IRA Winged Sprints Return to ABC Saturday
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, May 27 — For the first time since 2014, the Interstate Racing Association’s high-flying winged sprint cars will post near-triple-digit speeds on the ABC Raceway’s red-clay oval on Saturday night.
The NAPA Auto Parts stores of Ashland and Washburn will present the program, which will also include WISSOTA-sanctioned Super Stocks and Midwest Modifieds, plus the Raceway’s own Six-Cylinder class, for its second PolyDome Dirt Track Series Program of the 2017 season.
The appearance by the IRA sprints will be the fourth in the Midwestern-based touring series’ history on the award-winning three-eighths-mile northern Wisconsin oval. The tour was scheduled to race here in 2015 but the show was cancelled due to rain, and in 2016 the Raceway and IRA officials couldn’t schedule a mutually agreeable date.
The series’ drivers have put on incredible shows in each of its three previous stops here, but at the end of each A-main the same man has stood in Victory Lane – Bill Balog. Respectfully known as the “North Pole Nightmare” in honor of the name of his Alaskan hometown, Balog – who now calls Hartland, WI, home – is the IRA’s all-time A-feature win leader, and his string of seven straight series points titles from 2008-’14 is unprecedented in the tour’s annals.
Balog will be coming off his second IRA win of the season in the series’ most recent program, held in Beaver Dam two Saturdays ago. He currently sits second in series points, behind Scotty Thiel of Sheboygan.
Thiel has yet to reach Victory Lane this season, but he finished second to Balog in Beaver Dam back on May 13. In the series’ last visit here in 2014, Thiel, then an IRA rookie, started the A-main eighth but made a determined run through the field and used a last-lap pass after a late-race caution to earn second place behind Balog.
Scott Nietzel of Beaver Dam will be one of many other top-shelf contenders expected to make the long trip north for Saturday’s show. Nietzel, the series champ in 2004-’05, is the only other IRA driver besides Balog to score top-five finishes in each of the sprint series’ three previous Ashland stops.
One of the great draws of these 410-cubic-inch, 800-plus-horsepower winged sprinters is the speed they attain – especially at a track like ABC, where driver ability can be just as beneficial as sheer velocity. Balog is the Raceway’s all-time single-lap-time record holder, having turned a qualifying lap of 12.382 seconds, or 109.029 mph, in July 2012. By comparison, Nick Anvelink set the fastest lap ever recorded for traditional stock cars here during the WISSOTA Late Model feature at last year’s Red Clay Classic, in a time of 15.480 seconds, equating to 87.209 mph.
The tour will then race on Sunday at the 141 Speedway in Francis Creek, WI. This weekend marks roughly the quarter point on the IRA’s 38-race schedule.
The three other divisions in action have already turned laps on the Ashland oval this season. Prior to last Saturday’s rain-cancelled show, Shane Kisling of Park Falls led wire to wire for the Super Stock feature win during the Raceway’s 2017 opener, while Chippewa Falls’ Michael Truscott scored the win in the Midwest Mods and extended his Raceway record for Mid-Mod A-main wins to 14. Bubba Anderson of Trego won for the sixth time in his career in the Six-Cylinder feature on May 13.
Saturday’s program starts with hot laps at 6:15 pm for the Supers, Mid-Mods and Sixes, followed by timed qualifying for the IRA sprints. The first heat races of the night are scheduled to start around 7 pm.
For this special program, adult grandstand admission tickets are priced at just $22 each, while kids’ tickets will be just $8.
“Z-93 Race Night” will air on WBSZ, 93.3 FM, and online at wbsz fm dot com from 4:30-6 pm with up-to-date track news and weather information.
The ABC Raceway is located 3-1/2 miles south of Ashland on State Highway 13 and one mile west on Butterworth Road. For race-day information call (715) 682-4990.