Massingill, Gilbertson, Sabraski Claim First-Ever ABC ‘Prelude to the Clay’ Features
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, September 3 — If the rest of the invitational schedule provides as many thrilling moments as Thursday night’s “prelude to the Clay” did at the ABC Raceway, the six weeks of this region’s stock car racing season will be remembered for a long time.
Jeff Massingill of Keewatin, MN, stole the 40-lap WISSOTA Late Model headliner win from Jimmy Mars on the final lap and took home $3,000; Matt Gilbertson of Montevideo, MN, barely outran Jeff Hartung and Shane Sabraski for the $2,000 WISSOTA Modified feature win; and Sabraski, from Rice, MN, grabbed the $1,000 win in the WISSOTA Super Stock A-main just ahead of a wild battle for second.
The kick-off event of 2020’s invitational season in the Northland, presented by Ashland Ford-Chrysler Center, saw 89 entries take to a fast, sticky-smooth red-clay race surface. Cloudy skies and windy conditions at race time eventually gave way to cool conditions that resulted in plenty of horsepower and lots of two- and three-wide action. Supporting sponsors for the program included Van House Construction of Silver Bay, MN; Rivord Auto Center of Superior; Rapid Performance of Sauk Rapids, MN; Lake Shore Cafe of Ashland; and Chicago Iron & Supplies of Ashland.
The event was held as a one-year replacement for the Silver 1000, historically the region’s first invitational, which was cancelled due to COVID-19 social-gathering restrictions placed upon the Halvor Lines Speedway in Proctor, MN. The ABC Raceway offered a portion of its proceeds from the “Prelude” event toward covering operating costs incurred by the Proctor track this past summer.
Mars provided a preview of the action ahead by setting a new track record for WISSOTA-rules Late Models in group-timed qualifying with a lap of 14.922 seconds (90.470 mph) – the only one of the 27 Late Models to crack the 15-second mark in qualifying, and the first WISSOTA-sanctioned driver to ever record a 90-mph lap since electronic timing was introduced here in 2008.
But Mars spent much of the 40-lap feature patiently wading his way to the front, with Massingill in tow, as Steve Laursen edged ahead of polestarter Dan Ebert to claim the lead at the completion of lap 1. Over the first six laps Laursen clung to a three-quarter-second advantage on Ebert just before Denny Cutsforth’s turn-3 spin closed the field up for the restart.
After James Kannegiesser’s spin negated the first re-do, Travis Budisalovich worked the fast outside line to pull alongside Ebert, allowing Laursen to slip away by nearly a full second. Mars, who started seventh, had closed in on the battle for second by lap 10, with Jesse Glenz, Massingill and Pat Doar running a few lengths back.
Budisalovich cleared Ebert and, over the next four laps, drew up to Laursen’s right-rear fender, threatening to take the lead. But Tim McMann’s car came to a stop in turn 2 after contact with the guardrail there, again stalling the proceedings. Two laps after the restart John Kaanta spun to bring the caution lights on once again, and then Laursen pulled away as Budisalovich was challenged by Ebert again. Chad Mahder’s spin on lap 24 allowed the 12th-starting Massingill to pass Mars on the restart for fourth, although Mars had the spot back before Joe Kienzle Jr’s spin on lap 26.
That restart was heartbreaking for Laursen, whose car simply did not go when the green lights came back on. Ebert tried to go low to avoid Laursen’s broken racer and climbed over the left-front tire of the leader’s car, sending Ebert airborne for a split-second. Laursen’s great run ended with a push to the pits, leaving the lead to Budisalovich, but a lap after going back to green he smacked the turn 2 guardrail, and in the scramble to miss Budisalovich’s loose car Mars slipped around Ebert and claimed the lead, with Massingill following in his wake to second.
Over the final seven laps the lead pair pulled away, with Massingill just a car-length or two behind the six-time Red Clay Classic champ. On lap 36 they worked their way past the slower Kannegiesser, allowing Massingill to draw just a bit closer. On the final lap Massingill, hugging the very inside groove of the track, found a little traction coming off the final corner and pulled ahead of Mars at the checkers, just .073 seconds ahead in one of the closest finishes and perhaps most improbable upsets seen at ABC in many years.
Ebert, Glenz and a charging Kevin Eder, who started 19th, completed the top five. The Late Model portion of the show was slated as night number one of the four-race Tri-Star Engines Labor Day Weekend Series, which was to continue at Grand Rapids, MN, on September 4, and at Hibbing, MN, on September 5-6.
Gilbertson, whose only other appearance at the ABC Raceway was in 2017, led every one of the 30 laps of the Modified A-main, although the final half-dozen might have been a little more pressure-filled than he wanted. Gilbertson started on the pole and, despite delays for two grinding crashes that delayed the first lap from being completed, fended off Hartung’s threats over the first four scored circuits, while Ebert snuck past Jody Bellefeuille and Mike Anderson for third.
