ABC Raceway Crowns Five First-Time Champs
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, August 29 — “Mountain Dew Championship Saturday Night” at the ABC Raceway will be long remembered for a lot of notable moments – the return of one driver to Victory Lane for the first time in 11 years; the return of another to the track in just as many; a popular local pair of brother-sister teammates switching rides for the night; and a down-to-the-wire battle between two title-winning veteran racers to cap off the evening.
But most significantly will be the fact that five drivers earned their first-ever ABC Raceway track championships on Saturday, as 88 entries came to race on a cool late-August evening for the final regular-season night of 2020.
Washburn’s Pat Cook held an 11-point advantage over Cole Spacek heading into the WISSOTA Modified feature – the closest of the championship battles to be decided on this night. To start the 20-lap “big Mod” main event Cook lined up just behind Spacek, a couple of rows back of front-row companions Jeff Spacek (Cole’s dad) and Bill Byholm – who between them own seven ABC titles.
The two wily veterans raced side-by-side for nearly every one of the 20 laps of the race, with Byholm flying around the uppermost groove of the smooth, fast red-clay oval while Spacek hugged the innermost lane. The senior Spacek gained an advantage on lap 7 just before Paul Suzik’s spin brought about the race’s first yellow-flag slowdown, and when the green lights came back on the younger Spacek restarted just ahead of Cook in sixth.
But Cook took advantage of the restart by diving low on both Cole Spacek and Brandon Copp to take fifth, then used a similar move to snare fourth from Alex Van Natta on lap 10 and third from Steve Lavasseur on lap 11.
Byholm and Jeff Spacek continued their classic battle just ahead of Cook and Lavasseur, with Byholm edging Spacek by a mere .002 seconds at the stripe on lap 18, just before Suzik’s second spin set up a green-white-checkered finish to the season. Byholm, of Glidden, held on to beat Spacek by .171 seconds for his 28th career feature win at Ashland but first since July 2016. Cook’s third-place performance was more than enough to earn him his first-ever points title at ABC, while Lavasseur took fourth and Cole Spacek fifth.
Dave Flynn of Superior also did just a little more than was needed on Saturday to score his first career track championship. Going into the WISSOTA Super Stock finale Flynn led four-time defending champ Nick Oreskovich by 42 points, meaning a 16th-place or better finish would secure the trophy for Flynn. Seventeen cars started the 20-lap feature, and Flynn didn’t let Oreskovich get too far out of reach.
After Andrew Mackey’s first-lap spin, DJ Keeler led Shawn McFadden, Cory Casari and the rest back to green. Flynn powered low to work past Oreskovich for fifth just after visitor Kevin Burdick took fourth away, but while Burdick picked his way forward to second over the next few laps, Flynn slipped back to as low as eighth.
Flynn rebounded at mid-race, swiping fifth from Scott Lawrence while the fourth-running Oreskovich chased Casari. As the leaders worked their way through backmarkers, Burdick made an inside pass of Keeler for the lead with four laps to go and then broke away.
Burdick had a lot of open space in front of him with two laps left, but a tangle involving Don Muzzy, Tom Karaba and Rita Anderson resulted in Karaba and Muzzy hitting the back-straight guardrail hard and Karaba’s car rolling once completely before settling on its roof. All drivers walked away uninjured, and it set up a green-white-checkered finish.
Burdick ran away to his fifth career win here, with Casari getting around Keeler on the restart for second. Flynn, who lined up alongside Oreskovich on the re-do, grabbed fourth and secured his championship.
Marcus Dunbar of Marenisco, MI, had all but cemented his first-ever WISSOTA Midwest Modified title at ABC by taking the green flag in that division’s 20-lap A-main, but just to be on the safe side he grabbed his second-straight feature win and third of the year for good measure.
Ross Fuhrman and Jimmy Latvala (third and second in points, respectively, behind Dunbar) started the race side-by-side on the front row, but Dunbar grabbed second from Latvala right away. Jesse Polson’s lap 2 spin stalled the show for a bit, but it allowed Latvala to work outside on Fuhrman and take the lead away within a lap after the restart.
Dunbar got by Fuhrman on the next lap, prior to Diamond Bressette’s spin on lap 4, and after a stoppage for debris Dunbar went on the attack and took the lead on lap 7. By lap 10 Dunbar was working his way through slower traffic, but a series of yellow flags for more debris, another Polson spin, and a Justin Weinberger spin that collected John Darwin slowed the pace considerably.
The final seven laps clicked off without further delay, with Dunbar cruising to a two-second-plus final advantage. Latvala battled a hard-charging Jack Rivord to the bitter end and edged the youngster for runner-up honors by .005 seconds. Jesse Aho and Tanner Hicks completed the top five.
