Kaanta Collects Second Straight LM Challenge Series Win at ABC
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, June 29 — Before last August, John Kaanta hadn’t visited Victory Lane at the ABC Raceway in 11 years. This time, the wait wasn’t nearly as long.
Kaanta, of Elk Mound, stole the lead from Lance Matthees in lapped traffic and held on for a $2,000 paycheck during Friday night’s WISSOTA Wollak Construction Late Model Challenge Series (LMCS) feature at the ABC Raceway.
The program, presented by the Bad River Lodge, Casino & Convention Center of Odanah, also included WISSOTA-sanctioned Modifieds, Super Stocks and Midwest Modifieds for a total of 82 entries competing on a hot, humid night in front of a huge crowd. Although the Late Models only race here twice a year, Kaanta – who won the Series event here last year – was ironically the most recent of the four winners at the track on this night, as the other three features saw two long-absent winners and one first-timer.
It was also the first time the northern Wisconsin speedplant had hosted a Friday night race program (other than during a Red Clay Classic weekend) since July 27, 2007, when Harry Hanson won a Late Model special here.
Kaanta started the 40-lap spotlight event from the pole, but Matthees, who started alongside, won the battle through the first turns and edged ahead, as the lead pair built a cushion between themselves and third-running Marshall Fegers over the first four laps. Jake Redetzke followed Fegers into fourth during the early stages, and Series points leader Pat Doar held fifth ahead of Tim McMann.
Fegers drew up to challenge the frontrunners over the course of the next four laps, and for a while it looked to be a three-car showdown. Matthees then gained a little breathing room for a couple of laps, but Kaanta and Fegers caught up again within a few more circuits.
Better than half of the race clicked off non-stop on the black-slick track, during which the leaders closed up to the first backmarker, John Toppozini. It was on lap 23 that Matthees had to check up in order to set up a move around the slower car, and Kaanta took advantage to slip by Matthees and take over the lead for good – just one lap before the race’s lone yellow-flag slowdown, for the spun ride of Blake Swenson.
On the ensuing restart Fegers worked around Matthees to take second, and Redetzke followed him into third. Kaanta built a margin of over a second within just five laps, but that margin shrank to a car-length or two in the closing tours. But neither Fegers nor Redetzke dared to venture out of the bottom groove to challenge Kaanta, and they followed the veteran racer to the checkers, the top three less than a half-second apart from each other.
Matthees maintained fourth just a few lengths back, and Darrell Nelson grabbed fifth after the lap 24 restart and stayed there.
“Sometimes you gotta be lucky,” Kaanta said to the crowd after the impressive run. “Lance had to deal with that lapped car, so I figured I had to take advantage.” It was the six-time LMCS champ’s third win on the tour this season.
Nelson pulled double-duty on this night and brought the Modified along as well – and it’s a good thing that he did. The Hermantown, MN, pilot picked up his first feature win in Ashland since his Red Clay Classic title in October 2015.
Nelson started the 20-lap Mod main eighth on the 14-car grid, but he took advantage of a couple of well-placed restarts to put himself in position to win. Al Uotinen started on the outside of the front row and sped around polestarter Bill Byholm for the early lead, while Rick Rivord copied the move to get around Neil Balduc for third. Byholm charged back to challenge for the lead during the initial laps, but eventually Uotinen pulled away to a comfortable margin.
The field tightened up behind him on lap 5, however, as Jake Hiatt and Pat Cook came together and spun for the race’s first caution stop. Rivord edged by Byholm to take second on the restart, and Nelson found the high side open enough to sweep around several cars to move into the top five.
By lap 7 Nelson had displaced Byholm for third, and two laps later, just after Rivord made a determined effort to catch and pass Uotinen for the lead, Kevin Eder spun out of a top-five run to stop the race for the final time. Back under green, Nelson again used the upper line to work his way around Uotinen and Rivord to take over the lead, and from there he ran away to a 1.8-second margin of victory for his ninth career feature win here, all in the Mods.
Close behind second-place Rivord, 11th-starting Steve Stuart closed quickly but settled for third, while Uotinen and Byholm completed the top five at a distance.
Phillips’ Terran Spacek led flag-to-flag from the pole to capture his first-ever Super Stock feature win at Ashland and his first win here since June 21, 2014, in a Pure Stock. Spacek didn’t have an easy go of it until late in the run, as steady pestering by Nick Oreskovich and Andy Grymala kept the youngster on his toes.
