Mars Wins Record Sixth Red Clay Classic

by Nick Gima

                Ashland, WI, October 3Jimmy Mars of Menomonie returned to the ABC Raceway for the first time since 2004 and picked up where he left off, running away to his fifth Red Clay Classic WISSOTA Late Model feature win and sixth overall on Saturday night.

The 40th annual running of the Northland’s traditional season-ending stock car race event, presented by FastLane Motorsports & Custom Powdercoating of Ashland and Tim’s Automotive Machine of Bloomer, also saw Darrell Nelson of Hermantown, MN, win for the second time in the WISSOTA Modifieds, Sarona’s Shane Kisling earn his second event win in the WISSOTA Super Stocks, and Grant Southworth of Bloomer claim victory for the first time in the WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds.

Saturday’s portion of the PolyDome Dirt Track Series race program clicked off in rapid fashion, helped by a fast-paced Late Model 50-lap finale that was slowed by only three minor caution stoppages. Mars was the class of the field almost from the get-go, moving past polestarter Harry Hanson into second place right off the first turn and setting sail for early leader Chad Mahder.

Within just six laps Mahder and Mars had pulled away from the balance of the field, and on lap 6 Mars made a move for the lead, but it was negated when Darrell Nelson and North Dakota visitor Dustin Strand tangled, sending Nelson for a wild ride through the Victory Lane grass as Strand coasted to a stop with mechanical issues.

Three laps after the restart Mars used an inside move to get by Mahder for the race-winning pass, and within four laps he established a lead of over three seconds – basically the length of a straightaway. Mahder, meanwhile, fended off challenges from Hanson and Pat Doar for second.

Mars caught up to slower traffic by lap 17, and on lap 19 two of those backmarkers – Dave Esse and Dave Fieber – made contact just as the leader was about to pass them. Mars barely avoided the spinning Esse, but the ensuing restart put the field back on his rear bumper.

On that restart Hanson stole second when Mahder bobbled through the first turn, and three laps later Doar worked his way around Mahder into third. On lap 27 Doar switched to the bottom lane to take second away from Hanson, whose car began a slow fade through the field from that point on.

Mars was into slower traffic again by lap 28 but weaved his way through with relative ease. His lead was over four full seconds on Doar when Adam Hensel’s machine stalled on the front chute for the final race stoppage on lap 38.

From there on Mars drove off to the $4,000 feature win – his sixth overall at the Classic and fifth in the premier division, of which both counts are event records. Doar, who had started 12th on the 24-car grid, held firmly to second but could not gain any ground on Mars even when the leader caught up to the tail of the field again with three laps to go. Mahder, who collected the fast-time bonus with an early lap of 16.314 seconds, maintained third ahead of 2006 RCC champ John Kaanta and 13th-starting Darrell Nelson.

Defending RCC winner Jake Redetzke was steady en route to a sixth-place showing, followed by an impressive Aaron Lillo, 2008 RCC winner Hanson, Marshall Fegers and another first-time visitor from North Dakota, Brad Seng.

Nelson kicked off what turned out to be a very successful race weekend for him by scoring a hard-fought $3,000 win in the 35-lap Modified feature. Nelson, who started on row 2 of the 24-car grid, waited for front-row starters Matt Leer and Joey Jensen to hash out who would set the initial pace; once the four-time Classic champ Jensen cleared the polestarter for the lead, Nelson employed an inside move on lap 3 to claim second from Leer.

A lap later Nelson made a run by Jensen, and within a couple more circuits Nelson had built a lead of over a second. At a distance behind Jensen, Leer led a tightly-packed bunch battling for third.

Nelson clearly had things well in hand – his lead was five-and-a-quarter seconds on lap 14 – when Jody Bellefeuille looped his ride to bring about the first yellow-flag slowdown of the run. A lap after the restart, ninth-starting Jake Hartung used a thread-the-needle move between Jensen and Leer to take second, and then the field was slowed again for Kevin Eder’s spin on lap 17.

Defending race winner Jesse Glenz’s ride slowed with issues on the restart to again stop the pace, but just as the yellow light blinked on Hartung and Leer tangled, damaging Leer’s car and ending his night. Jensen made a move on Hartung to take second on the re-do, but Hartung returned the favor a lap later.

