Kids, Causes Benefit from Free Admission Night at ABC Raceway
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, June 15 – For many fans at the ABC Raceway on Saturday night, the action on the racetrack may have seemed like just so much icing on what was already a fun-filled cake.
The Raceway hosted its annual free-grandstand-admission night, and a huge crowd showed its appreciation for the offer by turning out on a cool, clear night. On top of that, there were many activities going on at the track that fans could participate in to help support the “Racing for a Reason” campaign, which Northern Clearing Inc of Ashland, in cooperation with the Heartland Communication Group of area radio stations, puts together annually with the ABC Raceway to raise funds for local charitable causes.
Also, Little Caesar’s Pizza of Ashland presented the Kids’ “Meet the Drivers” session prior to green-flag racing, allowing fans of all ages to walk among the 80 race cars entered for the night’s program on the front straightaway, collect autographs and treats from the drivers, and take an up-close look at the cars. And many bikes and other donated prizes would be doled out to the youngsters during the evening.
Oh, and along with all of that, there was a 17-race program that clicked off in a little more than three hours and ended with strong performances, successful returns to Victory Lane, and a little history.
One driver who enjoyed both a strong run and a winning result was Ashland’s Steve Stuart, who took home his 34th career feature win at his home track. Stuart, struggling to get a handle on the brand-new chassis he has purchased for this season, found some solutions after heat-race action on Saturday night, and the result was a rocket-ship of a racer that ran away from the pack in the feature.
Al Uotinen got around polesitter Bill Byholm for the initial lead of the 20-lap WISSOTA Modified A-main, and with no caution flags to slow the pace Uotinen looked to have things well in hand, flying to a 2.5-second lead by the time Stuart took over second from Byholm on lap 8.
But Stuart closed quickly and dove low on Uotinen to take over the lead on lap 13, and from there he sped away to a 2.8-second margin of victory. Uotinen finished a comfortable distance ahead of Kevin Eder for second, and Jeff Spacek overtook Byholm late in the run for fourth.
After a three-car pile-up on the initial start, the 20-lap WISSOTA Super Stock feature ran off without any further delays, which suited Cory Casari just fine. The young Montreal racer grabbed the lead before its mid-point and set a blistering pace the rest of the way to earn his 25th career feature win at Ashland.
Greg Kuklinski and Terran Spacek raced side-by-side for several laps before Spacek established himself out front, but by the time he did, Casari had worked through heavy traffic to reach his trunklid as the runner-up. The pair had distanced themselves from the pack by lap 8, at which point Casari took an outside line to get by for the lead.
Casari wasted no time in pulling away, stretching his lead to almost four-and-a-half seconds by the time the checkers flew. Three-time defending ABC Super Stock champ Nick Oreskovich clawed his way by Spacek over the final few laps to claim second, bringing 11th-starting Matt Deragon, who is off to a great start this season, to third. DJ Keeler completed the top five.
The lead did not seem like the most desirable place to be during the first half of the 20-lap WISSOTA Midwest Modified headliner, but it was a great place to be for young Canadian hotshoe David Simpson over the final ten laps.
Marcus Dunbar held off strong challenges from polestarter Jimmy Latvala and Brandon Copp over the first four laps of the run, but he spun himself out on lap 4, basically taking himself out of contention. Copp restarted out front and felt immediate pressure from George Dalbeck, who had been dominant in winning the first two Mid-Mod features of the season here, and Copp maintained his advantage through a lap 6 restart for a spun Darren Dunbar.
One lap after the restart, Dalbeck applied too much pressure and spun Copp to bring out another caution flag, sending Dalbeck to the back. But perhaps the spin caused damage to Copp’s car, as when the race reached its mid-point the leader slowed and pulled into the infield grass, his car done for the night. Simpson, who was next in line, assumed the lead and, despite one more stoppage for a two-car get-together, stayed there for the duration, eventually building a 1.47-second winning margin.
A determined Wayne Stricker, racing for the first night this season, stayed in the top-five throughout the run and claimed second, and Dalbeck climbed all the way back to third. Latvala and Gunner Peterson completed the top five.
Simpson told fans during his interview in Victory Lane after his fourth career feature win here that he came down from his hometown of Thunder Bay, ON, for a weekend of racing in the Northland with a skeleton crew – just himself and his girlfriend – so the win was a huge relief.
Three-time and 2018 ABC Six-Cylinder champ Tiffany Hudack of Ashland made a triumphant return to the red-clay oval with her 18th career feature win here. Hudack, who is running a part-time schedule in 2019 due to work commitments, took the lead from Jake Nevala during the first of the race’s 12 laps with an outside pass, then hugged the bottom line throughout the rest of the run to keep her challengers at bay.
