Hicks Wins First of Career in ABC Mid-Mods
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, July 28 — Ashland’s Tanner Hicks held off furious challenges by David Simpson, Paul Suzik and Wayne Stricker through three green-white-checkered finishes to earn his first-ever WISSOTA Midwest Modified feature win, headlining Saturday’s night’s action at the ABC Raceway.
The race program, presented by Zar’s Bar & Banquet Hall of Ashland, featured all five of the track’s regular weekly divisions plus two divisions provided by the Northern Vintage Stockcar Racers group, for a total of 82 entries, and included the induction of nine new members into the Raceway’s Hall of Fame.
The new inductees included drivers Ray Gregor, Greg Jaeger, Tim Mackey and Bob Mattson; volunteer contributors Eric Erickson, Gordy Gilbertson, Cheryl Klobucher and the late Pete & Carol Seemuth; and honorary inductee North Star Beverage of Hurley.
The 20-lap Mid-Mod feature provided drama as well as carnage. Right off the bat, the driveshaft of Dan Kinglsey’s car snapped, breaking the transmission and causing a small pile-up right at the very start of the race. Kingsley came into the night tied with Suzik for first place in the division’s standings, and this looked at the time to be a significant hit to Kingsley’s chances for a shot at the championship.
Stricker, who started outside on the front row, took charge early ahead Suzik, who stole second from polestarter Gunner Peterson after two laps. Suzik stayed on Stricker’s rear push bar during the first third of the race, eventually joined by Hicks, Clay Passuello and Marcus Dunbar as the lead pack grew to seven-deep.
On lap 8, Justin Weinberger bumped a marker tire and damaged his car coming off turn 4 to bring about the race’s second slowdown, and on the restart four cars crunched together heading into turn 3, creating debris and stopping the run again. For this restart Simpson joined the logjam at the front, diving low to pass Dunbar and Passuello for fifth, and within a couple of laps Simpson slipped downstairs on Peterson to take fourth.
Hicks used a daring three-wide move on Suzik and Stricker to make what turned out to be the winning pass on lap 12, although Suzik attempted to get back by two circuits later. Stricker was replaced in the top three by Simpson with five laps left, and as those top three pulled away for what promised to be a thrilling finish, Steve Altman looped his ride in turn 2 just as the leaders took the white flag.
Simpson used a strong low-groove run to edge ahead of Hicks on the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, but a two-car spin deep in the field negated that. Then, on the next attempt, Suzik, who restarted alongside Simpson in second and right behind Hicks, tried to fit his car between the other two leaders, creating a lot of contact and commotion that, when the dust settled, eliminated his car and several others.
Stricker moved up alongside Simpson and behind Hicks for the third try to end this one, and although they stayed right on the leader’s tail for two fast laps, Hicks held on for the landmark win by less than half a second over Simpson, Stricker, Passuello and 15th-starting Brandon Copp.
Hicks, a sixth-year second-generation driver who jumped straight into Mid-Mods when he started, was very emotional – and very exhausted – while addressing the supportive and enthusiastic crowd from Victory Lane afterwards. When asked about the pressure of trying to hold off some of the region’s very best for that elusive first win, he shook his head and quipped, “I don’t wanna talk about it!”
The deep-in-the-pack finishes for Suzik (19th) and Kingsley (22nd) left Suzik only four points up on Kingsley in the standings, but it also allowed Tyler Hudack (eighth place in the feature) and Hicks back into the title fight.
Another hometown product, Kevin Eder of Ashland, returned to Victory Lane himself on this night, running away with the WISSOTA Modified feature. Polestarter Jake Hiatt had the initial advantage for less than a lap before a bobble opened the door for Pat Cook to slip by. After one lap was completed Steve Stuart made a rare mistake and spun his ride to stop the race, after which the field clipped off six quick laps.
During that green-flag stretch Cook pushed his way to a significant advantage over the battle for second, during which Al Uotinen worked his way by Hiatt to second and brought Neil Balduc along to third. Balduc edged by Uotinen on lap 4, and Eder took care of both of them with an inside move to claim runner-up duties two laps later. Balduc fought back to retake second and the two touched on lap 7, spinning both cars, sending Balduc to the tail as the cause of the contact, and erasing Cook’s 2.073-second lead at the time.
