Balduc, Casari, Stricker, Hudack & Copp Win as ABC Points Battles Tighten
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, August 19 — As part of the ABC Raceway’s “Summer Blast” fan appreciation program on Saturday night, there were plenty of prize giveaways, kids raced their bikes on the track, (photos at bottom of page) vintage race cars competed, and fans and race teams enjoyed music and dancing after the show.
There was also some very intense racing action, as the results of the five-division PolyDome Dirt Track Series program – presented by Northern Wisconsin Fence of Phillips, Outlaw Wraps & Apparel of Ashland, and Chicago Iron & Supply of Ashland – have provided for what should be some very anxious and exciting racing in next Saturday’s season finale.
Another warm August night saw 91 entries race on a sticky-fast red-clay surface, with feature fast-lappers turning in lap times as little as one-half second off their divisions’ respective track records.
Defending WISSOTA Modified track champion Neil Balduc scored his second win of this season, but to do so he had to pass not one but two Byholms. Tanner Byholm sprinted from the outside of the front row past polestarter Destin Lorimor for the initial lead, and he stayed there through a couple of early caution-flag slowdowns.
On the first of those restarts – for a three-car incident just one lap into the 20-lapper – Steve Lavasseur caught a couple of drivers napping and bolted past Bill Byholm and Lorimor for second place, but both Byholm and Lorimor recovered a lap later and shuffled Lavasseur back. Byholm, the track’s Mod points leader, then tracked down his son and was on his bumper when the caution flag appeared again on lap 6, for debris on the track.
After another two-car incident on that restart, Balduc slipped around both Lorimor and Lavasseur to take over third. On lap 8 father Bill worked low side to get by son Tanner for the lead, but a lap later Tanner, proving to be a quick study, drove high-side around his dad to retake the top spot and pull away.
With six laps left the junior Byholm had a nearly full-second lead on his dad, but over the final five circuits Balduc not only displaced Bill Byholm for second but also reeled in and eventually passed Tanner for the lead. From there the Bessemer, MI, young gun ran away to his second win of the season by a margin of .95 seconds. Tanner Byholm held on to second, while Bill Byholm, who earlier in the run set the fastest lap time of the race at 16.458 seconds, came home a distant third.
Todd Gehl and Jeff Spacek completed the top five. Bill Byholm’s points lead will be 11 on Balduc heading into the final regular-season night of racing here next Saturday.
Greg Kuklinski started on the pole and held the lead through three early-race restarts for a variety of multi-car incidents. However, he was certainly not alone out front, as he fought off constant pressure from Dave Flynn, Nick Oreskovich and Cory Casari by switching from the high line to the low groove on nearly every lap – and sometimes two and three times per lap.
Flynn, who stuck to the lower line, edged ahead of Kuklinski as the field completed lap 5, just before fifth-place Shane Kisling’s car slowed to a stop on the front straight. Flynn was assigned to the point for that restart, but as the green flag flew third-running Oreskovich, the division’s points leader, was called for bumping one of the infield marker tires onto the racing groove, penalizing him to the back of the 20-car field.
Kuklinski took the lead away from Flynn on the redo, and Jeff Klopstein, who had started 13th but found himself in fifth for the restart, worked the outer line of the track to get by Shawn McFadden and then Casari to take third. But Klopstein got too close to Flynn coming out of turn 2 on lap 7 and made contact, causing both cars to lose momentum and allowing Casari to sneak by into second.
The action got hot and heavy over the next five laps before another multi-car melee on lap 12 sent Oreskovich to the pits with damage. A three-car mess on the next restart delayed the action, but Klopstein got by Casari for second, then Casari took the runner-up spot back, and then Casari challenged and eventually fought his way by leader Kuklinski – all within a quick four laps.
Contact between Klopstein and Kuklinski while battling for second on lap 17 caused the track’s all-time feature wins leader to spin and forced the race’s final stoppage, sending Klopstein to the back. With the clock having reached the allotted 30-minute time limit, Casari was awarded his first win in a Super Stock here since 2014, and although Kuklinski was scored in second his race car did not meet the 2,800-lb minimum weight limit, thus giving runner-up honors to Flynn.
Scott Lawrence, who had started 20th after suffering significant suspension damage in his heat race earlier, was awarded third-place money, ahead of McFadden and second-in-points Randy Spacek, who pulled to within 18 of Oreskovich after the points leader’s 13th-place scoring. Oreskovich set the fast lap of the race early on, with a tour in 16.920 seconds.
Wayne Stricker of Highbridge has his game rounding back into the form he showed through the first two months of the season, dominating a 20-lap WISSOTA Midwest Modified feature that was only stopped twice – with two laps scored and then again with three laps remaining.
Clay Passuello had one of his most impressive showings since moving into the Mid-Mods; he started on the pole and stayed solidly in the top three throughout the entire run. He fended off Tyler Luger’s threats early but was no match for Stricker, who flashed by on lap 2 before Brandon Copp’s spin slowed the pace.