The race was a struggle to complete, as five yellow-flag slowdowns plagued the first seven laps and eliminated nearly half of the 12-car field. Over the first four laps Hudack cruised to a 1.33-second lead, while Randy Graham – who had finished second to Hudack in the points last season but had won the track’s first two Sixes A-mains in her absence – was mired in congested traffic and struggled to get by Nevala. But when Devin Dalbec’s car stalled to bring about the first caution stoppage, it drew the field up close to Hudack’s rear bumper.
Hudack was pressured by both Graham and Matt Deragon after each of the next four restarts – two of which came about when Graham was spun by a car behind him. But it was Graham who applied the most pressure when he tried to wedge his car under Hudack’s in the first turn of the final lap, then tried to sweep around her in the final corner but could not build enough momentum.
Deragon, Forrest Schultz and Nevala took the third through fifth finishing spots.
Graham did get a measure of revenge by capturing the 10-lap WISSOTA Pure Stock feature for the second week in a row. At the start of this non-stop event, the speedster from Trego worked low to take second away from Dylan Shelton, then used a similar move snare the lead from James Vendela.
The lead pair pulled away, with Graham ahead by a couple of car-lengths, while visiting Jared Akervik sparred with Justin Weinberger for fourth, just ahead of Shelton. Eventually Graham stretched his advantage to 1.34 seconds over Vendela as he cruised to his 21st career win at ABC and fourth this year. Akervik won the battle with Weinberger for third, followed by Shelton.
The historic moment of the night occurred courtesy of the WISSOTA Hornets, as Dayna Marken of Duluth, MN, joined Hudack to establish the first time two female drivers won features on the same night at the ABC Raceway.
Marken’s win came in a rather strange manner, as she did not look to be a challenger to frontrunners Tate Niehaus and Derek Dunbar early on. But on a lap 3 restart after Hunter McDougall’s car died, leader Niehaus’ car stalled. When the race was restarted again, Marken took advantage and moved from fifth to second, threatening to take the lead from Paul Ripley.
The threat became reality with three laps to go, although Ripley stayed close and tried to take the lead back on several occasions. Finally, going into turn 3 for the final time, Ripley dove too hard into the corner and slipped up the embankment, coming to a stop at the guardrail, and Marken sped away uncontested for the her first-ever win, trailed at a distance by Dunbar, a recovered Niehaus, Nate Rose and Mitch Kieber.
The best single-lap times in the features were posted by Uotinen in the Mods (17.609 seconds; 76.665 mph), Casari in the Supers (18.100; 74.586), Copp in the Mid-Mods (17.721; 76.181), and Graham in both the Sixes (19.293; 69.974) and Pure Stocks (19.859; 67.979).
Throughout the race night – and for about a week leading up to Saturday’s program – at least a half-dozen different fundraising opportunities were made available for race fans to participate in and donate to, with collected proceeds to be distributed to the American Cancer Society and The Brick Ministries food shelf, which serves needy residents of the Chequamegon Bay area of northern Wisconsin.
The two fundraisers which got the most attention among the fans on this night were those run by WISSOTA Hornet drivers Laura Luger and Jason Ronning, and by the Raceway’s chief flagman, Ray Stuart. The factions were, in fact, in direct opposition of one another: the drivers had announced earlier in the week that they would attempt to raise at least $2,000 in donations during Saturday’s race program, with Stuart challenging that if they did, he would volunteer to sit on the platform of a dunk tank during an upcoming race night for one hour and allow fans to throw at the tank target.
Stuart then produced a challenge of his own, dangling a bucket from his post on the flag-stand platform by the grandstands throughout the race night to collect donations of his own in the hopes that he could raise divert enough funds away from the other collection point so as not to have to endure the dunk tank.
Of course, both challenges were done in good fun, as well as for two very worthy causes, and the results were quite positive. These efforts, along with favorite-driver voting, button sales, and contributions from candy bar and magazine sales, generated a total of $4,525 in total donations, plus many dozens of pounds of non-perishable food items. The ABC Raceway greatly appreciates the enormous generosity of the fans in attendance who donated to the fundraisers.
Also, as part of the “Meet the Drivers” Night fun, many racers, sponsors and fans donated bikes and other prizes which were given away to the young fans at the track on Saturday. The ABC Raceway extends its thanks to All-Performance Dyno Service, Barningham Racing (in memory of Jordan Barningham), Brian Olby Logging, Corbel LLC, Dave Anderson Trucking, Dave Flynn Racing, Don Muzzy Racing, FastLane Motorsports, GA Dalbeck Logging, Hiatt & Son Trucking and Hiatt Racing, Jonathan Popp Racing, Kevin Eder Racing, Lightning Storm Graphics, Luger Trucking and Luger Racing, Lulich Implement, Mashlan Business Services and Mashlan Racing, Matt Deragon Racing, Nascar Nevs, Neighborly Bar and Green Monster Storage, Nick Oreskovich Racing, North Central Working Western Horse Celebration, Randy Graham Racing, Saunders Racing, and Superior Floral and Prime Time Sign for their generous contributions.