Eder went high-side to overtake Cook a lap after the restart, and from there he ran off over the final 12 laps to a full straightaway lead en route to his second “big Mod” feature win here this season. Cook held on to second ahead of a pestering Uotinen, with Cody Carlson and Steve Lavasseur completing the top five. Eder’s win moved him into the division’s points lead over Stuart heading into the final month of the season.
Cory Casari of Montreal was perhaps even more dominant in his first WISSOTA Super Stock winning effort of 2018. After a three-car spin on the opening lap, the remaining 20 circuits flew by without delay, with Jeff Klopstein holding the early edge on a four-car battle for second.
On lap 3 Casari cleared that clog of cars and tracked down the leader, slipping by with an inside move on Klopstein on lap 5. The 2015 track champ stayed close for a lap or two but just couldn’t hang with the leader, as Casari’s car flexed its muscle and drew away to a 1.4-second lead by mid-race.
The battle for second tightened up again late in the go, with Nick Oreskovich and Terran Spacek closing the gap on Klopstein, but Casari could not be caught and crossed under the checkers nearly a full four seconds – or more than a straightaway – ahead for his 24th career feature win at Ashland. Klopstein held off Oreskovich and Spacek, and Shane Kisling won a close battle for fifth.
Tiffany Hudack of Ashland broke her deadlock at the top of the ABC Six-Cylinder division with Randy Graham by winning her fourth A-main of the summer here. Hudack, who started in the fourth row, patiently waited for an opportunity to present itself as those ahead of her scrambled for position.
First rookie Jordan Pearce took a turn at the front of the field, but when DeJay Jarecki moved by on the low side to take over Pearce slipped back in the field. A lap 2 caution for a bumped infield marker tire forced the field to realign, with Hudack in second behind Jarecki and alongside Graham for the restart.
Hudack immediately drew alongside Jarecki once the green lights came back on and worked her way by for the lead. Graham drove low on Jarecki to take second a lap later, but Hudack’s lead was a half-second and growing over the next few laps.
It took an Aaron Mashlan spin on lap 6 to bring Graham back to Hudack’s rear bumper for the restart, and Graham stayed right there as the lead pair pulled away. Graham got a little too close, however, on lap 10, when he punted Hudack’s car into a spin in turn 2. With Graham penalized to the back of the field for the restart, Hudack sped away to a two-and-a-half-second margin of victory. Bubba Anderson got by Jarecki during that final restart, but Stuart overtook Jarecki on lap 12 and slipped by Anderson with two laps left to claim second. Forrest Schultz came home in fifth.
Graham got a measure of revenge later in the program with a hard-earned WISSOTA Pure Stock feature win. Cory Jorgensen won the drag race with polestarter Aaron Bernick into the first turn to gain the early advantage, while Bernick led a six-pack of racers vying for second. Bernick was bumped by Don Livingston and spun to stop the race after the first lap, and from there the 12-lapper went to its completion caution-free.
Graham restarted fifth and, along with Kyle Copp, overtook Bernick for third and second, respectively. Then Graham worked the low side a lap later to take the lead away from Jorgensen, although he wasn’t able to really pull away, as the lead cars stayed in tight formation for the rest of the run.
Points leader Andrew Hanson began a drive to the front just before mid-race, taking fourth from James Vendela on lap 4 and third from Copp on lap 5. At mid-race Graham’s lead was a half-second, but that narrowed down as Jorgensen, Hanson and Vendela closed in. Graham stayed the course and eked out a .350-second margin of victory, after Hanson dug low to take second from Jorgensen in the final turn. Vendela was right behind in fourth, as Copp faded back late the run but still held on for fifth.
In the Northern Vintage Stockcar Racers’ Full-Bodied Division feature, Duluth, MN’s Bobby LePage steered his ‘70s-era Dodge Challenger to a close win over Tom Godfrey’s ‘30s-vintage five-window coupe. In the NVSR Super Mods main event, Kevin Lipsky of New Richmond took his first win of the year, a few lengths ahead of Butch Bethke.
Fast-lap bonuses went to Cook in the Mods (16.999 seconds / 79.416 mph); Casari in the Supers (17.371 / 77.716); Stricker in the Mid-Mods (17.204 / 78.470); Hudack in the Sixes (18.212 / 74.127); and Graham in the Pure Stocks (19.154 / 70.481).
