Copp Tops MM Madness Main; Graham Doubles Up at ABC
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, August 18 — Brandon Copp passed Jesse Aho with four laps to go and zoomed off to a $1,000 payday in the 12th annual “Midwest Mod Madness” feature at the ABC Raceway on Saturday night.
Northern Wisconsin Fence of Phillips and Outlaw Wraps & Apparel of Ashland presented the five-division “Summer Blast” fan appreciation race program, while the Lake Shore Cafe of Ashland provided support for the rescheduled WISSOTA Midwest Modified special event, which paid out an enhanced purse boosted by a generous contribution by Mid-Mod driver George Dalbeck of GA Dalbeck Logging of Wakefield, MI.
Drivers were treated to a nearly-perfect racing surface that was smooth, fast, and allowed three- and often four-wide racing during every heat and feature race, much to the delight of the fans despite a somewhat smallish (64) car count.
Copp, the son of eight-time ABC Raceway champion Don Copp, showed that some of the expertise his dad had in winning all those Modified titles years ago is rubbing off. Starting from the outside of the fourth row, the junior Copp worked his way quickly through the field in a 20-lap main event that ran non-stop. He was into the top five just a couple laps into the run and duked it out with Paul Suzik and Jared Stricker for third while front-row starters Jesse Aho and Dan Kingsley grabbed the top two spots.
Aho had pushed his lead to 1.14 seconds after just eight laps, while Suzik and Copp separated themselves from Stricker in their battle for third. Just past mid-race Copp claimed the position, and by lap 14 he had caught and passed Kingsley for second.
It didn’t take long for Copp to eliminate Aho’s 1.17-second advantage after that, catching and passing the leader on lap 16. From there Copp pulled away to a 1.625-second margin of victory for his second win of the year here, ahead of Aho, Kingsley, Suzik and Clay Passuello.
Kingsley’s one-position advantage in the feature cut Suzik’s Mid-Mod points lead to just 11 going into the season’s final race night on August 25.
Trego’s Randy Graham had a big night in both the WISSOTA Pure Stock and ABC Six-Cylinder divisions. In the Pure Stocks, Graham, who inherited the points lead when Andrew Hanson did not compete last Saturday, slipped through traffic from his third-row start, grabbed the lead from Don Livingston on lap 4, and walked away to his second feature win in the division here this season.
Polestarter Livingston fought door-to-door with Aaron Bernick early in the run despite sparks and occasional brief flames shooting from under Livingston’s motor. Once Livingston cleared Bernick for the lead on lap 2, Graham took his turn to pass Bernick for second, and within a couple of laps Graham was by Livingston and had clear sailing in front of him.
The 12-lapper clicked off without stoppage, allowing Graham to drive away while Cory Jorgensen struggled to get by Bernick for second until mid-race. By then Graham was well over two seconds ahead, and he extended that lead to nearly 4.4 seconds by the time he took the checkered flag. Darren Dudley and Livingston swapped third a couple of times over the latter half of the race, with Livingston eventually claiming the position for good, and Kyle Copp edged Ron Weinberger, the 71-year-old Hall of Famer and grandfather of Justin, for fifth.
In the Sixes’ A-feature, it took Graham a little longer to get to the front, thanks to three straight yellow flags at the very start of the event and a stubborn Jake Nevala. The yellows came before a lap could be completed – one for two separate two-car incidents in the first turn; one for a badly-damaged Devin Dalbec ride after contact with a marker tire; and one for an Adam Traaholt spin.
Once all of that was out of the way, the next 15 laps were all under green, with Nevala beating Traaholt through the first turns and into the lead. DeJay Jarecki also made it tough on Graham, getting around him as well as Traaholt to take second before the next lap was scored.
It took three laps before Graham finally worked a successful low-side pass of Jarecki for second place, and he brought Jarecki along to challenge Nevala for the lead on the next go-around. Meanwhile, divisional points leader Tiffany Hudack, who started two rows behind Graham, had picked her way through the heavy mid-pack traffic into fourth and began drawing in on the leaders.
