ABC Raceway Closes Out 2018 Season with Annual Banquet
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, January 19 — A huge crowd of nearly 250 fans, crew persons, racers and track personnel gathered at the Bad River Lodge, Casino & Convention Center in Odanah on Saturday, January 19, to look back at the 2018 stock car racing season during the ABC Raceway’s annual Awards Banquet.
Following a buffet-style meal, Ashland-Bayfield County Racing Association president Eric Erickson addressed the large gathering by extending congratulations to the Raceway’s five divisional points champions, thanking the all-volunteer staff and Board of Directors, and showing appreciation for the track’s sponsors, fans and racers who supported the award-winning three-eighths-mile northern Wisconsin speedplant during the past summer.
Erickson recognized the Raceway’s all-volunteer staff and its Board of Directors, praising their “dedication, commitment and professionalism,” and calling them up to the stage in front of the gathering. Then, in a very emotional moment, Erickson called up his long-time close friend, former Board member and track president Kurt Beeksma, for the presentation of a special crystal trophy and a toast in honor of his over 30 years of leadership, contributions and support of the Raceway.
Erickson included in his comments that the track paid out a total purse of over $277,000 to its drivers in 2018, and that in November it had received the WISSOTA Promoters Association “Award of Excellence” (formerly the Track of the Year award), marking the second time that the ABC Raceway had been so honored by its sanctioning body. He also mentioned that the track would add an entry-level Hornet class to its regular weekly schedule in 2019, and that the track was invited to be included on the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series national touring schedule, with a date set for July 9.
Erickson later honored several members of the track’s staff with “Valuable Volunteer” plaques, which he presented to Jerry & Joanne O’Brien, Margie Dufek, Ken & Cheri Deragon, and Ray & Terri Stuart.
Drivers who finished in the top-ten in final points during the 2018 racing season in each of the five regular weekly divisions, along with other racers who were recognized for special accomplishments, were introduced by emcee and Raceway announcer Nick Gima and presented with trophies and points-fund checks. The divisional champions were also awarded commemorative jackets and banners.
Kevin Eder of Ashland became one of those first-time champions, running away with the track’s 2018 WISSOTA Modified title. His season included collecting division-leading win totals in heats and features (three each), three other top-five feature finishes, and three more top-ten feature runs to manufacture a 49-point final advantage. He also finished fifth in the “big Mod” feature during the season-ending Red Clay Classic invitational in late September.
In his 15 seasons of racing, which includes laps turned on Ashland’s red-clay oval in six different divisions, Eder has accumulated 15 top-ten points finishes and 32 feature wins – the latter mark tied for 13th-highest on the Raceway’s all-time victory list. It is Eder’s first track championship.
A feature win during the season helped Steve Lavasseur of River Falls earn his best-ever points finish at ABC with a second-place effort, while five-time track champion Steve Stuart of Ashland landed third in the Mod standings thanks to two feature victories. Neil Balduc of Bessemer, MI, the track’s 2016 Modified champ, took fourth in the points, followed by Washburn’s Pat Cook.
Rookie Cody Carlson of Superior led the second five in the final Mod standings, ahead of a pair of six-time ABC points champs – Jeff Spacek of Phillips, and Al Uotinen of Superior. Mason’s Jake Hiatt and 2017 track champ Bill Byholm of Glidden completed the top ten.
For the third straight season, Mason’s Nick Oreskovich claimed the WISSOTA Super Stock championship at ABC in 2018. “The Flyin’ Farmer,” who started his 16th season with six feature wins at five different tracks – including back-to-back wins at Ashland – added a division-leading third win in August to bring his career total to 20, then capped the campaign with a third-place finish in the Super Stock feature at the Red Clay Classic.
Oreskovich, who finished 11th of the over 330 qualifying Super Stock drivers in WISSOTA’s national standings, becomes the 11th different driver in ABC Raceway history to record three or more consecutive track championships.
Ashland’s Shawn McFadden Jr used his eighth career feature win to secure his best-ever points finish, albeit a full 91 points behind Oreskovich, and third in points fell to Cory Casari of Montreal who also picked up a feature win and tied for the division lead with four heat victories. Fourth place was presented to Matt Deragon of Ashland, the three-time ABC Pure Stock champion who finished a successful second season in Supers, and fifth went to Superior’s Scott Lawrence, who holds track records here for total career titles (14) and consecutive championships (11, in Super Stocks).
The second five in the division’s standings included Terran Spacek of Phillips, who also finished 12th in WISSOTA’s national rankings; Greg Kuklinski of Ironwood, MI, the Raceway’s all-time feature win leader; Aaron Mashlan of Ashland; Don Muzzy of Ironwood; and 2015 track champ Jeff Klopstein of Tomahawk.
