by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, August 13 — On Saturday night the ABC Raceway introduced its 2016 Hall of Fame inductees to a large, appreciative crowd at the award-winning red-clay oval.
The nine new inductees – four retired drivers, four in the Volunteer & Contributor category, and one honorary selection – were honored on trackside during intermission of the August 13 program, joined by family, friends and fans.
In the Drivers category, the inductees included Mel Ferguson, Jerry Hartman, Johnny Johnson and Ron Weinberger.
During Ferguson’s racing days at ABC he collected 13 feature wins – all in the WISSOTA Modifieds, including two at the Red Clay Classic, in 1994 and ‘98, and he earned his lone points title here in 1995. He also contributed to the track with his business, which installed the septic system for the new grandstand-side restroom building. His unique-looking cars, his personable style, and his genuine support of the ABC Raceway made him a fan favorite for years.
Hartman’s 35 total feature wins is 12th-best all-time at the track, including his Red Clay Classic WISSOTA Super Stock win in 1994. The following season he moved into the Mod class, where he won 25 of those 35 features – the 5th-highest total in that division – and two track championships, in 1999 & 2001. His crowd-pleasing driving style was all-out – he drove with a “checkers or wreckers” edge and only wanted to win.
Johnson was one of the area’s great drivers in the late 1960s and into the ‘70s. His 32 total feature wins is 13th-best all-time, and all came in Late Models, which makes him the track’s win leader in that division. He won the first two Late Model features ever run in Red Clay Classic history – in 1976 & ‘78 – and he was a two-time ABC Raceway Late Model points champion, in 1972 & ‘74. He collected many more wins at his home tracks in Proctor, MN, and Superior.
Weinberger scored 20 total feature wins – all in the Street and Hobby Stock divisions. He won seven of those features during the 1987 season alone, helping him gain the first of his two Hobby Stock titles; the other came in 1979. He also helped the track during his racing days by donating large barrels from his workplace that the Raceway used for trash barrels. He spent some time away from racing after he retired from the sport, but today he helps his grandson Justin with his driving career.
The inductees honored in the Volunteer / Contributor category were recognized for their significant positive contributions to both the Raceway and to the sport in general. They included Kurt Beeksma, Dawn & the late Ray Berglund, Don & Alice Hudack, and the late Rudy and Lorraine Marincel.
Beeksma spent 11 years directing the organization as its Board president, and he has also served as vice-president and in other capacities within the Board for more than 15 years. His outstanding leadership and organizational skills, and his hard work and love of this sport and the Ashland facility helped the ABC Raceway to receive the WISSOTA Track of the Year award in 2002 and the highly-coveted Racing Promotion Monthly North Region Auto Racing Promoter of the Year award in 2012.
Ray Berglund was a talented and knowledgeable handyman directly involved in the construction and maintenance of nearly every building and facility on the Raceway’s grounds over a 20-plus-year time frame. His interest in the track never waned right up until his passing in June 2015. His wife Dawn’s involvement began while working with the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce, and her staunch support created a most unique relationship between race track and community. Their sons Larry, John and Dave also have contributed greatly, both as racers and while generously helping with projects here.
The Hudacks have been involved with the Raceway since its very beginning, when he was a successful racer here and she worked in the concession stand. Don was on the Board of Directors from 1970 until ‘78, and he would often offer his shop to hold Board meetings in. Alice has been and continues to be a long-time fixture in the concession stand. Ever since Don started racing back in the 1960s, there has been at least one member of the Hudack family involved at the track in one way or another.
Two of the most beloved and missed people ever to be involved with this organization, the Marincels contributed many years to the success of this track, right up until their passing. Rudy worked as part of the safety crew for years, and he also served as the Association’s treasurer in the mid-1960s. Lorraine worked as both a ticket taker and in the concession stands, and was affectionately known as “Cupcake.” Their children, Denise and Rudy, continue to followed in their parents’ footsteps – for many years Denise has worked in the ticket booths and concession stands, and Rudy still works on our infield safety crew as often as he can.
The lone Honorary inductee, unanimously chosen by HoF Selection Committee for its many contributions to the Raceway, is CG Bretting Mfg Co Inc of Ashland. The family-run business has been a mainstay in the local community, and for so many years they have generously offered to help with service, maintenance and improvement projects for the facility, often before ever even being asked, and nearly always without cost to the Association for their materials or labor. They also sponsor or support many of the area’s drivers, and several of their employees are either racers or otherwise directly involved in the Raceway organization. Tad Bretting accepted on behalf of the company and family.
The inductees were honored at a private luncheon at Zar’s Banquet Hall in Ashland prior to the race program, and their names will be displayed at the track in the grandstand area.