by Nick Gima
 Ashland, WI
— The ABC Raceway paid tribute to its top racers of 2012 as part of its annual awards banquet on Saturday, January  19, at the Bad River Lodge, Casino & Convention Center in Odanah.
Over 200 guests enjoyed an evening of socializing prior to and after a buffet meal and the presentation of 58 trophies to racers and awards honoring the achievements of specific members of the club which operates the three-eighth-mile red-clay oval located just south of Ashland.
Track announcer Nick Gima, who acted as emcee, and Raceway president Kurt Beeksma both pointed out in their opening remarks the significance of the national honor recently bestowed on the track, in which the Raceway was named a regional award winner and national finalist for Racing Promotion Monthly’s Auto Racing Promoter of the Year award. The national ARPY winner will be named during RPM’s 40th annual Speedweek National Workshop at the Plaza Resort & Spa in Daytona Beach, FL, February 18-20.
During the awards portion of the ceremony each of the top-ten finishers in points in each of the five regular weekly divisions received trophies, and the five points champions each received the traditional jackets and full-color posters of their cars as well.
Despite not registering a single feature win in the WISSOTA modifieds in 2012, Jeff Spacek of Phillips was awarded his sixth track championship in that class and second in the past five seasons at ABC. Spacek, a popular veteran driver who also collected titles in Ashland in 1989 and ‘91 in the super stocks and in 2002, ‘03 and ‘08 in the mods, led the division with nine top-five feature finishes last summer. His lone feature win actually came in Don Koivisto’s super stock, giving him 52 career wins in Ashland – fourth best on the all-time list.
Jared Loos of Loyal made his first effort as a full-time ABC Raceway regular nearly pay off in a big way, finishing only one point behind Spacek in the final mod standings despite leading the division with three feature wins. Kevin Eder of Ashland chalked up two feature wins to claim third, while Ross Lightner of Washburn and defending champ Steve Stuart of Ashland completed the top five.
The second five in 2012 mod points included Scott Hudack of Ashland, Washburn’s Pat Cook, Curt Myers of Cameron, Steve Lavasseur of River Falls, and Superior’s Rick Rivord.
Even by Scott Lawrence’s standards, 2012 was a banner season. The veteran racer from Superior racked up an unheard-of ninth-consecutive points championship in the WISSOTA super stocks here to go along with titles in Superior and Proctor, MN, giving him a clean sweep of area tracks. The nine titles give him 12 overall (WISSOTA street stocks, 1997-’99), also putting him at the top of the Raceway’s all-time list in that category. And his three feature wins brought his career total to 51 – just behind Spacek.
Lawrence’s arch nemesis over the past few seasons around the region has been Dave Flynn, also of Superior, who earned runner-up honors despite tying Lawrence with a division-best six heat wins and a feature checkered. Phillips’ Randy Spacek scored three feature wins and his 11th straight top-ten points finish with third, while fourth and fifth went to Mason’s Nick Oreskovich and Ken Truscott of Greenland, MI, respectively.
Cory Casari of Montreal led the second five in super stock points, followed by Greg Kulkinski of Ironwood, MI, Iron River’s Brian Mikkonen, Myers (who shared Koivisto’s racer with Jeff Spacek), and Dave Elliott of Minocqua, who nabbed his first-ever top-ten points finish in 13 seasons of racing.
Ashland’s Travis Nye celebrated his first career WISSOTA Midwest modified track championship with family and friends, including his father, former three-time track champ Nick Nye. Travis took the points lead on opening night and paced the field the entire season, and along with a second feature win in June he led all Mid-mod racers at Ashland with seven heat wins.
At a distance to the younger Nye in the Mid-mod standings was second-finishing teenager Alex Van Natta of Minocqua, while veteran Duane Dunbar of Marenisco, MI, claimed third for his fifth straight top-ten points effort. Ashland’s Rick Przybylski and rookie Paul Suzik of Ironwood, MI, also landed in the top-five.
Sixth in Mid-mod points went to Ironwood’s Neil Balduc, defending division champ George Dalbeck of Ironwood took seventh, Cole Spacek of Phillips claimed eighth, Hurley’s John Kallas was ninth, and Tanner Byholm of Glidden earned tenth.
Patrick Beeksma of Ironwood, MI, successfully defended his 2011 ABC Six-Cylinder championship with an outstanding effort in 2012 that included five of the division’s first six feature wins of the summer and seven overall, as well as seven heat wins. Beeksma, who also won six-cylinder championship trophies in 2001 & ‘08, boosted his feature win total to 27, which ranks him 15th all-time here.
Although Beeksma blew away the competition, the battle behind him was very close, as second through fifth were separated by only 48 points. Tyler Hudack of Ashland scored a feature win and never finished lower than sixth in a feature to grab second, while Ironwood’s Don Muzzy scored his third straight third-place points finish. Tad Bretting of Ashland and Hayward’s Dale Coddington completed the top five.
Presented with trophies for sixth- through tenth-place efforts were Mellen’s Greg Jaeger, Shawn McFadden, Jr, of Ashland, Bill Anderson of Wakefield, MI, Jonathan Popp of Iron River, and Ashland’s DeJay Mihalek
Another Ashland driver earned his first-ever track championship as Matt Deragon edged ahead of a tight battle for top honors in the pure stock division. Deragon, who also scored his first career feature win on July 7, was the only pure stocker to finish in the top-10 in every feature last summer, and he has finished in the top-10 in pure stock points each of the past five seasons.
Only 18 points separated the top four in the pure stocks, as Ken Tody, Jr, of Ashland led the division with two feature wins and finished second for the second straight season. Former champ Jim Eliason teamed up with Paul Tutor to put their Ashland-based race team in third, while Nick Nye of Ashland returned to full-time racing after nearly 30 years to finish fourth, ahead of Steve Udeen of Ashland.
Defending pure stock champ Tim Carbon of Highbridge headed up the second five, followed by the team effort of Tiffany and Tyler Hudack of Ashland, Ashland’s Brandle Pupp, Andy Udeen of Superior, and rookie Dean Waby of Ashland, who teamed up with mod star Stuart.
The top rookies in 2012 were recognized in four of the five classes, as no driver qualified in the sixes. Honors for best first-year efforts went to Jeff Tardy of Hibbing, MN (mods), DJ Keeler of Superior (supers), Suzik (Mid-mods) and Waby (pures).
The 2012 Sportsman of the Year award was presented to the youngster Van Natta, primarily for the classy way he handled the controversial Mid-mod feature finish on July 7 in which he and Balduc finished in a dead tie at the final stripe, only to see the win handed to Balduc two days later after an investigation of the race.
Honors for Most Improved Driver in 2012 went to Deragon, who improved from a seventh place in 2011.
Track president Beeksma also presented two special awards to track volunteers in recognition of their efforts in the track’s operations. The Award of Excellence plaque was presented to Mike and Linda Sorenson for their over 30 years of hard work with facility maintenance, officiating and lap-counting.
Beeksma also presented his ninth President’s Award to Eric Erickson, who has been an integral part of the track’s operations and of area stock car racing for over 25 years.
The 49th season of stock car racing at the ABC Raceway is scheduled to begin in mid-May. The track is located 3-1/2 miles south of Ashland on State Highway 13 and one mile west on Butterworth Road. For raceday information call (715) 682-4990