After Steve Lavasseur’s spin on lap 4, the rest of the laps clicked by without further interruption, with Ebert taking on Hartung and allowing Gilbertson to quickly stretch his lead to 1.4 seconds. Just before mid-race Sabraski, who started outside on row 9, began to work on Ebert for third, which left Hartung free to go after Gilbertson. Hartung trimmed all but a car-length off of Gilbertson’s substantial lead over a stretch of 12 laps.
As the leaders caught backmarker Paul Suzik, it took the better part of two laps for Gilbertson to work his way by, as Suzik stuck as close to the bottom groove of the track as he could to stay out of the way. Gilbertson, who had been working the low line himself, made the adjustment to go around Suzik on the outside, which was what Hartung had used to make up his deficit. At the white flag Hartung was practically tapping on the leader’s rear bumper, with Sabraski closing in as well. Gilbertson crossed under the checkered flag a mere eighth of a second ahead of Hartung for his landmark win, with Sabraski an even closer third.
Ebert, one of several drivers pulling double-duty on this night, was a distant fourth, just ahead of Bellefeuille.
Sabraski provided a little less drama during his winning run in the Super Stock feature, although behind him the fireworks were on full display. Polestarter Shawn McFadden Jr worked hard to stay ahead of Patrick Beeksma and Sabraski at the onset of the 25-lap run, but Beeksma held the advantage for the restart after Don Muzzy’s ride stalled on lap 3.
Andrew Mackey spun on the first attempt to restart the race, after which newly-crowned ABC Supers champ Dave Flynn snuck past Matt Deragon and McFadden for third. On lap 6 Sabraski made the winning pass with an outside move on Beeksma, and he pushed the lead out to a full second within two more tours.
That’s when Kevin Burdick began a drive to the front, getting by both Flynn and Beeksma within lap 10 to take second. Defending Red Clay Classic champ Curt Myers also made a charge forward, with passes of Flynn on lap 11 and Beeksma on lap 14 to move into third.
Sabraski was about 3.3 seconds ahead of Burdick and Myers when Steve Stuart and Terran Spacek got together on the back straight on lap 14 to bring about a lengthy caution stoppage. When the crowded field went back to green, the driveshaft dropped from McFadden’s car, with a section of it hitting him in the leg; he immediately dove to the infield and stopped, but the field was put under a red flag as EMTs tended to McFadden’s injury.
Over the final 11 laps Sabraski held enough of a lead to finish without much concern for his second feature win of the year in Ashland in the Supers. Behind him, however, Burdick and Myers were engaged in quite a tussle, with Burdick diving low on Myers coming into turn 4 and heading for the finish. The heavy contact between the two cars spun them both from the event; Burdick was deemed as the cause for the restart and penalized to the tail end of the field, while Myers was awarded second, ahead of Flynn, Cory Casari and Deragon.
Mars earned a $100 bonus for his fast time in the Late Models, and Sabraski received a Hoosier racing tire from FastLane Motorsports, complements of former Mod racer Don Aas of Hibbing, MN, for his charge from 18th to third in the Mods. Burdick was the recipient of a $500 coupon toward the purchase of an Affordable race chassis from Rapids Performance as the last scored Super Stock racer running at the finish of that feature; and Wayne Dean gained the most spots in the Supers’ feature to earn that division’s $100 hard-charger bonus, complements of Mike’s Place of Superior.
The fastest timed laps in each feature were set by Laursen in the Late Models (16.269 seconds, 82.980 mph), Hartung in the Mods (17.140 secs; 78.763 mph), and Sabraski in the Supers (17.165; 78.648).
The ABC Raceway will now prepare for its 45th annual Red Clay Classic, to be held on Friday and Saturday October 2-3, and to be presented by FastLane Motorsports & Custom Powdercoating, Tim’s Automotive Machine, and Red’s Auto. This prestigious event is expected to draw in excess of 200 WISSOTA Late Models, Modifieds, Super Stocks and Midwest Mods for a chance at a share of a pure in excess of $100,000.
Reserved seating, advance tickets, and camping information for the Red Clay Classic are available by calling (715) 292-2672. Reserved pit parking and driver registration info is available by calling (715) 209-1373. Additional information regarding the event will be released in the coming weeks.
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, log on to the track’s website, www.abcraceway.com, or check out the track’s FaceBook page.
WISSOTA LATE MODELS
Feature: 1-10: Jeff Massingill, Keewatin, MN; Jimmy Mars, Menomonie; Dan Ebert, Lake Shore, MN; Jesse Glenz, Cadott; Kevin Eder, Ashland; Derek Vesel, Hibbing, MN; Rick Hanestad, Boyceville; Jeff Provinzino, Hibbing, MN; Aaron Lillo, Proctor, MN; Kyle Peterlin, Hibbing, MN.