On lap 20 Nick Musel spun to cause a reset of the field, and Hartung took advantage of the opportunity, trying an outside run on Nelson. Bill Byholm’s spin on lap 21 delayed Hartung’s advance, but he tried again after the green flag reappeared, and on lap 22 he gained the advantage. As the lead pair thrilled the crowd with a fierce battle, Paul Niznik made an inside move stick to take third away from Jensen, bringing 12th-starting Jeff Tardy along to fourth.

On lap 25 Nelson drove back by Hartung to retake the lead, just before a Scott Duval spin stopped the race for the final time. Nelson maintained his grip on the lead from there, eventually pulling to a 2.3-second cushion over Hartung at the checkers. Niznik capped off a nice weekend with a third-place effort, followed by Tardy, while 18th-starting Rick Rivord used a couple of late-lap passes to earn fifth.

Track champion Al Uotinen, who had to win a B-feature to make the show and started 21st, came home sixth, ahead of 20th-starting Steve Stuart, 2007 RCC champ Bellefeuille, Jensen, and Jay Richardson. Leer claimed the quick-lap bonus with a 17.460-second circuit.

Kisling started outside on the front row of the 26-car field and led all 30 laps of the Super Stock main event to collect his second career Red Clay Classic crown, and by also clocking the fastest lap time in the run (17.523 seconds) he pocketed $2,150 for his efforts. The 2011 event winner swept around polestarter Cory Casari and used the upper groove of the three-eighths-mile red-clay oval to maintain his momentum.

After a lap 1 stoppage for debris, defending race winner Kevin Burdick swept around Casari to take second behind Kisling, and Curt Myers, another past RCC champ who is within sight of his second WISSOTA National Championship, followed the same path around Casari to third on lap 3. On the next go-around Myers switched lanes to slip by Burdick for second, but a caution stop for Darrel Hazelton’s stalled car wiped out the move and kicked off a brief series of misadventures that slowed the pace of the race.

Casari’s loose car triggered a five-car mess after the restart, and then, after Myers got by Burdick for second on lap 5, Brad Johnson spun. Eric Olson then challenged Burdick for third, but on lap 7 Scott Lawrence snuck past both of them for the spot, only to have that move negated when the caution flag flew for Andy Grymala’s dropped driveshaft. Finally, on the ensuing restart, Lawrence made heavy contact with Myers, causing significant damage to the 14-time track champion’s car and ending his strong bid.

From that point on, however, Kisling paced the field for 23 uninterrupted laps, extending his lead to nearly a full second over the battle for second between Myers and Olson. Once Kisling began dealing with slower traffic with eight laps remaining, however, Myers cut into that lead. With two to go Myers was on Kisling’s rear bumper, and on a couple of occasions he took a look to the outside in an effort to pass, but Kisling withstood the threats for a half-second margin of victory. Olson, the 2010 RCC champ, was close behind in third, while Burdick followed in fourth and newly-crowned ABC track champion Jeff Klopstein came home fifth after starting 13th.

Andy Davey led the second five, followed by 16th-starting Ben Hillman, three-time RCC winner Rich Bishop, 22nd-starting Steve Thomas and Super Stock rookie Patrick Beeksma.

Southworth was the only feature winner on the night to start from the pole in laying claim to the 25-lap Midwest Mod A-main – his first-ever win at ABC – and the $1,000 first-place check. Like Kisling, Southworth led every lap as he beat Ryan Adamzak out of the first turn and paced a tight pack of cars early before pulling away to a 1.1-second advantage.

The first of just two caution flags flew on lap 7, for track champion Paul Suzik’s spin, and on the restart fourth-place Tyler Luger drove too hard into the first turn, tagged Adamzak and spun, causing a slew of cars behind them to collect into a huge logjam. Fortunately the vast majority of those involved were able to continue, and from that point on the race clicked off without interruption.

On lap 9 Mack Estey moved by Mickey Nosser to claim fourth as Southworth extended his lead again on Adamzak and Niznik. Nosser returned the favor on Estey three laps later, and as the field settled into a nice, easy pace Southworth continued to build up some breathing room, extending his advantage to over a second-and-a-half in the waning laps.

