by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, April 22 — Don’t look now, but despite the late-winter weather and recent heavy snowfall, the start of the 2018 stock car racing season at the ABC Raceway is less than a month away.
For its 54th season of action under the direction of the Ashland-Bayfield County Racing Association, the National award-winning three-eighth-mile red-clay oval will once again host weekly racing programs under the banner of the WISSOTA Promoters Association. Its five divisions – WISSOTA-sanctioned Modifieds, Super Stocks, Midwest Modifieds and Pure Stocks, plus its own Six-Cylinders – will be joined by several other visiting classes during this summer’s 17-event campaign.
A three-day Spring storm in mid-April dropped approximately 12”-24” of snow throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan, causing an unwelcome delay for several tracks in the region that were preparing for the start of the new season, including ABC. The snowfall has caused many tracks to cancel their April race programs, but above-average temperatures and bright sunshine expected over the final two weeks of the month just may help to get everything back on track – or close to it.
“We know that the weather has put a twist in our facility preparations for the upcoming season,” Raceway president Eric Erickson stated recently. “But we have great people who will work as hard as possible to get the place ready.
“If we have to rearrange the schedule a little bit early on, our sponsors have been extremely cooperative with that as well.”
The ABC Raceway’s season kicks off with its annual pre-season car show at Fast Lane Motorsports & Custom Powdercoating, on US Highway 2 East in Ashland, on Saturday, April 28, from 10 am-2 pm. All racers are invited to bring their cars to display for the public in Fast Lane’s parking lot, as well as owners of custom, classic and collector cars who wish to get their vehicles out for an early-season showing.
The show is free to the public, and Heartland Communications will offer a live radio remote from the FastLane shop during the day.
Although its programs traditionally run on Saturday nights, the ABC Raceway will offer one very special Friday night show this season. And of the three visiting classes invited to Ashland this coming Summer, two will be making their first-ever visits to the northern Wisconsin track.
On May 26 the Raceway will welcome the Hornets onto the red clay for the first time ever, as part of its Salute to the Military Night program. Hornets are small four-cylinder cars, generally front-wheel-drive, and the division is designed to be an excellent entry-level option for anyone interested in trying their hand at racing without needing an enormous budget.
A feature purse of over $1,400 is being offered to the division, paying $300 to the winner, and racers from Menomonie’s Red Cedar Speedway and from the Proctor Speedway and Oglivie Raceway in Minnesota, among others, are expected to compete.
Also making a first-ever appearance at ABC will be the Upper Midwest Sprint Car Series (UMSS), in a program set for June 23. The Series will bring its Traditional (non-winged) sprints to the track as part of a three-night, three-track swing that will include stops at Grand Rapids (MN) Speedway on Thursday the 21st and Gondick Law Speedway in Superior on Friday the 22nd.
Mike Mueller of Stacy, MN, who raced here a Modified at the 2007 Red Clay Classic, won the UMSS Traditional Sprint championship in 2017. Mueller, along with 2005 RCC Super Stock champion Rick Kobs of Deer Park; former WISSOTA Late Model star Caley Emerson and Modified speedster Paul Schultz, both of Grand Rapids, MN; Jake and Jimmy Kouba of Minnesota and others could be part of the UMSS contingent competing in Ashland on that night.
Returning to the ABC Raceway will be other two big-time regional series, although each will feature cars and drivers somewhat more familiar to local fans. The WISSOTA Wollak Construction Late Model Challenge Series will headline a huge mid-summer show on Friday, June 29, that will also include Modifieds, Super Stocks and Midwest Mods. Already being billed as a “mini-Red Clay Classic,” the show will be the 11th of 20 scheduled events for the Late Model Challenge Series, which also will compete at tracks in South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, and will pay $2,000 at ABC.
Former Red Clay Classic champion John Kaanta of Elk Mound is the defending champion of the Challenge Series and is sure to be a favorite when the tour comes to town, as many Late Model drivers will use the visit as a tune up for the Classic. Kaanta won the 40-lap feature here during last year’s Challenge Series visit, which was the tour’s first stop in Ashland since 2009.
Also returning to ABC in 2018 will be the Advantage RV Modified Tour, on June 9. The Tour made its inaugural stop in Ashland last summer, and first-time visitor Landon Atkinson of Little Falls, MN, used a late-race pass to score his first-ever win here in the 30-lap headliner.
The Tour will consist of 13 stops at tracks in Minnesota, Wisconsin and South Dakota, broken into four stages. The visit to Ashland will be part of the five-race second stage, which will begin at Rice Lake Speedway on Wednesday, June 6, and continue at Grand Rapids, Superior, Ashland and Proctor on consecutive nights. Modified drivers from at least four states and parts of Canada are expected to visit for a chance at a $1,500 feature winner’s paycheck.