Graham started another inside move on the mid-groove-running Nevala on lap 5 and completed it on lap 6, then pulled steadily away. Nevala and Jarecki kept Hudack at bay for some seven laps, but as the white flag waived above them Hudack slipped low on Jarecki and nosed into third. Graham scored his fourth Six-Cylinder feature win of 2018 nearly four full seconds ahead of Hudack, who came out of the final corner and nipped Nevala at the line by 12 one-thousandths of a second, while Jarecki was right on their tail in fourth. Forrest Schultz came home fifth.
The WISSOTA Modifieds, which typically run very clean features here, struggled to get through their 20-lap headliner on this night, but Ashland’s Kevin Eder eventually showed the way. Eder, leading the division’s point standings and in search of his first-ever title, was helped considerably in this cause before the race ever started when second-in-points Steve Stuart pulled off the track during the pre-race parade lap with mechanical issues.
After an opening-lap delay for a Bill Byholm-Todd Gehl tangle, six-time track champion Jeff Spacek powered past polestarter Michael Truscott for the initial lead. Cody Carlson had a strong car early and motored past Truscott into second on lap 2, with Eder and ninth-starting Tanner Byholm close behind Truscott, but Spacek ran a very high line around the three-eighths-mile oval to a 1.5-second advantage.
The field was drawn up behind Spacek after Gehl and Neil Balduc collided on lap 5, and one lap after that restart Byholm worked low to get by Truscott and Eder into third. On lap 9 Byholm caught and passed Carlson for second, and he was slowly trimming Spacek’s one-second lead down over the next five laps before Jake Hiatt’s spin slowed the program again.
One circuit after the lap 14 restart, Carlson and Byholm crashed together in turn 2, sending Byholm to the tail of the line-up. Then, a lap after Eder passed Carlson for second and Spacek for the lead on that restart, Carlson got pinched into the front-straight concrete wall and ground his car to a halt, ending a promising run.
Eder took off over the final four laps for his 31st career ABC Raceway feature win and third of the season here, a full 2.4 seconds ahead of Tanner’s dad Bill Byholm, who grabbed second from Spacek on the final restart. Steve Lavasseur edged Balduc late in the run for fourth.
The WISSOTA Super Stock feature also struggled with caution-flag stoppages, but it also included some incredible action throughout the field and a thrilling finish. After a Rick Randall spin on the initial lap, Matt Deragon pulled around polestarter Eder to lead the first four laps, which were interrupted once by a Don Muzzy spin.
Terran Spacek swept around Deragon on lap 5 to become the new leader just before Muzzy’s car went around again, and on that restart Eder went low to dig past Deragon and Spacek into first. Within the next four laps Jeff Klopstein, who had started tenth, had pulled alongside Spacek for second, while Deragon had his hands full with the charging Cory Casari and Nick Oreskovich, and by mid-race the top eight cars were in a tight-knit pack.
Klopstein had a run on Eder negated by another Randall spin with nine laps to go, and Casari worked his way into fourth on the next tour around under green, but Casari made contact with Spacek with nine laps remaining. On lap 14 Klopstein’s ride started to fail him and he eventually dropped out, putting Spacek into second just ahead of Oreskovich and right on Eder’s tail.
Eder held on as long as he could, but on the final lap Spacek and Oreskovich were ready to pounce. In the final corner, Spacek dove low and Oreskovich went high, hoping to get around Eder if he should get stuck behind a slower car that they had closed on. But Oreskovich got trapped behind Eder, too, and Spacek, who hails from Phillips, snuck by for his second feature win here this season by just 13 one-thousandths of a second. Eder held on for second with Oreskovich on his tail, and further back Deragon held off Andy Grymala for fourth.
In essence, the Midwest Mod championship is the only one still up for grabs going into Saturday’s regular season finale. In the other classes, Eder (69-point advantage in the Mods), Oreskovich (78 points, Supers), Hudack (57 points, Sixes) and Graham (75 points, Pure Stocks) need only qualify for their respective feature fields in order to clinch titles.
Fast-lap bonuses on this night went to Eder in the Mods (16.987 seconds / 79.472 mph); Spacek in the Supers (17.399 / 77.590); Aho in the Mid-Mods (17.256 / 78.233); and Graham in both the Sixes (18.613 / 72.530) and the Pure Stocks (19.382 / 69.652).
