ABC Raceway Adds Ten to Hall of Fame
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, July 29 — On Saturday night, the Ashland-Bayfield County Racing Association added its fourth class of inductees into its ABC Raceway Hall of Fame during formal ceremonies at the track. The introductions were held on the front straightaway in front of a near-capacity crowd during intermission of that night’s racing program.
The inductees were nominated and voted on by the Association’s Hall of Fame Selection Committee, based on their generosity, commitment and dedication to the Raceway and the Association as well as their accomplishments and contributions both here and at other tracks in the region. The addition of the Class of 2017 brings the total number of members of this elite group of honorees to 40.
In his introductory comments at the formal ceremonies at the track on Saturday night, ABC Raceway announcer and historian Nick Gima stated, “These inductees represent what short-track stock car racing should be all about – their genuine passion for racing, their generosity toward the success of our facility, and their overall commitment to the betterment of our sport. As they are perfect examples of what the sport was, is, and should be all about, that’s why they are being honored here tonight.”
Two Honorary Inductees were unanimously chosen by the Selection Committee for their contributions to the ABC Raceway.
For the past 14 years, FastLane Motorsports & Custom Powdercoating of Ashland has been a season-long sponsor of racing here. Owner Chris Bretting and his staff bring their race support van to ABC and to a number of other area tracks to supply drivers with needed race parts, and his business sponsors many area race cars and has been generous in helping dozens more. FastLane took on the role of title sponsor of the Northland Super Stock Series, which has just completed its third campaign, and was the title sponsor of the ABC Raceway’s Super Stock Challenge Series for several seasons before that. FastLane also recently became one of presenting sponsors of the track’s popular Red Clay Classic post-season special.
For over 25 years, the NAPA Auto Parts stores of Ashland and Washburn have been a season-long sponsor of racing at ABC, making for one of the longest-running continuous sponsor partnerships with the track. Early store owner Jim Hinmann first approached the Association to ask about a business involvement, and since then subsequent owners brothers John and Jim Habas have continued the commitment. NAPA also provides support through sponsorships of a number of race teams, and it has hosted race car showings and other activities to help highlight the sport in the local community. The business has also been the presenting sponsor of the annual visits by the traveling IRA sprint car series in recent seasons, and before that the COMO Modified Series for several years.
Four drivers were also inducted, based on the qualifications of their retirement from active racing for a minimum of five years, as well as their outstanding accomplishments, loyalty to the ABC Raceway, and “ambassadorship” of racing and of the track.
Don Copp’s numbers speak for themselves when arguing his place in the Hall of Fame. His all-time top-ten stats include 45 career feature wins, including 30 in Modifieds and 14 in Street Stocks; and eight ABC Raceway track championships, including six in a row in the Mods from 1987-’92. Always a threat to win at nearly every track he competed at, he also won the 1989 Red Clay Classic Modified championship. Copp later delved into racing Late Models during the early 2000s, and over the past two years he has helped his son Brandon with his racing efforts, with Brandon’s Midwest Mod sporting his dad’s familiar black color scheme and number 22.
Jim Eliason, who hailed from Duluth, MN, became one of the earliest and most successful racers to travel from the Twin Ports to race at ABC Raceway on a regular basis. He was the 1978 Late Model champion here, and his 21 total feature wins here, from 1972-’82, were all in the Late Model division, making him the fourth-winningest driver in track history in that division. Eliason was also instrumental in the development of the Tri-State Racing Association in the 1970s, of which the ABC Raceway was a member.
Eliason was unable to attend the induction ceremonies due to the recent passing of his beloved wife.
One of ABC’s all-time best in the Street Stock division, Larry Haderly won five track championships over an eight-year span, from 2002-’09, and he also finished top-five in points seven other times during his 15-year career here. His 18 ABC Raceway feature wins, all in Street Stocks, places him in a tie for fourth-best all-time in that division at Ashland. He later raced in the Super Stock class for a brief time and finished sixth in points in 2006.
Larry’s wife Tammy delivered an emotional speech in front of the large crowd during the induction proceedings.
From the late 1980s into early ‘90s, Scott Hipsher was one of the top Super Stock drivers in the region. He tallied nine feature wins during his career, all in the Supers, finished second in that division’s points in 1990 & 1994, and was a two-time Red Clay Classic Super Stock champion (1990, ‘93). In the 1993 RCC Super Stock feature, Hipsher and Rich Bishop, both sporting the number 10, raced side-by-side for nearly 15 laps before Scott edged ahead for the win in one of the most memorable races in that event’s history.
Four others were included in this year’s class under the Volunteers and Contributor category, as they were recognized for their significant positive contributions to the success of the Raceway based on a minimum of ten years of service.
George & Mary Bowers have contributed for many years to the Raceway as members and officers of the Board of Directors, as well as in other capacities. Mary held the post of track treasurer for two years, and she has also served as the track’s concessions manager; she is currently its ticket sales manager as well as Red Clay Classic reservations director. George has served as vice-president of the Association and has acted as a flagman, and he currently works as an on-track official. Both also donate generously to grounds maintenance, often mowing the lawns around the facility.
Considered a behind-the-scenes type, Mike Eder has contributed for many years to track preparation and equipment maintenance work for the club, and as a highly-skilled mechanic he has been instrumental in helping keep its fleet of trucks and other equipment working properly. Mike currently serves on the Board of Directors and is involved with several rules committees as a technical advisor.
After many years assisting with equipment maintenance and track prep work, Tom Lajcak has only recently retired from his time volunteering for the Raceway. He earned the nickname “Shade Tree” during his time serving in the Military because of his ability to fix just about anything without spending a lot of money, which later came in handy during the Raceway’s lean early years.
As a knowledgeable, talented and skilled mechanic, Nick Nye gained a reputation for being able to fix just about anything mechanical. His contributions to the track include as a mechanic, technical inspector and equipment maintenance director, and his expertise operating graders, loaders and other heavy-duty equipment earned him the job of track prep director for several years. He has also donated equipment for the Raceway to use for a variety of projects, and he has built engines for several area race drivers over the years, as well as having been a championship-winning driver himself.
Earlier in the afternoon the inductees were honored during a dinner held at Zar’s Banquet Hall in Ashland. New members were joined by past inductees and several members of the Raceway Board of Directors and staff.
The ABC Raceway is located 3-1/2 miles south of Ashland on State Highway 13 and one mile west on Butterworth Road.