Southworth cruised to a surprisingly easy win over Adamzak, who set the fast lap of the race early on at 17.678 seconds. Nosser made a late-race pass of Niznik to claim third, and Estey completed the top five. Rob Weber came home sixth, followed by Nick Koehler, defending race winner Michael Truscott, who started 18th, Kent Baxter and Eder, who started 25th of the 26 cars in the field.

Mod and Mid-Mod racer Eder spent much of his weekend collecting over $1,600 from drivers, fans and local businesses to once again create a “Bridesmaid’s Challenge” fund, from which money was split between the second-place finishers in each of the features if they agreed to don a formal gown during their post-race interviews in Victory Lane. Hartung, Myers and Adamzak eagerly participated and shared the cash, but Doar passed on the offer.

Prior to Saturday’s race program the ABC Raceway paid tribute to Greenland, MI, racer Ken Truscott, who had announced his retirement from racing earlier this fall. Truscott, a popular racer who was consistently competitive as well as an exemplary sportsman, had raced at the Ashland track for over 25 seasons and earned six feature wins here.

A total of 195 entries representing five states and Canada were on hand, including 36 Late Models, 42 Modifieds, 50 Super Stocks and an event-record 67 Mid-Mods. The starting line-ups of all four feature races were introduced out-of-car to the huge, hearty crowd on hand braving brisk temperatures and circled the Raceway in a four-wide salute with fireworks exploding overhead.

Despite the huge field, both programs on the weekend clicked off in efficient fashion, thanks in large part to the perfectly-prepared racing surface. Friday’s 20 heat races took just shy of three hours to complete, while Saturday’s 11 semi-features and four big main events were completed in just over five-and-a-half hours.

The Ashland-Bayfield County Racing Association wishes to thank the many individuals and businesses who contributed so much in terms of man-hours, materials and resources to make the 40th Red Clay Classic and the 2015 season a huge success. The ABC Raceway’s annual awards banquet will be held in January 2016; more information will be made available on the Raceway’s website, www.abcraceway.com.

Results

WISSOTA Late Models

Feature: Jimmy Mars, Menomonie; Pat Doar, New Richmond; Chad Mahder, Eau Claire; John Kaanta, Elk Mound; Darrell Nelson, Hermantown, MN; Jake Redetzke, Eau Claire; Aaron Lillo, Proctor, MN; Harry Hanson, Eveleth, MN; Marshall Fegers, Savage, MN; Brad Seng, Grand Forks, ND; Kyle Peterlin, Hibbing, MN; Nick Anvelink, Navarino; Jay Kintner, Hibbing, MN; David Fieber, Chippewa Falls; Mark Rose, Dorchester; Tim McMann, Duluth, MN; Travis Budisalovich, Minneapolis, MN; Dave Esse, Cloquet, MN; TJ Adams, Hayward; Andy Nezworski, Buffalo, IA; Adam Hensel, Baldwin; Jeff Provinzino, Hibbing, MN; Lance Mathees, Winona, MN; Dustin Strand, Grand Forks, ND.

Heat 1: Mars; Seng; A Lillo; Rose; Adams; Mike Bear, River Falls; John Meeds, Spooner; Josh Johnson, Superior.

Heat 2: Mahder; Provinzino; M Fegers; Zach Wohlers, Hibbing, MN; Nezworski; Peterlin; Jeff Massingill, Keewatin, MN; Strand; Justin Fegers, Delano, MN.

Heat 3: Hanson; Esse; McMann; Budisalovich; Hensel; Mathees; Ben Hanke, Hudson; Kevin Rogers, Unity; Todd Green, Eau Claire.

Heat 4: Redetzke; Kaanta; Doar; Nelson; Kintner; Fieber; Terry Lillo, Duluth, MN; George Ledin, Grand Rapids, MN.

Semi-Feature 1: Anvelink; Mathees; Bear; Meeds; Hanke; Rogers; Johnson; Green.

Semi-Feature 2: Fieber; Peterlin; J Fegers; Wohlers; T Lillo; Ledin; Don Frider, Hibbing, MN; Massingill.

