by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, July 18 — On a warm, breezy Saturday evening, the Ashland-Bayfield County Racing Association paid tribute to those who have helped it grow and thrive by inducting nine more members into its ABC Raceway Hall of Fame.
The ceremonies were held during intermission of the July 18 race program on the track’s front straightaway, in front of a large, very appreciative crowd. The Class of 2015 brings the total of inductees to 21 at ABC.
Four were inducted into the Driver category, which requires a minimum of five years’ “retired” status as a driver as well as notable accomplishments and ambassadorship to the track.
Superior’s Dick Christman his first feature here in 1969 and won at least one feature every year but one during a 14-year span. Among his wins were Red Clay Classic super stock titles in 1978 and ‘81. Christman was a two-time track champion at ABC, in 1977 and in ‘80, in the Super Stock classs, and his 55 career feature wins here is the fourth-highest total in track history, while his 44 career feature wins in the Supers is a track record for that division.
Ironwood, MIs’s Steve Kieber was a fan favorite from his days racing street stocks here in the late 1970s and on through his career running Modifieds - especially with the loyal following he drew from the western Upper Peninsula. In a career that spanned more than four decades he was a fixture on the ABC oval, chalking up 11 career feature wins in street stocks and modifieds, with his cars sporting the familiar number 76. His late father, former ABC track announcer Chum Kieber, would always say as Steve pulled onto the race track, "That's-a my boy!"
Don Koivisto of Saxon called the ABC Raceway his Saturday night home for over 40 seasons as a racer and car owner. As a true example of a sportsman, he was involved not only with his race cars, but he was also willing to help his fellow competitors as well as the local racing organization. Don scored four feature wins while racing Street Stocks and Super Stocks in the mid- to late-1980s, and after hanging up his helmet he put other drivers behind the wheel of his cars and continued to be successful as a car owner.
Jule Wilcox of Iron River set the standard for success in the Raceway’s Six-Cylinder division - his 49 career feature wins over a 16-year career in the class ranks him sixth on the all-time win list at Ashland. He was a four-time track champion, and during his 1986 championship season he won eight consecutive feature wins, including two in one night. He was also willing to assist the organization during its major front-straight wall replacement project in the 1990s.
Those selected for induction under the Volunteer & Contributor category are recognized for a minimum of ten years of service to the Association, as well as their significant positive contributions to racing at the track and in the region.
The late Chuck & Lucy Anderson had been involved since the very beginning of the Association, with each donating over 25 years to the success of the track. Chuck, who started out as a driver and later a crew chief for Ron Hmielewski, eventually served as vice-president, chairman of the Board, and director of the Safety Committee, while Lucy also served for many years as a Board member while also donating her time assisting with the lap scoring, concessions, ticket gate and annual banquet. Their daughters Kris and Kerrie, who accepted their induction on their behalf, also became involved with the track, with Kris serving as secretary and treasurer and Kerrie helping in a number of capacities. After Chuck's passing in 1987 the Raceway held the prestigious "Chuck Anderson Race of Champions for 16 seasons in his honor.
Bob & Geraldine Korpela were also involved with the Association since its beginning, with Bob spending many long hours in graders and pack trucks each week working on the racing surface, and donating a pulp truck to assist in repairing guard rails or replacing fence posts. Geraldine - or Cookie, as she was known - worked at the ticket gate and was often the first one at the track on a race night, welcoming fans for over 30 years
Walt & Diane Martens had been involved with the organization since the late 1960s, when Walt was a successful racer here. After hanging up his helmet Walt became a track judge and eventually flag man, while Diane worked in the tower as a lap counter and would often run to the concession stand to help there during intermissions. Each has donated well over 40 years to the organization. Their son Chris Martens accepted their induction on their behalf.
Mike & Linda Sorenson moved to the Chequamegon Bay area in the late 1970s and almost immediately became eagerly involved in the Raceway. After becoming one of the first real successful drivers in the track’s Six-Cylinder class, Mike became an on-track official as well as a member of the Board of Directors, where he had served frequently for a great many years right up until he announced his resignation this past January. Linda has been an unselfish contributor in a number of capacities, from being the first in the kitchen to help with food preparation to counting laps in the tower. Even their kids continue to be very busy around the track, with Nick and Steve helping with the concessions and safety areas and Wendy selling 50/50 tickets.
For many years, when drivers came through the pit gate at ABC, the first person to greet them was Lorraine Zifko, or "Babe," as she is affectionately known. She was a great long-time representative of the Raceway in that capacity and provided an excellent first impression of the track to the drivers. Her late husband Jerry guarded the pit gate with an iron hand - nobody was allowed in without paying their way - but once they were admitted he was the best friend they had, with Jerry helping them find their way around and thanking them for coming to the track.
A buffet-style luncheon was served at Zar’s Bar south of Ashland in honor of the inductees, where they were joined by several of the inductees from the inaugural group from 2014.