Stricker then ran off to a huge lead, setting a race-best 16.936-second lap in the process, while Passuello also put some distance on Luger. In fact, Passuello had such a stronghold on second that he slipped up turn 4 and nearly tagged the guardrail on lap 7, but he never lost the position to Luger. The bobble did allow Stricker to push his lead to over four seconds, however.
Paul Suzik, who started 11th, was flying around the high side of the three-eighths-mile just like Stricker, and on lap 9 he took third from Luger. Then, four laps later, he changed lanes and went low-side to take second from Passuello. Stricker was still building on his advantage in slower traffic – 5.21 seconds on Suzik – when the yellow lights came on for debris, but Suzik had nothing for the leader over the final three laps, as Stricker took his third feature win of the year by 1.9 seconds.
Passuello, Luger and Jesse Aho filled out the top five. Suzik closed to within 21 of Mid-Mod points leader Tyler Vernon, who came home seventh; Stricker is just 23 points out in third.
The ABC Six-Cylinders ran off a non-stop 15-lap feature for the second straight week (after having last weekend off), and Ashland’s Tiffany Hudack made the points battle interesting by closing to within one tally of Scott Ovaska.
The defending Sixes champ took a third in her heat race earlier, while Ovaska countered by winning his heat and extending his lead to four points heading into the feature. A logjam stacked up several cars in the very first corner of the headliner, allowing Vernon to slip around to the top spot, with Hudack following first-nighter Ethan Beeksma into third.
Hudack made quick work of Beeksma for second on lap 3, by which time Vernon’s cushion was 2.1 seconds. Ovaska, meanwhile was caught up in heavy traffic, as five cars duked it out for third a distance back. Ovaska finally clawed his way out of the cluster and into third on lap 7, but he was nearly a straightaway back of Hudack, who had cut Vernon’s lead in half by mid-race, thanks in part to an 18.136-second race-best lap.
With three laps to go Hudack was sneaking a fender alongside Vernon, and as the white flag flew she dove to the bottom and stole the lead away. From there Hudack pulled to a half-second margin for her fourth win of the season. Ovaska’s third-place effort kept him in the points lead by the slimmest possible margin, while Cole Vernon and Randy Graham followed in fourth and fifth.
Ovaska, Hudack, Tyler Vernon and Graham will be separated by just nine points going into next Saturday’s finale.
The WISSOTA Pure Stock points battle is also a close one, as Kyle Copp of Brule took advantage of another driver’s misfortune to claim his fifth feature win of the year.
Cory Jorgensen was in control early, getting around polestarter Chad Nikstad for the initial lead. Copp, who started inside on the third row, made a beeline for the front right away, taking third from Don Livingston on lap 2, then second from Nikstad on lap 3, before diving low to claim the lead on lap 4.
A two-car spin and then a stopped Alyssa White slowed the goings-on for a moment, and Copp led the field back under green. But the latter restart allowed Ryan Savoy a huge opportunity to drive the upper line past several cars and take second, and he chased Copp as the lead pair drew away from the field. Savoy pulled alongside Copp over the final lap and edged ahead for what seemed to be a win. But Savoy’s car was found to have illegal springs in a post-race technical inspection, and Copp – who had a feature win taken away himself just three weeks back due to a technical malfeasance – was declared the winner.
Jorgensen had his best showing ever at ABC with a second-place run, and Graham took third. Andrew Hanson, who led by five going into the feature, was scored in fourth and saw his lead over Copp trimmed to one point heading into Saturday’s championship round, and Nikstad came home fifth.
In the visiting Northern Vintage Stockcar Racers’ stock-bodied division feature, Bobby LePage of Duluth, MN, made a late-race pass of Crosby, MN’s Gary Whipple to take the win, while in the open-wheeled feature Butch Bethke of Oakdale, MN, led White Bear Lake, MN’s Mark Peine flag-to-flag for his victory. After each feature, the winners autographed their trophies and presented them to lucky young fans who were randomly chosen ahead of time to meet the drivers in Victory Lane.
The regular season at the ABC Raceway comes to a close on Saturday, August 26, with Championship Saturday Night, presented by Pepsi, North Star Beverage of Hurley, and WIMI, 99.7 FM, of Ironwood, MI. The 2017 divisional points championships will be decided for all five divisions, and with the battles as close as they are, it should prove for a very exciting night of racing.
Hot laps start at 6:15 pm, followed by qualifying heats at 7. Adult grandstand admission tickets are just $11, while younger fans are admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult. “Z-93 Race Night” will air live on WBSZ, 93.3 FM, and stream online at www.wbszfm.com, from 4:30-6 pm with at-the-track news and weather updates.
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 onto the track’s website, www.abcraceway.com. or on race days call (715) 682-4990.
Feature: Neil Balduc, Bessemer, MI; Tanner Byholm, Glidden; Bill Byholm, Glidden; Todd Gehl, Solon Springs; Jeff Spacek, Phillips; Al Uotinen, Superior; Steve Lavasseur, River Falls; Patrick Hoffman, Rice Lake; Paul Niznik, Medford; Steve Stuart, Ashland; Pat Cook, Washburn; Rick Rivord, Superior; Jared Loos, Loyal; Destin Lorimor, Superior; Jake Hiatt, Mason.