WISSOTA Modifieds

Feature: Darrell Nelson, Hermantown, MN; Jake Hartung, Elmwood; Paul Niznik, Medford; Jeff Tardy, Hibbing, MN; Rick Rivord, Superior; Al Uotinen, Superior; Steve Stuart, Ashland; Jody Bellefeuille, Duluth, MN; Joey Jensen, Forest Lake, MN; Jay Richardson, Spring Valley; Destin Lorimor, Superior; Pat Cook, Washburn; Neil Balduc, Bessemer, MI; Bill Byholm, Glidden; Scott Duval, Bloomer; Nick Musel, Duluth, MN; Tim McMann, Duluth, MN; Matt Leer, Bruce; Jesse Glenz, Cadott; Kevin Eder, Ashland; David Baxter, Eau Claire; Steve Halquist, Eau Claire; Ashley Anderson, Elk Mound.

Heat 1: Jensen; Byholm; Bellefeuille; Rivord; Lorimor; Jared Loos, Loyal; Scott Miller, Rice Lake; Jeff Broking, Grand Rapids, MN; Kelly Estey, Kelly Lake, MN.

Heat 2: Nelson; D Baxter; Glenz; Musel; McMann; Jimmy Mars, Menomonie; Scott Hudack, Ashland; Larry Prochnow, Menomonie; Jeff Spacek, Phillips.

Heat 3: Leer; Cook; Brian Mikkonen, Iron River; Eder; Uotinen; Rick Niemi, Eveleth, MN; Jacob Hiatt, New Richmond; Gary Baxter, Eau Claire.

Heat 4: Niznik; Richardson; Tardy; Stuart; Halquist; Adam Hensel, Baldwin; Jayme Lautigar, Gilbert, MN.

Heat 5: Balduc; Hartung; Duval; A Anderson; Brandon Jensen, Hammond; Kerry Halopka, Wheeler; Cody Wolkowski, Thunder Bay, ON; Mike Anderson, Colfax.

Semi-Feature 1: Uotinen; Lorimor; Mars; Hensel; Estey; Jensen; Steve Lavasseur, River Falls; Prochnow; Miller; Wolkowski; Hiatt.

Semi-Feature 2: Halquist; McMann; Niemi; Broking; Hudack; Spacek; Loos; Lautigar; M Anderson; G Baxter; Halopka.

WISSOTA Super Stocks

Feature: Shane Kisling, Sarona; Curt Myers, Cameron; Eric Olson, Ladysmith; Kevin Burdick, Proctor, MN; Jeff Klopstein, Tomahawk; Andy Davey, Hibbing, MN; Ben Hillman, Menomonie; Rich Bishop, New Richmond; Steve Thomas, Menomonie; Pat Beeksma, Ironwood, MI; Cory Casari, Montreal; Mike Hesselink, Deer Park; Michael Truscott, Chippewa Falls; Brad Johnson, Wilson; Willie Johnsen Jr, Superior; Marcus Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Chad Johnson, Colfax; Shawn McFadden Jr, Ashland; Randy Spacek, Phillips; Brian Carl, Duluth, MN; Scott Lawrence, Superior; Cole Spacek, Phillips; Andy Grymala, Superior; Dave Flynn, Superior; Darrel Hazelton, Chippewa Falls; Tristan LaBarge, Kelly Lake, MN.

Heat 1: Myers; Olson; Klopstein; C Johnson; LaBarge; Flynn; Nick Oreskovich, Mason; B Johnson; Jim Cimfl, Turtle Lake; Jim Harris, Menomonie.

Heat 2: Kisling; Hesselink; Grymala; Carl; Trevor Arens, Hibbing, MN; Mike Hince, Medford; Wayne Dean, Fall Creek; Keith Corcilius, Phillips.

Heat 3: Casari; Beeksma; Johnsen; Hillman; R Spacek; Thomas; Keith Kern, Superior; Donnie Lofdahl, Duluth, MN; Scott Geiger, Dorchester; Dave Elliott, Minocqua.

Heat 4: Dunbar; Davey; Bishop; Hazelton; Mike Anderson, Colfax; Don Muzzy, Ironwood, MI; Myron Basina, Washburn; Brady Mesko-Jokinen, Mellen; Eric Schultz, Downing.

Heat 5: Burdick; Lawrence; McFadden; Truscott; Larry Fitzsimmons, East Bethel, MN; Jim Campbell, Two Harbors, MN; Terran Spacek, Phillips; Tommy Richards, Mondovi; Kevin Salin, Iron, MN; Tony Falkner, Menomonie.

