ABC Race of Champions Qualifiers to Visitors Cain, Burdick, Halopka
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, June 28 – The best car count of the 2019 season included many infrequent and first-time visiting racers to the ABC Raceway for a rare Friday-night race program, highlighted by a lot of action and more than a bit of drama during its Afco Shocks Race of Champions qualifiers.
Dave Cain of Corcoran, MN; Kevin Burdick of Proctor, MN; and Shane Halopka of Greenwood all visited the northern Wisconsin red-clay oval for the first time this season, and each came away with his respective RoC qualifier feature win, as part of a six-division, 20-race program presented by the Bad River Lodge, Casino and Convention Center of Odanah. Each will receive a berth in the prestigious Afco Shocks Race of Champions feature for his respective division during the WISSOTA 100 weekend of racing at the I-94 Speedway in Fergus Falls, MN, in mid-September.
Including these three, no fewer than ten of the 98 entries on this night were former Red Clay Classic champions. Additionally, Randy Graham of Trego took two feature wins on this night, and Paul George of Princeton, MN, collected his first-ever A-main win here.
Cain’s win came in a WISSOTA Modified feature that was a trying one on a couple of fronts. The usually smooth, fast, clean-running “big Mods” had trouble keeping their race under green on this night, as no fewer than seven caution flags slowed the pace, including one for a wreck that took nearly ten minutes to clean up. Then the drama continued in the post-race inspection area after the checkered flag was thrown.
Polestarter Ashley Anderson patiently set the pace throughout the entire 20-lap run, overcoming challenges at every restart and drawing away whenever the race stayed green for more than a couple of laps. Anderson outran Cody Carlson after each of two first-lap restarts, then fended off a determined Mike Anderson, as well as Cain and others, throughout the rest of the run.
Once the race reached halfway, the chaos seemed to end and the field provided some very entertaining action – particularly up front, where, at various times, Kevin Eder, Michael Truscott and Mike Anderson challenged Ashley Anderson while battling each other. Finally, Cain used a three-wide pass of Truscott and Mike Anderson to claim second with five laps remaining, and he closed to within three-tenths of a second on Ashley Anderson at the finish, with Mike Anderson pulling alongside of him.
During the post-race weigh-in, Ashley Anderson’s car was found to be just a few pounds under the division’s minimum weight rule for his engine type, passing the win to Cain. Truscott moved up to third in the final rundown, well back of the leaders but comfortably ahead of Eder and 13th-starting Jeff Spacek.
A significant on-track ruling was key in Burdick’s WISSOTA Super Stock feature win here. Front-row starter Curt Myers took off to the early advantage in the 20-lap A-main, while Burdick – who started directly behind South Dakota visitor and polesitter Kip Myers – needed a couple of laps to get by Shawn McFadden Jr in order to claim second.
Once in line, the lead pair set off to decide the outcome in what was shaping up to be a potential all-time classic battle. Over a 17-lap green-flag run, Burdick was never more than a few feet behind leader Myers, challenging with low-side dives while Myers fought back with every trick he knew. By mid-race the lead duo had closed on slower backmarkers, forcing both Myers and Burdick to find alternate routes through traffic while dueling for the lead.
It was in lapped traffic when Myers, running a low line, needed to dive even lower than he wanted to clear the slower Aaron Mashlan, with Burdick gaining a run and drawing alongside Myers’ passenger-side door going into turn 3. Myers’s line caused him to bump one of the large tractor tires that mark the inside line of the corners, which bounced it onto the racing surface. The caution flag came out for the stray tire, and by track rule Myers was penalized to the tail of the field for causing the situation. Rather than continuing from the back, Myers exited the event, leaving the race in Burdick’s hands.
Over the final three laps Burdick held off threats from Dave Flynn, then Nick Oreskovich, to claim his fourth career feature win here. Oreskovich, Flynn, and visitors Tommy Richards and Tristan LaBarge completed the top five.
Patience was the key to Halopka’s win in the 20-lap WISSOTA Midwest Modified headliner, as he led every lap from the pole but had to persevere through three early yellow-flag slowdowns.
After a lap 3 crunch that took out points leader George Dalbeck, Halopka stayed ahead of a great dogfight between Colin Chaschuk and Michael Blevins for second. Chaschuk eventually won out and looked to be a legitimate threat to the two-time RCC champ’s lead, but during a lap 7 stoppage Chaschuk had to leave the track to change a left-front tire.
