three years, and say they lean on each other as teammates.
“We work as a team to try and get better,” Stewart said, calling his wife both a “great teammate” and a “fierce competitor.” He said she brings an analytical kind of expertise to racing, and her background with racing on dirt will be a helpful edge for Saturday, a race that will be done on a dirt track. That's unusual, as this series hasn't been raced on dirt since 1970. The race was originally scheduled for Saturday, but was postponed due to rain.
Though there are many relationships off and on the track in racing, there are few married couples who compete against one another. According to NASCAR, Sawyer and Moise were the last husband and wife to compete against each other in a national series, the Xfinity Series event in 1998. Before them, it was Frank and Sara Christian at the Daytona Beach Road Course in 1949.
The Friesens have been married since 2014, and even raced against each other a couple days after their wedding (in that race, Stewart finished 1st, and Jessica 2nd). The two have a son, Parker, 5, who joins them at competitions around the country.
Parker was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum when he was a toddler, and for the first few years of his life the family prioritized getting him the care he needed. Going to competitions as a family took a back seat. Parker has responded well to his treatments, and now they enjoy racing together.
“It’s amazing to share this with him and see he loves it just as much as we do,” Jessica said. “Now that we’re doing it as a family, it’s just fun.” She said there are a lot of families who race, and hanging out at the track is a social event where Parker makes friends.
“He loves it when we win, but if we don’t win, it’s all good in his world,” Stewart said.
Correction: Due to weather, the qualifying races were canceled by NASCAR, and Jessica Friesen was unable to compete. A spokesperson for Friesen said in a statement to TODAY, "We are discussing bringing her back for another race, most likely Knoxville, but that is to be determined."