Semi-Feature 1: LaBarge; B Johnson; Kern; Salin; M Anderson; Campbell; Mesko-Jokinen; Hince.

Semi-Feature 2: Thomas; C Spacek; Richards; Oreskovich; Arens; Basina; Geiger; Corcilius; Fitsimmons; Harris.

Semi-Feature 3: R Spacek; Flynn; T Spacek; Cimfl; Lofdahl; Falkner; Muzzy; Terry Kroening, Colby; Schultz.

WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds

Feature: Grant Southworth, Bloomer; Ryan Adamzak, Ashland; Mickey Nosser, Phillips; Paul Niznik, Medford; Mack Estey, Kelly Lake, MN; Rob Weber, Ashland; Nick Koehler, Bloomer; Michael Truscott, Chippewa Falls; Kent Baxter, Colfax; Kevin Eder, Ashland; George Dalbeck, Ironwood, MI; Andrew Inman, Duluth, MN; Kevin Monteith, Rosslyn, ON; Shane Howell, Buffalo, MN; Donnie Lofdahl, Duluth, MN; Ricky Davis, Bruno, MN; John Kallas, Hurley; Tyler Luger, Iron River; Mitch Weiss, Scandia, MN; Jesse Aho, Twin Lakes, MI; Jake Smith, Eau Claire; Nathan Thums, Wausau; Tanner Byholm, Glidden; Don Craig, Thunder Bay, ON; Skeeter Estey, Kelly Lake, MN; Paul Suzik, Ironwood, MI.

Heat 1: Niznik; Smith; Craig; David Simpson, Thunder Bay, ON; Monteith; Jim Kannegiesser, Hayward; Ron Lillie, Wakefield, MI; S Estey; Dan Kingsley, Superior; Cody Carlson, Superior; Dale Suomala, Hermantown, MN.

Heat 2: Koehler; Dalbeck; Byholm; Reid Tiegs, Dallas; Peter Jokinen, Mellen; Aho; Jeremy Lindquist, Ashland; Keith Niemi, Forest Lake, MN; Tad Bretting, Ashland; Tyler Kintner, Hibbing, MN; Tanner Hicks, Ashland.

Heat 3: R Adamzak; Luger; Truscott; Duane Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Collin Hazelton, Chippewa Falls; Eder; Wayne Stricker, Highbridge; Ross Fuhrman, Ashland; George Truscott, Greenland, MI; Willy Thompson, Hibbing, MN; Matt Deragon, Ashland.

Heat 4: Baxter; Lofdahl; Thums; Davis; Robert Hyde, Ashland; Carey LePage, Culver, MN; Cy Hoaglan, Ashland; John Feirn, Chippewa Falls; Howell; Andrea Keeney, Ridgeland; Karl Kolek, Menomonie.

Heat 5: Southworth; Nosser; Inman; AJ Roschen, New Richmond; Robbie Johnson, Wilson; Suzik; Ryan Barningham, Bayfield; Pete Paulus, Phillips; Brad Seavers, Rib Lake; Chris Bretting, Washburn; Dave Flynn, Superior.

Heat 6: M Estey; Weber; Weiss; Neil Adamzak, Ashland; Kallas; Cole Spacek, Phillips; Jordan Barningham, Bayfield; Kyle Runkle, Chetek; Wayne Braun Jr, Spooner; Kenny Rogers, Unity; JR Anderson, Superior; Tyler Vernon, Ashland.

Semi-Feature 1: Suzik; S Estey; Stricker; Carlson; C Bretting; Paulus; Deragon; Vernon; Simpson; Roschen; Hazelton; G Truscott; Kannegiesser.

Semi-Feature 2: Aho; Howell; Spacek; Kintner; Kolek; Rogers; N Adamzak; Runkle; Hyde; Hoaglan; Tiegs.

Semi-Feature 3: Monteith; Eder; Dunbar; Flynn; Kingsley; R Barningham; Seavers; Suomala; Lillie; Thompson; Fuhrman; R Johnson.

Semi-Feature 4: Davis; Kallas; Feirn; T Bretting; Hicks; J Barningham; Jokinen; JR Anderson; Keeney; Braun; LePage; Lindquist.

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