A mid-pack scramble left debris and Justin Weinberger’s stalled car on the track to stop the race a final time, but over those final 13 non-stop laps Halopka built on his lead over Blevins, eventually pushing it to 2.7 seconds at the checkers. Blevins survived a mad scramble for second by edging ahead of Tommy Richards and Clay Passuello, while David Simpson ran off the final half-dozen laps in a comfortable, uncontested fifth.
The first half of Graham’s second “double-dip” of the season came in the ABC Six-Cylinder 15-lap feature. Bubba Anderson lead the initial laps, including after caution flags thrown for a couple of Jake Nevala spins, but Graham went on the offensive after that, passing both Jonathan Popp and Forrest Schultz to take third on lap 3, then working his way around Scott Ovaska for second a circuit later.
Graham pressured Anderson into a bobble in turn 2 on lap 6, and he took advantage with a low-side pass for the lead. From there Graham sped off to a 3.9-second buffer over Ovaska, Schultz, Anderson and Popp.
Graham won the second of his wins on the night in the very next race, the non-stop 12-lap WISSOTA Pure Stock main event, but not in a manner that he would have preferred. James Vendela looked strong throughout the run, taking the lead away from Jeff Christman in the first lap and then following a smooth, mid-lane path around the three-eighths-mile oval while battles commenced behind him.
Graham picked his way through the heavy traffic from his fourth-row start before driving around Aaron Bernick for second on lap 3. Within a couple more laps he had reeled in the leader and stayed within a car-length, occasionally looking to the low groove for some traction off the corners while Vendela took to a slightly higher lane.
Vendela edged Graham by a mere .176 seconds for what seemed to be his second career feature win here – until a long post-race technical inspection revealed a safety infraction on his car. The decision brought Graham’s win total to six here this season (three each in the Pure Stocks and Sixes), while Weinberger, a smoking Cory Jorgensen, Bernick and Don Livingston filled out the top five.
Another first-time feature winner was crowned at ABC in the WISSOTA Hornets class, with George earning the honors. After a first-lap restart for Neil Dees’ spun and stalled ride, the ten-lap feature clicked off without further interruption, with George working his way around Derek Dunbar for the lead right away. Visiting Derek Ament followed George past Dunbar a lap later, and the running order held steady for a while before Hunter McDougall made some noise with a couple laps remaining, taking third from Dunbar on lap 8 and then second from Ament under the white flag.
George’s win makes him the fifth different winner in five Hornet features at Ashland this year, and the sixth different winner when including last summer’s exhibition visit by the division. McDougall, Ament and Dunbar finished a tight nose-to-tail second through fourth, while Austin Gibson came home fifth.
Several inches of rain fell on the Chequamegon Bay area during the 36 hours before race time, resulting in a stickier track surface – and significantly faster lap times – than in recent weeks. Fast-lap bonuses in each of the features went to Mike Anderson in the Mods (16.615 seconds; 81.252 mph), Burdick in the Supers (17.136; 78.782), Halopka in the Mid-Mods (17.136; 78.731), Graham in the Sixes (18.588; 72.628), and Jorgensen in the Pure Stocks (19.276; 70.035).
In an unusual schedule twist, the ABC Raceway will take a couple of Saturday nights off (June 29 and July 6) to prepare for the first-ever visit by the Morton Buildings World of Outlaws Late Model Series to the award-winning red-clay oval on Tuesday, July 9. The “Red’s Auto Badgerland 50 Outlaw Challenge” will offer the winner of the night’s spotlight event a track-record $10,000 payoff, while starters of the 50-lap feature will earn a minimum of $1,000.
The WISSOTA Super Stocks and Midwest Mods will also race that night for enhanced purses as part of what is expected to be one of the biggest race programs ever held in Raceway history.
More information regarding the event will be released over the next few days. The grandstands will open at 4 pm on that Tuesday, hot laps will start at 6, and the first green flag of the night is set to fly at 7 pm. Live updates, WoO Series driver interviews, and more are slated to air on WBSZ, 93.3 FM, and WIMI, 99.7 FM, throughout the Monday and Tuesday leading up to the race program.
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, www.abcraceway.com.
Feature: 1-10: Dave Cain, Corcoran, MN; Mike Anderson, Jim Falls; Michael Truscott, Chippewa Falls; Kevin Eder, Ashland; Jeff Spacek, Phillips; Steve Stuart, Ashland; Steve Lavasseur, River Falls; Neil Balduc, Bessemer, MI; Tyler Luger, Oxford; Pat Cook, Washburn.
11-20: Cole Spacek, Phillips; Paul Suzik, Ironwood, MI; Dan Kingsley, Superior; Nick Wranek, Harrisburg, SD; Cody Carlson, Superior; Bill Yonke, Thief River Falls, MN; Todd Gehl, Solon Springs; Al Uotinen, Superior; Jared Loos, Loyal; Bill Byholm, Glidden.
