ABC Raceway Celebrates Class of ‘19 Hall of Fame Inductees
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, June 22 – During the intermission of Saturday night’s stock car racing program at the ABC Raceway, the Ashland-Bayfield County Racing Association introduced ten new inductees into its Hall of Fame to the crowd on hand for the night’s festivities.
The Hall of Fame, which was formed in 2014, pays tribute to the many persons and organizations that have contributed to the success of the Raceway and its promoting club, as well those who have achieved significant success while competing at the northern Wisconsin racing facility during its 55-year history.
The program was presented by Zar’s Bar & Banquet Hall of Ashland, which hosted a pre-race gathering and meal for the new inductees and their guests as well as current members of the Hall of Fame.
The new inductees were added in one of three categories –unanimous Honorary selections of the Hall of Fame committee based on their long-time support of and contributions to the success of the Raceway; Drivers who have been retired from active competition for at least five years but have achieved exceptional success at Ashland as well as other race tracks; and Volunteers & Contributors who have given at least ten years of active service towards the overall success of the ABC Raceway and the Racing Association.
First to receive recognition in the Honorary category was Lulich Implement of Mason, with Bob Lulich accepting on the company’s behalf. The highly reputable and successful farm equipment dealership has served the Chequamegon Bay area for nearly 60 years, and the Lulich family’s interests in and support of the ABC Raceway since the track’s founding has included providing exceptional service to the Raceway’s track preparation and groundskeeping equipment as well as generous lending of equipment and many other levels of support.
Also added in the Honorary category was Bob Wedlund, who was one of the Raceway’s early publicists, providing coverage of the stock car races at ABC to the Ashland Daily Press during the mid-1970s into the mid-‘80s. Bob helped the Red Clay Classic grow in popularity during the event’s earliest years by traveling to other area race tracks around the region promoting the event. Bob continues to be an avid race fan, especially of Late Model drivers and series around the Midwest.
Four drivers were a part of the Class of 2019. Chuck Hawkinson of Mellen began racing in 1999, and although he competed here for only 12 seasons, he earned 14 total feature wins – all in the Six-Cylinder class – and he finished in the top-ten in the division’s points in nine of those seasons, including winning championships in 2002 and in 2005 and setting the standard of success in that division during those years. Chuck also raced WISSOTA Super Stocks for three different seasons.
Art Hyde of Washburn was known as a fierce competitor, but also one of the friendliest, kindest drivers in the pit area, and his style and ever-present smile made him a fan favorite. From the late 1980s through the mid-‘90s Art was a top runner in the Sixes, with a championship season in 1988 and runner-up points finishes in 1991 and ‘94. He then moved into the WISSOTA Super Stocks, where he earned top-ten points finishes here in 1996 and his last season of racing, 2009. Of his 18 career feature wins at ABC, fifteen were in the Sixes – currently the seventh-highest win total in the division’s history.
The late Don Roseen of Duluth, MN, was one of the region’s most successful racers and one of the sport’s strongest advocates. During a 31-year career that began in the late 1950s, he won championships and major events at many area tracks. At ABC, he earned 17 total feature wins in Late Models, Modifieds and Super Stocks, as well as the track Modified points championship and Red Clay Classic feature win in the Modifieds. Later Don took an active role in the founding of the WISSOTA Promoters Association, eventually serving as its president for several years. Don’s wife Joyce and several members of his family were on hand to accept his induction.
Dean Yrjanainen, popularly known as “the Flyin’ Finn from Lake Nebagamon,” was unable to attend the ceremonies due to a prior family commitment, but as a racer his accomplishments were worthy of a first-ballot induction. His 70 total feature wins is second on the ABC Raceway’s all-time win list, his 54 feature wins in the WISSOTA Modified division is the all-time in that category, and his run of at least one feature win at Ashland every year for 20 straight seasons, from 1991 to 2010, is the longest such streak in Raceway history. In addition, Dean won the first three ABC Raceway Six-Cylinder point titles, in 1983, ’84 and ’85; he earned three more championships in the Mods, in 1997, 2000 and ‘07; and he won three Red Clay Classic titles in the Mods, in 1991, ’93 and ’96.
First among the Volunteer & Contributor inductees was long-time Raceway president Eric Erickson, who was actually voted into the Hall of Fame in 2018, but because of scheduling conflicts and family commitments he was unable to be properly recognized last year. Eric’s wife Betty introduced him with an emotional speech that included mention of his nearly 40 years of service to the Raceway, dating back to his early teenage life, and his passionate work with the track, his service on the WISSOTA national board and as its president, and his pure love and commitment to the sport and to the ABC Raceway.
Nick Gima, who has served as the Raceway’s announcer for nearly 30 years and its publicist and historian for almost as long, was introduced as an inductee by his long-time friend John Kimmes. Nick was recognized for his efforts as a Raceway Board member and officer, for his organizational skills and commitment to his announcing and other duties at Ashland, and his willingness to contribute to the success of other area race tracks.
The late Martha Koleski and her son Tom were added to the Hall of Fame membership for their many contributions during the track’s earliest years. Martha, who served as Raceway treasurer in the late 1960s, helped to guide the Racing Association with a reputation as reliable and trustworthy, to go along with a strong will that commanded respect and influenced many in the organization.
Tom Koleski was one of the Raceway’s earliest flag men in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and he was remembered as one of its most charismatic and memorable officials. Tom started each race by waiving the green flag while standing on the front straightaway as the cars were coming, then hurrying to the relative safety of a dirt mound in the infield. Tom took his role as flag man very seriously, which earned him the respect of the drivers, and he was popular among the fans of that era for his colorful racing shirt (check to see if he’s wearing it!) and his flamboyant style.
The late Pete Miller acted as the Raceway’s announcer in its earliest years, using enthusiastic phrases to energize the crowds at the track during the 1960s and early ‘70s. Pete was also a significant promoter of racing in Ashland, advertising the weekend’s races by mounting loudspeakers on his car and driving up and down the main street of Ashland on Friday nights and telling the local downtown shoppers about the upcoming event. Pete also served on the Raceway’s Board of Directors for several years, and he was known for his passion and enthusiasm for racing at ABC. Pete’s wife Anne and members of his family were on hand to accept his honor.
The late Ray Parent was very instrumental in helping many early area race drivers get their start in the sport and keep their cars going with his junkyard business located just outside of Ashland. Ray offered parts and advice, and he was especially helpful to those drivers who were just getting started in the sport. Ray also showed his generosity toward the track by donating an antique cash register, which was used for decades in the Raceway’s beer stand. Ray’s plaque of recognition was accepted by his daughter-in-law Minna.
The addition of this year’s inductees brings the total number of members of the ABC Raceway Hall of Fame to 59. Each new member received an engraved wooden plaque from Raceway president Erickson, and a sign listing the names of the Class of 2019 will be displayed along with signs from the previous inductee groups at the Raceway.