by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, January 24 — The ABC Raceway closed out its 2015 stock car racing season with a fun-filled banquet at the AmericInn in Ashland on Saturday evening.
After a delicious buffet-style meal catered by Ashland’s Breakwater Restaurant, a crowd of over 200 were welcomed by emcee Nick Gima and listened as Ashland-Bayfield County Racing Association president Eric Erickson congratulated the track champions, thanked the Raceway’s sponsors, applauded the efforts of the track’s volunteer work crew and Board of Directors, and presented a brief review of season.
In his remarks, Erickson was proud to point out that the venerable three-eighths-mile red clay oval located south of Ashland was the regular Saturday-night venue for 21 rookie drivers – a fact that, as Erickson stated, bodes well for the future of the sport in the area. Erickson also noted that the Raceway paid out nearly $250,000 in purses to its competitors during 2015, which is very impressive considering that the season was shortened significantly due to difficult track conditions caused by a wet Spring and late thaw.
Erickson also impressed the gathering by stating that the paid attendance for the 40th Red Clay Classic end-of-season invitational in early October exceeded 4,850, making for one of the largest crowds in the event’s long history.
The top ten in final points in each of the Raceway’s five regular weekly divisions were presented with trophies, with the divisional champions also receiving jackets commemorating their achievements. In addition, the top rookies in each class were recognized, and special awards and points fund checks were also presented.
Al Uotinen of Superior earned his sixth WISSOTA Modified championship by being a model of consistency throughout the 2015 season. Despite not winning a feature here, Uotinen still finished in the top-five in nine of the ten regular-season “big Mod” features run, with three of those resulting in second-place efforts.
Finishing tied for second to Uotinen in the Modified standings were two multi-time ABC champs – Steve Stuart of Ashland and Jeff Spacek of Phillips. Brian Mikkonen of Iron River, who collected his first career feature win since moving up to the class full-time in 2013, finished fourth, while Ashland’s Kevin Eder landed fifth.
The remainder of the top ten included Scott Hudack of Ashland, Medford’s Paul Niznik, Pat Cook of Washburn, Rick Rivord of Superior, and Ashland’s Dustin Hudack.
In his rookie season in the division, Jeff Klopstein Jr of Tomahawk surprised many by ending Scott Lawrence’s reign at the top of the WISSOTA Super Stock standings here. Klopstein, who moved up from the WISSOTA Midwest Modified ranks, proved to be a perfect example of perseverance on a shoestring budget, finishing the season with three heat wins and nine top-ten finishes in ten shows, including his first-ever feature win in a Super Stock on August 22.
Finishing only one point behind Klopstein in the standings was Shane Kisling, the 2015 Red Clay Classic champ who has recently moved to Park Falls. Lawrence, of Superior, finished third after 11 straight seasons as the division’s champ in Ashland, while Nick Oreskovich of Mason and Randy Spacek of Phillips completed the top five.
Shawn McFadden Jr of Ashland finished sixth in Super Stock points, while Superior’s Andy Grymala made a successful return to full-time racing in Ashland with a seventh-place points effort. Divisional rookies and cousins Cole and Terran Spacek of Phillips, and another rookie to the class, four-time Six-Cylinder champ Patrick Beeksma of Ironwood, MI, completed the top ten.
Ironwood, MI’s Paul Suzik claimed his first career points title in the WISSOTA Midwest Mods in 2015, and, like Uotinen, relied on consistency rather than feature wins to earn the crown. Suzik, in only his fourth season of racing, scored three heat wins over the final three weeks of the regular season, and four of his six top-five feature finishes were runner-up performances. He also impressed those on hand with his well-prepared acceptance speech.
Suzik’s final points margin over runner-up Ryan Adamzak of Ashland was just ten points; Adamzak also claimed second-place money at last October’s Red Clay Classic. Eder, who completed his first full-time season in the Mid-Mods, grabbed three feature wins and finished third in the standings, followed by Ashland drivers Tyler Vernon and Tanner Hicks, who tied for fourth.
Sixth in the standings was 2011 Mid-Mod champ George Dalbeck of Ironwood, MI, followed by Niznik’s second seventh-place effort at ABC of 2015. Eighth in points was Rob Weber of Ashland, while the division’s 2010 champ Mickey Nosser of Phillips and Marenisco, MI’s Duane Dunbar completed the second five.
Dale Coddington of Hayward took home his third ABC Raceway Six-Cylinder championship trophy on Saturday night, after a hard-fought, season-long battle for the title. Coddington, who also won in 2009 and ‘13, tallied four heat wins and three feature victories to win the division by just three points.
Pressuring Coddington throughout the season was 2014 Sixes champ Tiffany Hudack of Ashland, who scored five heat wins and a pair of feature checkered flags en route to her third straight top-three points finish in the division. Tiffany’s brother Tyler Hudack, also of Ashland, led the division with seven heat wins to help him to a third-place points effort, while Forrest Schultz of Ashland scored the first two feature wins of his career in 2015 and claimed fourth, just ahead of Colton Vernon of Washburn.
In the second five in Six-Cylinder points were Mark “Bubba” Anderson of Trego, DeJay Mihalek of Ashland, Iron River pilots Ken Tyykila and Jonathan Popp, and Ashland’s Adam Traaholt.
The only driver to successfully defend his crown, Ashland’s Matt Deragon scored his third Pure Stock points championship in the past four seasons in nearly as dominant a fashion as in 2014. Deragon clinched the title by winning his division-best fifth heat win on the final night of the season, and his class-best three feature victories in 2015 puts him at 14 for his career – one shy of the Raceway’s all-time record for Pure Stock A-main wins.
Two-time divisional champ Tim Carbon of Highbridge finished runner-up to Deragon in the final standings, while Randy Graham of Trego used back-to-back runner-up feature finished at the end of the season to claim third. The team effort led by 2007 ABC Pure Stock champ Glenn Dammer of Duluth, MN, took fourth, and fifth went to Brandle Pupp of Ashland used five top-five feature finishes over the final six weeks to finish fifth.
Sixth through tenth included Randy Connor of Hayward, Andrew Hanson of Iron River, Justin Weinberger of Park Falls, the Manitowish Waters team effort of Bob Skrobot and Steve Pohl, and the team of Charles Yahn of Mellen and Andy Compton of Ashland.
Tyler Vernon was presented with the track’s Most Improved Driver honor for his efforts in his Mid-Mod, while Dustin Hudack received the coveted Sportsman of the Year award. Four of the five divisions saw their top rookies honored, including Klopstein (Supers), Clay Passuello of Ironwood, MI (Mid-Mods), Anderson (Sixes), and Weinberger (Pure Stocks); there were no qualifying rookies in the Modifieds.
Erickson presented the annual President’s Award to Mike Eder, a long-time Raceway Board member and local business owner, for his outstanding “behind-the-scenes” efforts and many years of dedication to the ABC Raceway and to the sport of racing in general.
Following a giveaway of a slew of door prizes, those in attendance enjoyed fellowship as “Night Screamer” provided live music.
The ABC Raceway is located 3-1/2 miles south of Ashland on State Highway 13 and one mile west on Butterworth Road