21: Paul Niznik, Medford.
Heat 1: Ashley Anderson, Elk Mound; M Anderson; Luger; Gehl; J Spacek; Kingsley; Loos; Yonke.
Heat 2: Eder; Truscott; Suzik; Cook; Uotinen; Balduc; C Spacek.
Heat 3: Carlson; Cain; Byholm; Stuart; Lavasseur; Wranek; Niznik.
WISSOTA Super Stocks
Feature: 1-10: Kevin Burdick, Proctor, MN; Nick Oreskovich, Mason; Dave Flynn, Superior; Tommy Richards, Mondovi; Tristan LaBarge, Kelly Lake, MN; Shawn McFadden, Ashland; Matt Deragon, Ashland; Scott Lawrence, Superior; Patrick Beeksma, Ironwood, MI; Kip Myers, Ethan, SD.
11-20: Don Muzzy, Ironwood, MI; Kyle Copp, Brule; Andy Grymala, Superior; Aaron Mashlan, Ashland; Andrew Mackey, Roseville, MN; Jon Hammitt, Cloquet, MN; Rita Anderson, South Range; Greg Kuklinski, Ironwood, MI; Curt Myers, Cameron; Matt Hammitt, Cloquet, MN.
21: Cory Casari, Montreal.
Heat 1: Oreskovich; Burdick; Casari; Lawrence; Richards; Mackey; J Hammitt.
Heat 2: C Myers; Grymala; Flynn; LaBarge; Beeksma; Muzzy; Copp.
Heat 3: K Myers; Deragon; McFadden; Mashlan; M Hammitt; Anderson; Kuklinski.
WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds
Feature: 1-10: Shane Halopka, Greenwood; Michael Blevins, Hibbing, MN; Tommy Richards, Mondovi; Clay Passuello, Ironwood, MI; David Simpson, Thunder Bay, ON; Brandon Copp, Brule; Jimmy Latvala, Solon Springs; Jesse Aho, Toivola, MI; George Truscott, Greenland, MI; Jared Stricker, Highbridge.
11-20: Colin Chaschuk, Neebing, ON; Ross Fuhrman, Ashland; Kevin Monteith, Rosslyn, ON; Ryan Barningham, Bayfield; Bryan Lund, Ashland; Steve Altman, Mercer; Justin Weinberger, Park Falls; Marcus Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Gunner Peterson, South Range; George Dalbeck, Wakefield, MI.
Heat 1: Halopka; Passuello; Chaschuk; Aho; Fuhrman; Diamond Bressette, Spooner; Dalton Mains, Foxboro; Wayne Stricker, Highbridge.
Heat 2: Blevins; Copp; Truscott; Dunbar; Weinberger; Monteith; J Stricker; Lund.
Heat 3: Simpson; Richards; Dalbeck; Latvala; Peterson; Barningham; Altman.
Feature: 1-9: Randy Graham, Trego; Scott Ovaska, Marengo; Forrest Schultz, Ashland; Bubba Anderson, Trego; Jonathan Popp, Iron River; Matt Deragon, Ashland; DeJay Jarecki, Ashland; Jake Nevala, Ashland; Adam Traaholt, Ashland.
Heat: Graham; Ovaska; Anderson; Jarecki; Schultz; Popp; Deragon; Nevala; Traaholt.
WISSOTA Pure Stocks
Feature: 1-10: Randy Graham, Trego; Justin Weinberger, Park Falls; Cory Jorgensen, Duluth, MN; Aaron Bernick, Duluth, MN; Don Livingston, Washburn; Jeff Christman, South Range; Devin Fries, Phillips; Mikey Blevins, Hibbing, MN; Brandle Pupp, Highbridge; Cole Richards, Mondovi.
11-12: Tyler Keup, Superior; Jason Simonson, Poplar.
Heat 1: James Vendela, South Range; Livingston; Bernick; Christman; Richards; Jorgensen; Keup.
Heat 2: Graham; Weinberger; Blevins; Fries; Pupp; Simonson.
Feature: 1-9: Paul George, Princeton, MN; Hunter McDougall, Duluth, MN; Derek Ament, Barnum, MN; Derek Dunbar, Iron River; Austin Gibson, Springbrook; Mitch Kieber, Ironwood, MI; Tate Niehaus, Alborn, MN; Brad Currier, Alborn, MN; Neil Dees, Hurley.
Heat 1: George; Gibson; Jason Ronning, Ashland; Dees; Kieber.
Heat 2: McDougall; Ament; Niehaus; Dunbar; Currier.