Paul Suzik of Ironwood returned to the champion’s stage after a year away, picking up his third career trophy in the WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds. Suzik, who earned back-to-back titles in 2015-’16, rebounded from a second-place finish last year thanks to his sixth career feature win and three more second-place feature finishes. He also earned a heat win at this year’s Red Clay Classic.
Suzik announced in his acceptance speech that he will be moving up into the Modified division in 2019 while hoping to extend his current impressive run of top-five points finishes in each of his seven seasons in racing.
Superior’s Dan Kingsley battled with Suzik to the very end of the season but settled for second, just three points away from the title; Kingsley also recently announced that he will be competing in the “big Mods” in the upcoming season. Third-finishing Tanner Hicks of Ashland was also in the hunt for the crown going into the final night of the season, with help from his first career feature win in late July. Brandon Copp of Brule scored the first two feature wins of his career and finished fourth, just ahead of Ashland’s Tyler Hudack.
Finishing sixth in the Mid-Mod standings was Ross Fuhrman of Ashland, just ahead of rookie Jack Rivord of Superior. Ryan Barningham of Bayfield finished a solid eighth, followed by David Simpson of Thunder Bay, ON, who scored three feature wins. Clay Passuello of Ironwood grabbed tenth after earning his first feature win at Ashland since his Pure Stock victory in 2004.
Tiffany Hudack of Ashland started her 2018 ABC Six-Cylinder campaign strong and then held on for her third track championship in five seasons. Hudack tallied five feature victories while also collecting four second-place performances and one third-place finish, along with six heat wins, to produce one of the most dominant seasons in the division in over 25 years. Her other titles came in 2014 and in ‘16.
It’s the sixth straight season in which Hudack has finished either first, second or third in Sixes points here. During her acceptance speech she told the story of how she befriended a six-year-old race fan, meeting him at his birthday party and treating him to a trip to the pits during a race night. She presented the boy with a gift and invited him to stand with her in her trophy photo.
Trego’s Randy Graham was Hudack’s primary nemesis all season, matching the champ for feature wins with five and heat wins with six but finishing second by 52 points. No other driver won a Six-Cylinder feature here in ‘18. Forrest Schultz of Ashland parlayed eight top-five finishes to third place in the standings, ahead of fellow Ashland drivers DeJay Jarecki and rookie Jake Nevala.
Josh Saunders of Spooner finished a career-best sixth, while seventh place went to Mashlan for his second top-ten trophy of the night. Jonathon Popp of Iron River, Ashland’s Devin Dalbec, and Bubba Anderson of Trego completed the top ten.
Graham was also successful in the WISSOTA Pure Stocks and, on the strength of three feature wins, including one on each of the final two nights of the seasons, garnered his first-ever track championship. The fifth-year driver also finished 16th in WISSOTA’s national standings for the class, and he has taken top-four points trophies home in two different divisions in each of the past two seasons.
Graham finished first, second or third in nine of the ten Pure Stock features run at ABC in 2018. Combined with his efforts in the Sixes, he led all drivers at ABC with eight total feature victories.
Don Livingston of Washburn scored six top-ten feature finishes, including a runner-up by a whisker to Graham in the season finale, to score a career-best second-place trophy. Andrew Hanson of Iron River, the 2017 Pure Stock champ here, missed a week due to a non-racing injury and settled for third despite a division-best five feature wins, plus two runner-up showings, over the first seven race nights; he also finished second in WISSOTA’s national standings. Darren Dudley of Ashland took home the fourth-place trophy, while Hayward’s Brock Beilke repeated his fifth-place success of a season ago.
The second five in Pure Stock points was led by Duluth, MN’s Aaron Bernick, who was also ninth in national points, followed by Kyle Copp of Brule, who won his sixth career feature in early June. James Vendela of South Range collected his first career win in mid-August to finish eighth ahead of veteran Jeff Christman, also of South Range, and Superior’s Tyler Keup.
Brandon Copp was awarded the coveted Sportsman of the Year award, while Mashlan was named the Most Improved Driver at the track in 2018. Carlson (Modifieds), Rivord (Midwest Mods), and Nevala (Sixes) were recognized as the ABC Raceway’s top rookies from the recently completed season.
All five champions provided praise of the Raceway during their acceptance speeches, noting the hard work of the staff, the excellent track preparation, and the generous weekly purses and points fund.
After the awards presentation, DJ-provided music completed an enjoyable evening for all in attendance.
An exciting schedule is in store for the 2019 stock car racing season at the ABC Raceway, to be highlighted by the aforementioned World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series visit, as well as the return of the Advantage RV Modified Series, the FastLane Motorsports Super Stock Series, and the Interstate Racing Association’s winged sprint cars. The 44th running of the prestigious Red Clay Classic in late September is sure to be another highly-anticipated event.
The track is located 3-1/2 miles south of Ashland on State Highway 13 and one mile west on Butterworth Road. For more information, log on to the track’s website, www.abcraceway.com.