Tanner Gehl of Solon Springs became the first true rookie to win a points title at Ashland in over 30 years, while Duluth, MN’s Cory Jorgensen capped off a solid month of August here with his third straight WISSOTA Pure Stock feature win.
A logjam at the front of the field kept nearly all eight entries in close quarters early on, as Aaron Bernick had RJ Holly and defending champ Randy Graham tapping on his rear bumper. Jorgensen stuck the nose of his racer into that crowd, and he, Bernick and Graham pulled away in tight formation from Holly, who was in a heated discussion with Gehl and visiting Samuel Blevins for fourth.
As the ten-lap run stayed green, Jorgensen edged around Graham for second, helping Gehl’s cause in the points battle, but when Holly took over fourth and Gehl slipped back to fifth it tightened up the standings again. On lap 7 Jorgensen got around Bernick for the lead and opened up a comfortable cushion, which he maintained to the end. Graham could not get by second-finishing Bernick, but Gehl did slip past Holly to retake fourth late and claim the title by a mere 13 points.
Graham, from Trego, successfully defended his ABC Six-Cylinders championship later in the night’s action, in part due to an unintentional birthday gift from second-in-points Forrest Schultz. During the early stages of his heat race Schultz’s motor blew up, meaning Graham would merely need to start the feature to retain the Sixes title.
Polestarter Jake Nevala led the first two laps, but Dennis Groom, in only his fifth night of racing after an 11-year hiatus, worked his way low to take the lead. Nevala then spun after a bump from Graham on lap 3, and shortly after the restart Josh Saunders looped his ride with a little help from Dominic Hmielewski, but from there on it was Groom’s race to keep.
An impressive Jordan Pearce kept the pressure on Groom over the final eight laps, and Tyler Hudack – driving his sister Tiffany’s championship-winning car while she drove Tyler’s Midwest Mod for the first time – closed a nearly-two-second deficit to the leaders over the last three laps. But Groom, the 2001 ABC Street Stock champ from Ashland, held on for his fourth career feature win here but first since May 2009. Graham recovered for fourth, clinching his fourth track title here in the past three years (two each in the Sixes and Pure Stocks), and Saunders followed in fifth.
One night after securing the WISSOTA Hornets championship in Superior, AJ House of Cloquet, MN, nailed down his first title here by winning his division-best fifth feature of the season at ABC and third in a row.
On the initial start Kristy Marken was bumped into the infield, which sent second-in-points DeJay Jarecki to the tail of the grid for the restart. Mitch Kieber then led from the pole, while first-time visitor Mike Klippenstein used the outside lane for a five-wide pass down the front straight to take second. House, who started in row 4, was battling with Casey Fitzpatrick for third by lap 4, while Jarecki had already weaved his way through most of the 15-car field to take fifth by lap 6.
With two to go Klippenstein pulled alongside Kieber for the lead, but on the next go-around House made a low-side move by Kieber for second and stayed there to outrun Klippenstein to the final corner and edge ahead for the win and the title. Fitzpatrick and Jarecki completed the top five.
Each of the feature winners received impressive five-foot-tall trophies in Victory Lane from Steve Parsons, who was in attendance to promote his annual organ and tissue donation awareness campaign in honor of his late daughter, Kim.
Along with Groom’s return to the winner’s circle, the Hudack siblings’ car swap, and the classic duel between Byholm and Spacek, Saturday night also marked the return to racing of multi-time Superior Speedway champ Randy Silverness Jr, who climbed behind the wheel of Rick Siiter’s Mid-Mod and turned his first competitive laps since 2009.
The fastest timed laps in each feature were set by Van Natta in the Mods (17.118 secs; 78.864 mph), Burdick in the Supers (17.330; 77.900), Dunbar in the Mid-Mods (17.529; 77.015), and Tyler Hudack in the Sixes (18.500; 72.973).
The ABC Raceway will host the first-ever “Prelude to the Clay,” to be presented by Ashland Ford-Chrysler Center, on Thursday night, September 3. WISSOTA Late Models, Modifieds and Super Stocks will compete for a share of a purse well in excess of $36,000 to kick off the region’s stock car racing invitational season.
Reserved seating, advance tickets, and camping information for the “Prelude” are available by calling (715) 292-2672. Reserved pit parking and driver registration info are available by calling (715) 209-1373. Drivers who register via My Race Pass prior to September 2 will not have to pay a draw fee.
The ABC Raceway 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, log on to the track’s website, www.abcraceway.com, or check out the track’s FaceBook page.