Spacek led Grymala, Oreskovich, Scott Lawrence, Shawn McFadden Jr and visitor Kevin Burdick in tight formation over the opening tour of the 20-lapper, but Burdick looped his ride while trying the high side to bring about the first stoppage. The field stayed pretty close – especially up front – for a couple more go-’rounds, with Oreskovich swapping spots with Grymala and Lawrence and McFadden running side-by-side, until debris on lap 6 slowed the pace again. More debris, including the entire nosepiece of Annika Hammitt’s racer, brought about a couple more delays, but the final 14 laps clicked off without another hitch.
Spacek, Oreskovich and Grymala pulled away from the rest to decide the win amongst themselves, with Oreskovich trying an outside line to work his way into the lead. But in doing so, the two-time defending track champion opened up the inside lane, which proved profitable for Grymala, who took second with eight laps left. But the battle for second also allowed Spacek to pull away, eventually building up a two-second lead at the checkers.
DJ Keeler came from the 11th starting spot to nip McFadden and a hard-charging Burdick on the final lap.
One of the most jubilant Victory Lane celebrations in some time came after the Midwest Mod A-main, as Brule’s Brandon Copp shocked everyone with his first-ever ABC Raceway feature win. The son of eight-time ABC Raceway Mod champ Don Copp tracked down and passed none other than Michael Truscott, then survived a green-white-checkered finish for the landmark win.
Truscott was a man on a mission early, working the very bottom lane to muscle past Cole Spacek for third after the first circuit, and then polestarter Tyler Hudack on the next one. Copp wasn’t that far back, moving up to fourth on lap 3 just as Truscott slipped below Justin Weinberger to grab the lead. But before the field could complete lap 4, Jim Kannegiesser’s spin brought about the first in a series of slowdowns.
Over the next single scored lap, no less than three more appearances by the yellow flag kept the pace slow and the field close to Truscott’s rear bumper. Finally things broke loose for a few laps of green-flag racing, during which the leader hustled to a lead of well over a second-and-a-half ahead of a dogfight for second led by Hudack.
By lap 9 Truscott’s lead was over two seconds, but that disappeared when Dalton Mains looped his ride. Weinberger grabbed second on the restart, bringing Copp along to third, and then – after another two-car spin – Copp worked his way around Weinberger and set his sights on the leader.
Copp was relentless in his challenges on the former track and two-time Red Clay Classic champ, until an outside move coming off of turn 4 to complete lap 14 stuck enough for Copp to get by. From there drove away to nearly a one-second advantage, but Clay Passuello’s spun car allowed Truscott and Weinberger one last shot at the win. Copp held on to lead by three-tenths of a second at the final stripe, ahead of Truscott, Weinberger, Paul Suzik and Ross Fuhrman.
“It’s really awesome when you can run side-by-side with Michael Truscott,” an elated and exhausted Copp told the cheering crowd from Victory Lane afterwards. “He’s one of the best.” Copp then dedicated the win to his grandmother, who is fighting a serious illness.
Top lap times in the features were recorded by Jeff Massingill in the Late Models (16.355 seconds; 82.543 mph average), Nelson in the Mods (18.176; 74.274), Spacek in the Supers (18.632; 72.456), and Truscott in the Mid-Mods (18.279; 73.855).
The ABC Raceway will return to its traditional Saturday night schedule with a big night for the smaller fans. On July 7, Little Caesar’s Pizza of Ashland will present the Kids’ “Meet the Drivers” Night activities prior to the race program, and during intermission kids’ bike races will be held on the track, complements of Chicago Iron & Supplies. The “meet-and-greet” session will take place on the track at 6:30, so there will be no hot laps prior to the program. The first heat race of the night should start right at 7 pm.
“Z-93 Race Night” will air live on WBSZ, 93.3 FM, and stream online at www.wbszfm.com, from 4:30-6 pm with at-the-track news and weather updates. Fans can also listen by downloading the free HCG Radio app onto their smart phone, tablet or other mobile device.
The ABC Raceway is located 3-1/2 miles south of Ashland on State Highway 13 and one mile west on Butterworth Road. For more information log onto the track’s website, www.abcraceway.com. or on race days call (715) 682-4990.
WISSOTA Late Models
Feature: 1-10: John Kaanta, Elk Mound; Marshall Fegers, Mound, MN; Jake Redetzke, Eau Claire; Lance Matthees, Winona, MN; Darrell Nelson, Hermantown, MN; Tim McMann, Duluth, MN; Pat Doar, New Richmond; Steve Laursen, Cumberland; Terry Lillo, Duluth, MN; Travis Budisalovich, Minneapolis, MN.
