ABC Raceway Staff Hoping for Biggest-Ever Red Clay Classic
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, September 16 — It can be argued that the ABC Raceway’s 42nd annual Red Clay Classic could be the biggest and best one yet.
The traditional finale of the Northland’s stock car racing season, the Red Clay Classic is one of the most popular events on the calendar for race fans. In its four decades-plus of existence, it has grown to become one of the best-attended, highest-paying events of its kind in the Midwest.
If the recent efforts of the Raceway’s Board of Directors and nearly 50 volunteer workers pay off, this year’s edition – slated for Friday and Saturday, September 29-30, and to be presented by FastLane Motorsports of Ashland and Tim’s Automotive Machine of Bloomer – may become one of the most successful ever. So much has been added to make the 42nd running of the PolyDome Dirt Track Series event a special one that it’s hard to pin down any one item as a featured attraction.
“One of our goals every year is to come up with different things that make the Red Clay Classic stand out from all of the other racing invitationals during this time of year,” Raceway president Eric Erickson explained recently. “Whether it’s changes to the purse for the drivers, special activities for the fans, or upgrades to our facility, we want to keep improving the Classic to make it memorable for all who attend.”
Changes to the purse are always of interest to the drivers, so the ABC Raceway recently announced a significant increase to the overall payout, to an event-record $90,000. This purse bump should once again attract upwards of 200 WISSOTA Late Model, Modified, Super Stock and Midwest Modified drivers to the three-eighths-mile red-clay oval.
Because of the increase, approximately 30 percent of the finishing positions in this year’s four Red Clay Classic features will pay out higher than in 2016, and each of this year’s four feature winners will take home larger paychecks than were handed out to last year’s RCC champions. The winner of the Mid-Mod A-feature will claim a $1,200 share, while the Super Stock champ will take home $2,500. First place in the Modified A-main now pays $3,500, and the Late Model feature winner will earn a track-record $5,000 payday.
Additional bonuses will be provided during Friday’s heat race action, which will be sponsored by Gatorade and North Star Beverage of Hurley. The winners will receive limited-edition commemorative shirts compliments of SSR Race Cars of Spring Valley and Champ Pans of Eau Claire – a tradition that was started last year and found to be greatly appreciated by the drivers.
After each of Saturday’s features, Northern Clearing Inc of Ashland will award a $150 bonus to the driver that posts the fastest lap in their respective race, based on the track’s electronic scoring and timing system. And the hugely popular “Bridesmaid’s Challenge” will again be offered to each feature’s second-place finisher, providing cash bonuses if those drivers don bridesmaid’s gowns during their post-race Victory Lane interviews in front of the huge crowd expected to be in attendance.
Also of benefit to the drivers is that the draw fee for this year’s Red Clay Classic has once again been waived. Drivers will need only pay the $65 two-day pit-pass fee in order to compete during the race weekend, saving them some significant entry money.
As for the racing itself, two interesting changes are planned for the program. On Friday night, a special race is in the works honoring 2008 Red Clay Classic Late Model champion Harry Hanson. The fan-favorite driver from Eveleth, MN, who is closing out his 45th season in racing and 28th in a Late Model, has announced that this year’s Classic will be his last race event in that division. Details are still being finalized and should be announced soon.
On Saturday, the Raceway will also honor Duane Mahder, the 1990 RCC Late Model champ from Eau Claire who lost his life in a tragic vehicle accident shortly after last year’s Classic. In Mahder’s memory, the ABC Raceway Board has voted to run this year’s Late Model feature at a distance of 55 laps, rather than the traditional 50, to match the car number of the popular racing legend.
For the fans, a variety of activities will be offered, both at the track and throughout the area. On Friday night immediately after the races there will be a party with live music by Shantily Clad & The Low Hangin’ Fruit at the grandstand pavilion area, and on Saturday fans can vote online via the Raceway’s website for a “fans’ choice” entry into one of the feature races from those drivers that did not otherwise qualify through Friday’s heats.
Also on Saturday, the annual Red Clay Classic scramble golf tournament will be held at the Chequamegon Bay Golf Club beginning at 9:30 am, with prizes to be awarded afterwards at the course’s Niblick restaurant.
Fans are reminded that Ashland’s downtown merchants will have a variety of “MarketFest” sidewalk sales going on during Saturday of the race weekend, and that the city’s Historic Mural Walk is also downtown and convenient to enjoy before race time. Other opportunities for shopping, sightseeing and exploring abound in neighboring communities such as Washburn, Bayfield, Odanah and Mellen.
The festivities start on the Thursday evening prior to the race weekend, when the Neighborly Bar of downtown Ashland will host a pre-Red Clay Classic party, offering special RCC apparel for sale with proceeds going toward the “Bridesmaid’s Challenge” fund.
Fans who have reserved camping sites on the Raceway property will be allowed to bring their RVs onto the grounds beginning at 5 pm on Thursday evening. At-the-track campers will be required to check in immediately upon arrival at the main grandstand ticket office before setting up at their sites.
For those still looking for camping near the track, the owner of the property directly adjacent to and east of the Raceway grounds will have sites available on a first-come, first-served basis (no advance reservations), beginning on Thursday evening.
On Friday the pit gates will open to the race teams at 12:30 pm, while the main grandstand ticket windows and gates will open at 3. Hot lap sessions will start at 5:30, followed by heat races for all four divisions beginning at 7 pm.
On Saturday, the pits will open at noon, the grandstand gates will open at 2:30 pm, and racing will begin with semi-feature action at 5. The four big A-mains will then follow the last-chance semi-features.
Adult grandstand tickets are available at $22 for Friday’s program, $25 for Saturday, or $42 for a two-day pass. Tickets for kids ages 6-12 are $13 each night, while a two-day kids’ pass is just $23. A limited number of reserved grandstand seats can still be purchased with any two-day pass for an additional $10 charge.
New for this year, a limited number of locations along the top walkway of the main grandstand are marked for bring-your-own lawn chair seating. These spots can be reserved for the price of an adult two-day pass plus the $10 additional charge.
To buy tickets or reserve a seat, fans can call (715) 682-2672 Monday through Friday (evenings only) or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A limited number of reserved pit spots are still available for just $30 each by calling (715) 746-2390 (evenings) or by e-mailing to email@example.com.
Prior to each night’s race program, “Z-93 Race Night” will provide up-to-date Red Clay Classic news and weather information live from the track on WBSZ, 93.3 FM, and online from 3-4 pm.
The ABC Raceway is located 3-1/2 miles south of Ashland on State Highway 13 and one mile west on Butterworth Road. Additional event information is available on the track’s website. Additional Ashland area hotel and community information is available by visiting the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce website.