When Halmar International chief executive officer Chris Larsen contributed to the Kyle Busch NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series bounty earlier in the month, it didn’t sit particularly well with Justin Oertel.
Larsen, who co-owns Halmar Friesen Racing with Stewart Friesen, announced a $50,000 bounty for any Truck Series regular who defeats Busch head-to-head in his remaining four Truck Series starts this spring.
This happened after Kevin Harvick placed the original $50,000 bounty for Cup Series drivers to drop down to challenge ‘Rowdy’ in the aftermath of Busch winning a seventh consecutive Truck Series race over the span of three years.
Oertel operates Hamner Racing Engines and the Super Late Model portion of Rowdy Manufacturing and he took exception to the gesture from Larsen over what he alleges is an unpaid $62,419.96 debt from Friesen’s time driving a Super Late Model in 2018.
Friesen entered four races in a car owned and prepared by Oertel, the agreement brokered by short track legend Gary Balough. Friesen posted second place finishes in the North-South Super Late Model Challenge at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville and U.S. Short Track Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway.
But everything unraveled that December in the Snowball Derby.
Friesen was involved in a crash during practice that warranted the use of a backup car and was involved in another crash during the race. Typically, the upfront gentleman’s agreement for races is a $20,000 crash clause and the parties began negotiating the final bill after their Snowball Derby experience.
Oertel appraised the total cost as $83,000 but ultimately sent Larsen a bill for just under $63,000 as what he claims was a gesture of good faith.
Larsen has refused to pay it over the past 14 months, drawing the ire of Oertel, once he saw Larsen commit $50,000 to the NASCAR Truck Series bounty.
“I’ve pretty much considered this a write-off,” Oertel told Short Track Scene. “If I don’t pay my bills, I go out of business. It’s my name that gets dragged through the mud.
“What bothered me was seeing this guy from New York come down to North Carolina, wanting to spend all kinds of money, burning bridges and getting away with it. He’s out here trying to make himself come across as such a great guy by putting all of this money into the Truck Series and he can’t even pay his past debt.”
Larsen says he has refused to pay because he believes Oertel didn’t provide an agreed upon car with the backup Friesen raced after crashing the primary during practice.
“Justin Oertel was contracted to provide a Super Late Model and crew for the Snowball Derby,” Larsen said via email. “He substituted an unwrapped and untested backup car for Friesen to practice with.
“Although he claimed the car was new, it was obviously a rebuild. The car wasn’t properly set up and he didn’t provide any spotters. So when the body rub cut a tire, Friesen was very lucky to not be seriously injured. I refused to pay for the damage and Justin tried to claim he was partners with Kyle (Busch) and that Kyle was pissed.
“Obviously, Kyle Busch would never be involved in such a Bush League operation. I’ve never heard from him or Rowdy and there was no contract relationship with Rowdy or Hamke. Sour grapes from Oertel.”
Oertel agrees that neither Kyle Busch nor Rowdy Race Cars were involved in Stewart Friesen’s Super Late Model effort in 2018. Oertel had just purchased Hamke Race Cars from Robert Hamke but had yet to publicly enter into an agreement with Busch and Rowdy Manufacturing.
He also purchased Hamner Racing Engines from Alabama’s Jeff Hamner in October 2018.
Oertel says he has a signed contract with Larsen through his ALR Incorporated entity. He disputes Larsen’s claim that it was not a new car, claiming that every part was refurbished and that he indeed provided Friesen a spotter for the Snowball Derby.
He was also adamant that the car met every safety standard needed for Friesen to compete.
Oertel alleges the cost of the crashed race car was $15,983 and the crashed practice car was $89,012 but he deducted $26,592 of the total cost of that car in the form of labor, chassis and taxes as a gesture of good will.
Ultimately, Larsen says the NASCAR Truck Series bounty money is ready to be claimed.
“I didn’t pay Justin because I couldn’t,” he said in the email. “I didn’t pay him because he didn’t do the right thing.”