Feature: 1-10: Bill Byholm, Glidden; Jeff Spacek, Phillips; Pat Cook, Washburn; Steve Lavasseur, River Falls; Cole Spacek, Phillips; Brandon Copp, Brule; Alex Van Natta, Minocqua; Al Uotinen, Superior; Jake Hiatt, Mason; Shane Kisling, Butternut.
11-15: Rick Rivord, Superior; Paul Niznik, Medford; Neil Balduc, Bessemer, MI; Tyler Luger, Oxford; Paul Suzik, Ironwood, MI.
Heat 1: Copp; Byholm; J Spacek; Van Natta; Hiatt; Kisling; Niznik; Balduc.
Heat 2: C Spacek; Cook; Lavasseur; Uotinen; Rivord; Suzik; Luger.
WISSOTA SUPER STOCKS
Feature: 1-10: Kevin Burdick, Proctor, MN; Cory Casari, Montreal; DJ Keeler, Superior; Dave Flynn, Superior; Nick Oreskovich, Mason; Matt Deragon, Ashland; Scott Lawrence, Superior; Steve Stuart, Ashland; Shawn McFadden, Ashland; Kyle Copp, Brule.
11-17: Aaron Mashlan, Ashland; Jonathan Popp, Iron River; Don Muzzy, Ironwood, MI; Rita Anderson, South Range; Thomas Karaba, Superior; Matthew Hammitt, Cloquet, MN; Andrew Mackey, Duluth, MN.
Heat 1: Oreskovich; Burdick; Keeler; McFadden; Muzzy; Mashlan; Karaba; Popp; Stuart.
Heat 2: Flynn; Casari; Lawrence; Mackey; Deragon; Copp; Anderson; Hammitt.
WISSOTA MIDWEST MODIFIEDS
Feature: 1-10: Marcus Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Jimmy Latvala, Solon Springs; Jack Rivord, Superior; Jesse Aho, Toivola, MI; Tanner Hicks, Ashland; Duane Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Michael Blevins Sr, Hibbing, MN; Ryan Savoy, Superior; Brady Uotinen, Superior; Ross Fuhrman, Ashland.
11-20: Dalton Mains, Foxboro; Chris Bretting, Washburn; Ryan Barningham, Bayfield; Steve Altman, Mercer; Randy Silverness Jr, Superior; Tiffany Hudack, Ashland; Diamond Bressette, Spooner; Bryan Lund, Ashland; John Darwin, Iron River; Justin Weinberger, Butternut.
21: Jesse Polson Superior.
Heat 1: Hicks; Savoy; Fuhrman; D Dunbar; Weinberger; Mains; Lund.
Heat 2: Aho; M Dunbar; Rivord; Uotinen; Bretting; Barningham; Darwin.
Heat 3: Latvala; Blevins; Silverness; Altman; Bressette; Hudack; Polson.
WISSOTA PURE STOCKS
Feature: 1-8: Cory Jorgensen, Duluth, MN; Aaron Bernick, Duluth, MN; Randy Graham, Trego; Tanner Gehl, Solon Springs; RJ Holly, Marengo; Mikey Blevins, Hibbing, MN; Samuel Blevins, Hibbing, MN; Jennie Krause, Aurora, MN.
Heat: Jorgensen; M Blevins; Graham; Bernick; Holly; Gehl; S Blevins; Krause.
Feature: 1-10: Dennis Groom, Ashland; Jordan Pearce, Ashland; Tyler Hudack, Ashland; Randy Graham, Trego; Joshua Saunders, Spooner; Jake Nevala, Ashland; Dominic Hmielewski, Marengo; Mathew Rohlfing, Cable; Trenton Bond, Mason; Jakob Bond, Mason.
11: Dalton Truchon, Ashland.
Heat 1: Hudack; Saunders; Groom; Nevala; Rohlfing; Schultz.
Heat 2: Graham; Truchon; Pearce; Hmielewski; J Bond; T Bond.
Feature: 1-10: AJ House, Cloquet, MN; Mike Klippenstein, Proctor, MN; Mitch Kieber, Ironwood, MI; Casey Fitzpatrick, Two Harbors, MN; DeJay Jarecki, Ashland; Josh Rowe, Duluth, MN; Carson Gotelaere, Superior; Shawn Young, Stone Lake; Gavyn Moncher, Saxon; Colton Strong, Superior.
11-14: Noah Rose, Duluth, MN; Kristy Marken, Duluth, MN; Cully Butterfield, Trego; Brandon Hummelmeier, Maple.
Heat 1: Jarecki; House; Klippenstein; Rowe; Young; Rose; Wammer.
Heat 2: Kieber; Fitzpatrick; Strong; Marken; Gotelaere; Butterfield; Hummelmeier.
ABC 8/29/20 results