The ABC Raceway’s annual Hall of Fame induction ceremonies will take place this Saturday night, June 22. Zar’s Bar & Banquet Hall of Ashland will be the presenting sponsor and host the inductees’ luncheon, and the Class of 2019 will be honored on the front straightaway during a special celebration at intermission. All six divisions will be in action.
The grandstands will open at 5 pm, and hot laps will start at 6:15, followed by the first green flag of the night at 7 pm. “Race Night” will air on WBSZ, 93.3 FM, with up-to-date track news and weather updates every 15-20 minutes from 4:30-6 pm; coverage will also stream on www.wbszfm.com and on the free Heartland Communications Group radio app.
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, or log on to the track’s website, abcraceway.com.
All photos by Tom Krob shooterguyphotos.com
Feature: 1-10: Steve Stuart, Ashland; Al Uotinen, Superior; Kevin Eder, Ashland; Jeff Spacek, Phillips; Bill Byholm, Glidden; Cody Carlson, Superior; Jake Hiatt, Mason; Pat Cook, Washburn; Tyler Luger, Oxford; Paul Suzik, Ironwood, MI.
11-13: Steve Lavasseur, River Falls; Paul Niznik, Medford; John Toppozini, Thunder Bay, ON.
Heat 1: Eder; Stuart; Byholm; Hiatt; Luger; Lavasseur.
Heat 2: Carlson; Uotinen; Spacek; Suzik; Niznik; Toppozini.
WISSOTA Super Stocks
Feature: 1-10: Cory Casari, Montreal; Nick Oreskovich, Mason; Matt Deragon, Ashland; Terran Spacek, Phillips; DJ Keeler, Superior; Curt Myers, Cameron; Don Muzzy, Ironwood, MI; Kyle Copp, Brule; Patrick Beeksma, Ironwood, MI; Andrew Mackey, Roseville, MN.
11-15: Greg Kuklinski, Ironwood, MI; Aaron Mashlan, Ashland; David Elliott, Minocqua; Rick Randall, Wakefield, MI; Rita Anderson, South Range.
Heat 1: Myers; Beeksma; Muzzy; Spacek; Anderson; Mackey; Randall; Mashlan.
Heat 2: Kuklinski; Casari; Oreskovich; Keeler; Copp; Deragon; Elliott.
WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds
Feature: 1-10: David Simpson, Thunder Bay, ON; Wayne Stricker, Highbridge; George Dalbeck, Wakefield, MI; Jimmy Latvala, Solon Springs; Gunner Peterson, South Range; Clay Passuello, Ironwood, MI; George Truscott, Greenland, MI; Ross Fuhrman, Ashland; Jesse Aho, Toivola, MI; Steve Altman, Mercer.
11-17: Tyler Hudack, Ashland; Bill Muhlig, Bessemer, MI; Justin Weinberger, Park Falls; Ryan Barningham, Bayfield; Marcus Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Darren Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Brandon Copp, Brule.
Heat 1: Simpson; Latvala; Peterson; Dalbeck; Barningham; D Dunbar; Truscott; Fuhrman; Ryan Savoy, Superior.
Heat 2: Stricker; Copp; Hudack; M Dunbar; Passuello; Aho; Weinberger; Altman; Muhlig.
Feature: 1-10: Tiffany Hudack, Ashland; Randy Graham, Trego; Matt Deragon, Ashland; Forrest Schultz, Ashland; Jake Nevala, Ashland; DeJay Jarecki, Ashland; Adam Traaholt, Ashland; Bubba Anderson, Trego; Jordan Pearce, Ashland; Jonathan Popp, Iron River.
11-12: Devin Dalbec, Ashland; Josh Saunders, Spooner.
Heat 1: Hudack; Graham; Popp; Nevala; Anderson; Dalbec.
Heat 2: Traaholt; Schultz; Deragon; Jarecki; Pearce; Saunders.
WISSOTA Pure Stocks
Feature: 1-9: Randy Graham, Trego; James Vendela, South Range; Jared Akervik, Superior; Justin Weinberger, Park Falls; Dylan Shelton, Wrenshall, MN; Brandle Pupp, Highbridge; Don Livingston, Washburn; Jason Simonson, Poplar; Brock Beilke, Hayward.
Heat: Weinberger; Graham; Vendela; Akervik; Shelton; Livingston; Simonson; Pupp; Beilke.
Feature: 1-10: Dayna Marken, Duluth, MN; Derek Dunbar, Iron River; Tate Niehaus, Alborn, MN; Nate Rose, Duluth, MN; Mitch Kieber, Ironwood, MI; Jason Ronning, Ashland; Kristy Marken, Duluth, MN; Neil Dees, Hurley; Brad Currier, Alborn, MN; Paul Ripley, Duluth, MN.
11-12: Shawn Young, Stone Lake; Hunter McDougall, Duluth, MN.
Heat 1: Ronning; D Marken; Dunbar; Rose; K Marken; Kieber.
Heat 2: Ripley; Niehaus; Currier; Dees; Young; McDougall.