Heat 1: Loos; B Byholm; Uotinen; Lorimor; Hoffman; Stuart; Hiatt.
Heat 2: Balduc; T Byholm; Gehl; Lavasseur; Spacek; Cook; Rivord.
WISSOTA SUPER STOCKS
Feature: Cory Casari, Montreal; Dave Flynn, Superior; Scott Lawrence, Superior; Shawn McFadden, Ashland; Randy Spacek, Phillips; Terran Spacek, Phillips; Don Muzzy, Ironwood, MI; DJ Keeler, Superior; Jordan Kurtti, Bruce Crossing, MI; Charlie Anderson, Ironwood, MI; Aaron Mashlan, Ashland; Jeff Klopstein, Tomahawk; Nick Oreskovich, Mason; Colten Vernon, Ashland; Mike Hince, Medford; Matt Deragon, Ashland; Shane Kisling, Park Falls; Myron Basina, Washburn; Andy Grymala, Superior.
Heat 1: Oreskovich; R Spacek; Kisling; Muzzy; Grymala; Keeler; Klopstein; Kurtti; Anderson; Deragon.
Heat 2: Kuklinski; T Spacek; Flynn; Casari; McFadden; Basina; Hince; Mashlan; Vernon; Lawrence.
WISSOTA MIDWEST MODIFIEDS
Feature: Wayne Stricker, Highbridge; Paul Suzik, Ironwood, MI; Clay Passuello, Ironwood, MI; Tyler Luger, Oxford; Jesse Aho, Toivola, MI; Tanner Hicks, Ashland; Tyler Vernon, Ashland; Andrew Inman, Hermantown, MN; Tyler Hudack, Ashland; Dave Flynn, Superior; Jared Stricker, Highbridge; Ryan Adamzak, Marengo; George Dalbeck, Wakefield, MI; James Kannegiesser, Hayward; Ross Fuhrman, Ashland; Justin Weinberger, Park Falls; Brady Jokinen, Mellen; Gunner Peterson, Mason; Chris Bretting, Washburn; Paul Niznik, Medford; Brandon Copp, Brule.
Heat 1: W Stricker; Inman; Luger; Hudack; Flynn; Kannegiesser; Bretting; Jordan Barningham, Bayfield.
Heat 2: Aho; Passuello; Hicks; Suzik; Dalbeck; Adamzak; Fuhrman; Copp; Diamond Bressette, Spooner.
Heat 3: Vernon; Niznik; J Stricker; Jokinen; Weinberger; Peterson; Ryan Barningham, Bayfield; Jeff Hanninen, Marengo; Cy Hoaglan, Ashland.
Semi-Feature: Fuhrman; Copp; Bretting; R Barningham; Hoaglan; J Barningham; Hanninen; Bressette; Dalton Mains, Foxboro.
Feature: Tiffany Hudack, Ashland; Tyler Vernon, Ashland; Scott Ovaska, Marengo; Cole Vernon, Ashland; Randy Graham, Trego; DeJay Jarecki, Ashland; Ethan Beeksma, Mellen; Forrest Schultz, Ashland; John Darwin, Iron River; Josh Saunders, Spooner; Adam Traaholt, Ashland; Jonathan Popp, Iron River; Devin Dalbec, Ashland; Bella Bretting, Washburn.
Heat 1: T Vernon; Graham; Hudack; C Vernon; Dalbec; Jarecki; Darwin; Bretting.
Heat 2: Ovaska; Schultz; Traaholt; Beeksma; Popp.
WISSOTA PURE STOCKS
Feature: Kyle Copp, Brule; Cory Jorgensen, Hermantown, MN; Randy Graham, Trego; Andrew Hanson, Iron River; Chad Nikstad, Superior; Don Livingston, Washburn; James Vendela, South Range; Jeff Christman, South Range; Matt Olson, Ashland; Brock Beilke, Hayward; Austin Gibson, Trego; Alyssa White, West Fargo, ND.
Heat 1: Nikstad; Copp; Christman; Livingston; Vendela; Jake Nevala, Ashland; Beilke.
Heat 2: Jorgensen; Hanson; Graham; Ryan Savoy, Superior; Gibson; Olson.
NORTHERN VINTAGE STOCKCAR RACERS
Stock-Bodied Feature: Bobby LePage, Duluth, MN; Gary Whipple, Crosby, MN; Tom Godfrey, Backus, MN; Mike Hudyma, Duluth, MN; Paul Dolphy, Mounds View, MN; Tom Ahrndt, Hawley, MN.
Stock-Bodied Heat: LePage; Godfrey; Whipple; Hudyma; Dolphy; Scott Chilberg, Duluth, MN; Ahrndt.
Open-Wheeled Feature: Butch Beilke, Oakdale, MN; Mark Peine, White Bear Lake, MN; Mike Bjorklund, Sandstone, MN; Oliver Vang, Deerwood, MN; Dave Stone, Red Wing, MN; Dave Whirley, Grand Rapids, MN.
Open-Wheeled Heat: Whirley; Peine; Beilke; Bjorkund; Vang; Stone.
Bike Race Photos