The 2018 regular season concludes on August 25, when Pepsi, North Star Beverage of Hurley, and WIMI-FM of Ironwood, MI, present “Championship Saturday Night.” All five divisional champions will be decided following this Saturday’s feature races.
Hot laps will start at 6:15 pm and the heat races of the regular season begin at 7. Fans can keep up with live race news and weather updates from the track by listening to “Z-93 Race Night” on WBSZ, 93.3 FM, online at www.wbszfm.com, or via the free HCG Radio app on their smart phones, tablets or other mobile devices, from 4:30-6 pm.
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 on race days call (715) 682-4990.
Feature: 1-10: Kevin Eder, Ashland; Bill Byholm, Glidden; Jeff Spacek, Phillips; Steve Lavasseur, River Falls; Neil Balduc, Bessemer, MI; Todd Gehl, Solon Springs; Pat Cook, Washburn; Jake Hiatt, Mason; Michael Truscott, Chippewa Falls; Cody Carlson, Superior.
11-12: Tanner Byholm, Glidden; Steve Stuart, Ashland.
Heat 1: Gehl; Eder; Truscott; B Byholm; T Byholm; Hiatt.
Heat 2: Spacek; Carlson; Stuart; Lavasseur; Balduc; Cook.
WISSOTA Super Stocks
Feature: 1-10: Terran Spacek, Phillips; Kevin Eder, Ashland; Nick Oreskovich, Mason; Matt Deragon, Ashland; Andy Grymala, Superior; Greg Kuklinski, Ironwood, MI; Cory Casari, Montreal; Shawn McFadden, Ashland; Shane Kisling, Park Falls; Don Muzzy, Ironwood, MI.
11-13: Aaron Mashlan, Ashland; Jeff Klopstein, Tomahawk; Rick Randall, Wakefield, MI.
Heat 1: Spacek; Oreskovich; Randall; Deragon; Kuklinski; Muzzy; Mashlan.
Heat 2: Casari; Eder; Grymala; Kisling; Klopstein; McFadden.
WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds
Feature: 1-10: Brandon Copp, Brule; Jesse Aho, Toivola, MI; Dan Kingsley, Superior; Paul Suzik, Ironwood, MI; Clay Passuello, Ironwood, MI; David Simpson, Thunder Bay, ON; Jack Rivord, Superior; Tanner Hicks, Ashland; Jared Stricker, Highbridge; Wayne Stricker, Highbridge.
11-17: Jimmy Latvala, Solon Springs; Ross Fuhrman, Ashland; Tyler Hudack, Ashland; Ryan Barningham, Bayfield; James Kannegiesser, Hayward; Steve Altman, Mercer; Michael Truscott, Chippewa Falls.
Heat 1: Copp; Aho; Kingsley; Suzik; W Stricker; Truscott; Latvala; Hicks; Fuhrman.
Heat 2: Rivord; Simpson; Passuello; J Stricker; Altman; Kannegiesser; Hudack; Barningham.
Feature: 1-10: Randy Graham, Trego; Tiffany Hudack, Ashland; Jake Nevala, Ashland; DeJay Jarecki, Ashland; Forrest Schultz, Ashland; Steve Stuart, Ashland; Jordan Pearce, Ashland; Aaron Mashlan, Ashland; Joshua Saunders, Spooner; Jonathan Popp, Iron River.
11-13: Adam Traaholt, Ashland; Devin Dalbec, Ashland; Bubba Anderson, Trego.
Heat 1: Graham; Hudack; Nevala; Popp; Pearce; Mashlan; Stuart.
Heat 2: Jarecki; Anderson; Schultz; Traaholt; Dalbec; Saunders.
WISSOTA Pure Stocks
Feature: 1-8: Randy Graham, Trego; Cory Jorgensen, Hermantown, MN; Don Livingston, Washburn; Darren Dudley, Ashland; Kyle Copp, Brule; Ron Weinberger, Park Falls; Aaron Bernick, Duluth, MN; Brock Beilke, Hayward.
Heat: Graham; Jorgensen; Bernick; Copp; Livingston; Beilke; Weinberger; Dudley; Andrew Hanson, Iron River.