11-20: Buddy Hanestad, Boyceville; Keith Niemi, Gilbert, MN; Chad Mahder, Bloomer; Deven VanHouse, Silver Bay, MN; Travis Budisalovich, Minneapolis, MN; Clint Larson, Munger, MN; Joe Kienzle Jr, South Range; James Kannegiesser, Boyceville; Steve Laursen, Cumberland; Cole Provinzino, Hibbing, MN.
21-26: Pat Doar, New Richmond; Jody Bellefeuille, Duluth, MN; John Kaanta, Elk Mound; Tim McMann, Duluth, MN; Denny Cutsforth, Rice Lake; Tim Lillo, Superior.
Heat 1: J Mars; VanHouse; A Lillo; McMann; Cutsforth; Mahder; T Lillo.
Heat 2: Laursen; Ebert; J Provinzino; Vesel; C Provinzino; Larson; Kienzle.
Heat 3: Glenz; Budisalovich; R Hanestad; Niemi; Eder; Peterlin; B Hanestad.
Heat 4: Kaanta; Doar; Massingill; Bellefeuille; Kannegiesser.
Feature: 1-10: Matt Gilbertson, Montevideo, MN; Jake Hartung, Elmwood; Shane Sabraski, Rice, MN; Dan Ebert, Lake Shore, MN; Jody Bellefeuille, Duluth, MN; Jeff Spacek, Phillips; Mike Anderson, Jim Falls; Ashley Anderson, Elk Mound; Michael Truscott, Chippewa Falls; Jesse Glenz, Cadott.
11-20: Kelly Estey, Kelly Lake, MN; Andy Jones, Princeton, MN; Brandon Copp, Brule; Jeffrey Wood, Chisholm, MN; Greg Chesley, Duluth, MN; Tyler Vernon, Ashland; Paul Suzik, Ironwood, MI; Rick Rivord, Superior; Dan Kingsley, Superior; Curt Myers, Cameron.
21-24: Steve Lavasseur, River Falls; Pat Cook, Washburn; Dave Cain, Corcoran, MN; Bill Byholm, Glidden.
Heat 1: Gilbertson; Spacek; Cain; Jones; Cook; Pat Hoffman, Rice Lake; Paul Niznik, Medford.
Heat 2: Ebert; Kingsley; Estey; Rivord; Chesley; Adam Ayotte, St Paul, MN; Kyle Helling, Rice Lake; Jeremiah Passow, Foreston, MN.
Heat 3: Bellefeuille; A Anderson; Truscott; Sabraski; Lavasseur; Neil Balduc, Bessemer, MI; Donnie Lofdahl, Duluth, MN; Cooper Berlin, Rice Lake.
Heat 4: M Anderson; Wood; Copp; Suzik; Vernon; Mike Knopps, Chippewa Falls; Alex Van Natta, Minocqua.
Heat 5: Hartung; Glenz; Byholm; Myers; Jake Hiatt, Mason; Cole Spacek, Phillips; Jason Richardson, Spring Valley.
Semi-Feature 1: Lavasseur; Cook; Ayotte; Richardson; Hiatt; Helling; Berlin; Niznik.
Semi-Feature 2: Vernon; Chesley; Spacek; Hoffman; Van Natta; Al Uotinen, Superior; Balduc; Lofdahl; Passow.
WISSOTA SUPER STOCKS
Feature: 1-10: Shane Sabraski, Rice, MN; Curt Myers, Cameron; Dave Flynn, Superior; Cory Casari, Montreal; Matt Deragon, Ashland; Patrick Beeksma, Ironwood, MI; DJ Keeler, Superior; Nick Oreskovich, Mason; Kyle Copp, Brule; Eric Olson, Ladysmith.
11-20: Wayne Dean, Eau Claire; Brian Carl, Duluth, MN; Scott Lawrence, Superior; Darrel Hazelton, Chippewa Falls; Don Muzzy, Ironwood, MI; Aaron Mashlan, Ashland; Kevin Burdick, Proctor, MN; Shawn McFadden Jr, Ashland; Steve Stuart, Ashland; Terran Spacek, Phillips.
21-24: Andrew Mackey, Duluth, MN; David Elliott, Minocqua; Charlie Anderson, Ironwood, MI; Matthew Hammitt, Cloquet, MN.
Heat 1: Myers; Casari; Flynn; Keeler; Oreskovich; Mackey; Lawrence; Mashlan.
Heat 2: Sabraski; McFadden; Copp; Stuart; Muzzy; Hazelton; Dean; Hammitt.
Heat 3: Beeksma; Burdick; Deragon; Carl; Olson; Spacek; Anderson; Elliott.