The ABC Raceway will also be a cornerstone stop for the FastLane Motorsports Northland Super Stock Series, with a show set for Saturday, July 21. The Series has expanded to five events at five different tracks over a two-weekend stretch, with the ABC program tabbed as the Series’ penultimate show.
Last summer a Series-high 49 WISSOTA Super Stocks competed in the Series opener in Ashland, and Dave Mass of East Bethel, MN, collected his first win at the track, en route to eventually joining Scott Lawrence of Superior (‘16) and Curt Myers of Cameron (2015) as Series champs.
Kwik-Trip Stores, which has opened three locations in Ashland in a little over 12 months, has joined the long list of season-long sponsors of racing action at the ABC Raceway. Also returning to help promote the 2018 schedule are the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce; the Ashland-Bayfield County Sportsman’s Club; Auto Value Auto Parts; the Bad River Lodge, Casino and Convention Center; Chicago Iron & Supplies; FastLane Motorsports & Custom Powdercoating; Heartland Communications Group; Lake Shore Cafe; Little Caesar’s Pizza; NAPA Auto Parts of Ashland & Washburn; Northern Clearing Inc; Northern State Bank; Northern Wisconsin Fence; North Star Beverage and Pepsi; Northwest Beverage of Superior; Outlaw Graphics; Safari Bar; ServPro Restoration Services of Hayward; Tim’s Automotive Machine; WIMI-FM; and Zar’s Bar & Banquet Hall.
The 2018 season of Saturday night racing at the ABC Raceway is set to open on May 12, with shows slated for every Saturday except one through August 25. Other special events for June include the popular Kids’ Meet the Drivers Night on the 2nd, and a free-admission night charity fundraiser to all fans in the grandstands on the 16th.
In July the track has scheduled its kids’ bike races on the 7th; the 15th annual Pure Excitement 25 for Pure Stocks on the 14th; and the fifth annual Hall of Fame induction ceremonies on the 28th, with the Northern Vintage Stockcar Racers group in attendance that night.
August action will include “Midwest Mod Madness” on the 4th; the WISSOTA 100 “Race of Champions” qualifiers and “Summer Sizzler” special for the Six-Cylinders on the 11th; and a fan appreciation party on the 18th. The regular season concludes with Championship Saturday Night on the 25th.
The region’s racing season culminates with the 43rd annual Red Clay Classic on Friday and Saturday, September 28-29. Traditionally one of the biggest stock car racing events of the season in the Midwest, upwards of 200 WISSOTA Late Models, Modifieds, Super Stocks and Midwest Mods should be on hand to compete for their share of a total purse once again expected to be in excess of $90,000.
The Raceway will also again offer its Kids’ Club during the 2018 season, with a variety of special activities, gifts and prizes for the younger fans on race nights. More information will be available on this as the start to the season nears.
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 on to the track’s website, www.abcraceway.com.
ABC Raceway – 2018 season schedule
April 28 – car show at FastLane Motorsports, Ashland
May 12 – season opener presented by Northern State Bank
May 19 – race program presented by Heartland Communications
May 26 – Salute to Military Night, Hornets presented by Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce
June 2 – Kids’ Meet the Drivers Night presented by Little Caesar’s Pizza
June 9 – Kwik-Trip 30 Advantage RV Mod Tour special presented by Auto Value Auto Parts
June 16 – free grandstand admission charity fundraiser presented by Northern Clearing Inc
June 23 – UMSS Traditional sprints presented by NAPA Auto Parts of Ashland & Washburn
June 29 (Fri) – WISSOTA Wollak Construction Late Model Challenge Series (w Mods, Supers, MMs) presented by Bad River Lodge, Casino & Convention Center
June 30 – no racing
July 7 – kids’ bike races presented by Chicago Iron & Supplies
July 14 – Pure Excitement 25 special for Pure Stocks (no Supers) presented by ABC Sportsman’s Club
July 21 – FastLane Motorsports Northland Super Stock Series (no Mods)
July 28 – Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, w/Northern Vintage Stockcar Racers, presented by Zar’s Bar & Banquet Hall
August 4 – Midwest Mod Madness (no Pure Stocks) presented by Lake Shore Cafe
August 11 – Race of Champions qualifiers, Six-Cylinder “Summer Sizzler” presented by Safari Bar
August 18 – “Summer Blast” fan appreciation night presented by Outlaw Graphics and Northern Wisconsin Fence
August 25 – Championship Saturday Night presented by Pepsi and WIMI-FM
September 28-29 – 43rd Red Clay Classic presented by FastLane Motorsports and Tim’s Automotive Machine