11-18: Jeff Massingill, Keewatin, MN; Rick Hanestad, Boyceville; Buddy Hanestad, Boyceville; Mike Nutzmann, New Richmond; John Toppozini, Thunder Bay, ON; Kyle Peterlin, Hibbing, MN; Blake Swenson, Watertown, SD; Derek Vesel, Hibbing, MN.
Heat 1: Redetzke; Fegers; Massingill; Budisalovich; Laursen; Toppozini.
Heat 2: Matthees; Peterlin; Kaanta; Lillo.
Heat 3: Nelson; McMann; Doar; Nutzmann; B Hanestad; Swenson.
Feature: 1-10: Darrell Nelson, Hermantown, MN; Rick Rivord, Superior; Steve Stuart, Ashland; Al Uotinen, Superior; Bill Byholm, Glidden; Steve Lavasseur, River Falls; Cody Carlson, Superior; Kevin Eder, Ashland; Jeff Spacek, Phillips; Paul Niznik, Medford.
11-14: Neil Balduc, Bessemer, MI; Michael Truscott, Chippewa Falls; Pat Cook, Washburn; Jake Hiatt, Mason.
Heat 1: Eder; Balduc; Rivord; Byholm; Hiatt; Stuart; Cook.
Heat 2: Niznik; Nelson; Uotinen; Lavasseur; Spacek; Truscott; Carlson.
WISSOTA Super Stocks
Feature: 1-10: Terran Spacek, Phillips; Andy Grymala, Superior; Nick Oreskovich, Mason; DJ Keeler, Superior; Shawn McFadden, Ashland; Kevin Burdick, Proctor, MN; Matt Deragon, Ashland; Patrick Beeksma, Ironwood, MI; Jeff Klopstein, Tomahawk; Cory Casari, Montreal.
11-16: Don Muzzy, Ironwood, MI; Aaron Mashlan, Ashland; David Elliott, Minocqua; Greg Kuklinski, Ironwood, MI; Scott Lawrence, Superior; Annika Hammitt, Cloquet, MN.
Heat 1: Spacek; Burdick; Lawrence; Oreskovich; Klopstein; Keeler; Beeksma; Hammitt.
Heat 2: Casari; McFadden; Muzzy; Grymala; Deragon; Elliott; Kuklinski; Mashlan.
WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds
Feature: 1-10: Brandon Copp, Brule; Michael Truscott, Chippewa Falls; Justin Weinberger, Park Falls; Paul Suzik, Ironwood, MI; Ross Fuhrman, Ashland; Cole Spacek, Phillips; Tanner Hicks, Ashland; Marcus Dunbar, Wakefield, MI; Tyler Hudack, Ashland; Duane Dunbar, Marenisco, MI.
11-20: Dan Kingsley, Superior; Gunner Peterson, Mason; Tanner Williamson, Fort Frances, ON; Jeremy Lindquist, Ashland; Jack Rivord, Superior; James Kannegiesser, Hayward; Don Craig, Thunder Bay, ON; Clay Passuello, Ironwood, MI; Ryan Barningham, Bayfield; George Dalbeck, Wakefield, MI.
21-24: David Simpson, Thunder Bay, ON; Dalton Mains, Foxboro; Jake Kruzan, Mellen; George Truscott, Greenland, MI.
Heat 1: M Truscott; Copp; Passuello; Dalbeck; M Dunbar; Rivord; Pete Paulus, Phillips; James Lambert, Fort Frances, ON; Billy Milne, Thunder Bay, ON.
Heat 2: Kingsley; Hudack; Suzik; Peterson; Lindquist; Wayne Jacques, Thunder Bay, ON; Jordan Barningham, Bayfield; Colin Chaschuk, Neebing, ON.
Heat 3: Spacek; Weinberger; Simpson; G Truscott; Williamson; R Barningham; Mains; Craig.
Heat 4: Hicks; Fuhrman; Kannegiesser; Du Dunbar; Kruzan; Diamond Bressette, Spooner; Hope Swenson, Watertown, SD.
Semi-Feature: Rivord; R Barningham; Craig; Mains; Murray MacLeod, Thunder Bay, ON; Chaschuk; Paulus; J Barningham; Bressette; Lambert; Milne; Jacques.
all photos by Norm Tesch photos©.