ABC Raceway Banquet Honors 2016’s Best
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, January 21 — Another full-house crowd of over 230 gathered at the AmericInn in Ashland for the ABC Raceway’s Awards Banquet, celebrating the 2016 stock car racing season and officially crowning its season champions.
A buffet-style meal prepared by Ashland’s Breakwater Restaurant was enjoyed by the drivers, crews, track sponsors and volunteer workers in attendance for the annual event, after which Ashland-Bayfield County Racing Association president Eric Erickson took a few moments to congratulate the points champions of the track’s five divisions and paid special tribute to the sponsors, all-volunteer work staff and Board of Directors of the award-winning three-eighths-mile red-clay speedplant.
Event emcee Nick Gima then presented those drivers who finished in the top ten in points in each of the divisions after the 2016 season, as well as others who earned special recognition for their accomplishments. Those in the top ten received trophies, while the divisional champions were also awarded commemorative jackets, and points fund checks were also presented.
Bessemer, MI’s Neil Balduc earned his first-ever ABC Raceway points championship, topping the WISSOTA Modified division by the smallest winning margin of any of the 2016 champs. Despite not winning a feature at Ashland, Balduc used a formula of consistent finishes, including six top-five efforts, for the title.
Five-time track champ Steve Stuart of Ashland was runner-up to Balduc in the final standings, while Bill Byholm of Glidden earned his best points finish in eight seasons by landing third. Defending ABC “big Mod” champ Al Uotinen of Superior and Iron River’s Brian Mikkonen also wound up in the top five in points.
Rick Rivord of Superior was sixth in the Mods, while Scott Hudack of Ashland finished seventh. Six-time track champ Jeff Spacek of Phillips tied with Steve Lavasseur of River Falls for eighth, and Ashland’s Kevin Eder, who led the division in feature wins with four, completed the top-ten.
One season after winning his first-ever points title in Superior, Nick Oreskovich of Mason claimed his first WISSOTA Super Stock championship at his home track. “The Flyin’ Farmer” enjoyed the most successful season of his career here, garnering three feature wins and either second- or third-place runs in five other regular-season A-mains, while also finishing in the top-ten in WISSOTA national points.
Superior’s Scott Lawrence, who has more championships at ABC Raceway than any other driver in its history, finished second to Oreskovich, while Patrick Beeksma of Ironwood, MI, completed a solid transition from the Six-Cylinders to the Super Stocks with a third-place effort. Two-time Pure Stock champ Cory Casari of Montreal was right on Beeksma’s heels in fourth, and Shane Kisling of Park Falls, who won two features here in 2016, took home the fifth-place trophy.
The second five in Super Stock points was led by defending champ Jeff Klopstein of Tomahawk, with Myron Basina of Washburn finishing an impressive seventh, ahead of Terran Spacek of Phillips, Shawn McFadden Jr of Ashland, and Terran’s dad, Randy Spacek of Phillips.
Paul Suzik of Ironwood, MI, was the only driver to successfully defend their track championship from 2015, with his second title in the WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds. Suzik chalked up his third career feature win in the track’s WISSOTA Race of Champions qualifier and has now finished in the top-five in points at ABC after each season of his five-year career.
Suzik led a top-ten in Mid-Mod points that hints at an exciting youth movement in the division in Ashland, with second-generation racer Tanner Hicks of Ashland earning a career-best runner-up finish in the points. Ashland’s Ryan Adamzak took his sixth top-four finish in the standings by landing third, Tad Bretting of Ashland finished in the top-ten for the second time in his three seasons of racing, and a surprisingly-consistent Brady Mesko-Jokinen of Mellen earned fifth.
Double-duty driver Eder, who led the division with five heat and three feature wins, took sixth place just three points ahead of young gun Jeremy Lindquist of Ashland, and veteran Wayne Stricker of Highbridge held on to third just ahead of up-and-comers Cole Spacek of Phillips and Bayfield’s Ryan Barningham.
Tiffany Hudack of Ashland, who became the first female driver to ever win a points title at ABC in 2014, won her second after the 2016 Six-Cylinder campaign. Hudack’s season was nothing short of dominant, as she won five of the nine features run during the season and finished second in each of the other four. She duplicated those statistics in heat-race qualifying, winning five and taking second in four others, and finished the season with the largest points margin (51) of the five champions.
Scott Ovaska’s return to racing after two seasons off was successful, as the Marengo native claimed runner-up honors for the second time in his career. Ashland’s Forrest Schultz finished in third, marking his third-straight top-five finish in Sixes points, while Bubba Anderson of Trego ended up as the only other driver in the division to win a feature, taking four of them and teaming up with Steve Martin of Trego for a fourth-place trophy just ahead of Ashland’s DeJay Jarecki.
The second five in Sixes included Adam Traaholt of Ashland; the Spooner-based team of Josh Saunders, Matt Larson and Cory Cook; Lindquist; Joe Newago Jr of Bayfield; and Ashland’s Brendon Ottman.
The 2016 racing season will be one that Justin Weinberger will remember for a long time. The Park Falls youngster not only won his first-ever WISSOTA Pure Stock points championship in Ashland, but he won one in Superior as well, and finished sixth in WISSOTA’s national standings in the division. At ABC, Weinberger won three heats and his third career feature en route to the second-largest winning margin of the season – 41 points.
Runner-up Iron River’s Andrew Hanson won his first career feature at ABC in 2016 and finished in the top-ten in national Pure Stock points. The third-place finish for Brandle Pupp of Ashland was the best of his five-year career. Fourth-place Randy Graham of Trego led the division in heat wins with four, and his class-leading three feature wins were the first of his career. And fifth-place Jeff Christman of South Range finished in the top-ten in eight of the nine features run here last year.
Andy Poll hauled all the way from Two Harbors, MN, to finish sixth in Pure Stock points here, followed by Hayward racers Randy Conner and Brock Beilke, three-time Pure Stock champ Matt Deragon of Ashland, and Don Livingston, also of Ashland.
Lindquist was honored with the track’s Most Improved Driver award, particularly for his efforts in his Mid-Mod, while the coveted Sportsman of the Year award was given to Super Stock driver Don Muzzy of Ironwood, MI. Rookie-of-the-year honors went to Ashland drivers Aaron Mashlan (Supers) and Tyler Hudack (Mid-Mods), Newago (Sixes), and Beilke (Pure Stocks); there were no qualifying rookies in the Modifieds.
Erickson presented the annual President’s Award to Kurt Beeksma, the former Raceway president who guided the organization to become nationally recognized as one of the most successful in short-track racing. Erickson also handed out “Valuable Volunteer” awards by recognizing Roberta Hudack, Donna Hmielewski-Kurilla, Tom Adamzak, Brandon Bowers and Jeremy MacArthur for their long-time contributions and hard work behind the scenes at the track.
A generous giveaway of door prizes and deejay-provided music rounded out an enjoyable evening for all in attendance.
The 2017 stock car racing season at the ABC Raceway is set to begin in mid-May with a very ambitious and highly anticipated schedule, details of which will be released soon. 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.