The Midwest Mods will be in the spotlight on Saturday, August 4, for the 12th annual “Mid-Mod Madness” special, to be presented by the Lake Shore Cafe of Ashland. The A-feature for the Mid-Mods will pay $600 to win and $60 to start. All four other regular weekly divisions will be in action as well, as the championship points battles will heat up with only four regular-season race nights remaining.
Hot laps will begin at 6:15 pm, with racing set to start at 7. “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; fans can also listen by downloading the free HCG Radio app onto their smart phone, tablet or other mobile device.
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: 1-10: Kevin Eder, Ashland; Pat Cook, Washburn; Al Uotinen, Superior; Cody Carlson, Superior; Steve Lavasseur, River Falls; Neil Balduc, Bessemer, MI; Rick Rivord, Superior; Steve Stuart, Ashland; Jeff Spacek, Phillips; Tanner Byholm, Glidden.
11: Jake Hiatt, Mason.
Heat 1: Hiatt; Carlson; Cook; Lavasseur; Spacek; Rivord.
Heat 2: Eder; Balduc; Uotinen; Stuart; Byholm.
WISSOTA Super Stocks
Feature: 1-10: Cory Casari, Montreal; Jeff Klopstein, Tomahawk; Nick Oreskovich, Mason; Terran Spacek, Phillips; Shane Kisling, Park Falls; Scott Lawrence, Superior; Shawn McFadden, Ashland; Greg Kuklinski, Ironwood, MI; Matt Deragon, Ashland; Don Muzzy, Ironwood, MI.
11: Aaron Mashlan, Ashland.
Heat 1: Casari; Oreskovich; Kisling; Lawrence; Deragon; Mashlan.
Heat 2: Spacek; Kuklinski; Klopstein; McFadden; Muzzy.
WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds
Feature: 1-10: Tanner Hicks, Ashland; David Simpson, Thunder Bay, ON; Wayne Stricker, Highbridge; Clay Passuello, Ironwood, MI; Brandon Copp, Brule; George Dalbeck, Wakefield, MI; Duane Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Tyler Hudack, Ashland; Gunner Peterson, Mason; Jared Stricker, Highbridge.
11-20: Ryan Barningham, Bayfield; Steve Altman, Mercer; Darren Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Dalton Mains, Foxboro; Jordan Barningham, Bayfield; Marcus Dunbar, Wakefield, MI; Jack Rivord, Superior; Brady Jokinen, Mellen; Paul Suzik, Ironwood, MI; Carey LePage, Culver, MN.
21-23: Justin Weinberger, Park Falls; Dan Kingsley, Superior; Ross Fuhrman, Ashland.
Heat 1: Peterson; Suzik; M Dunbar; Jokinen; Fuhrman; Hudack; J Stricker; R Barningham.
Heat 2: Dalbeck; Simpson; LePage; Kingsley; Duane Dunbar; Darren Dunbar; Rivord; Mains.
Heat 3: Hicks; Passuello; W Stricker; Altman; Copp; Weinberger; J Barningham.
Feature: 1-10: Tiffany Hudack, Ashland; Steve Stuart, Ashland; Bubba Anderson, Trego; DeJay Jarecki, Ashland; Forrest Schultz, Ashland; Jordan Pearce, Ashland; Joshua Saunders, Spooner; Jonathan Popp, Iron River; Adam Traaholt, Ashland; Devin Dalbec, Ashland.
11-13: Jake Nevala, Ashland; Aaron Mashlan, Ashland; Randy Graham, Trego.
Heat 1: Graham; Anderson; Jarecki; Pearce; Nevala; Traaholt; Saunders.
Heat 2: Hudack; Stuart; Schultz; Mashlan; Dalbec; Popp.
WISSOTA Pure Stocks
Feature: 1-10: Randy Graham, Trego; Andrew Hanson, Iron River; Cory Jorgensen, Hermantown, MN; James Vendela, South Range; Kyle Copp, Brule; Don Livingston, Washburn; Aaron Bernick, Duluth, MN; Darren Dudley, Ashland; Robert Kirkland, Chetek; Brock Beilke, Hayward.
Heat 1: Vendela; Copp; Jorgensen; Bernick; Dudley.
Heat 2: Hanson; Livingston; Graham; Kirkland; Beilke.
Feature: 1-7: Bobby LePage, Duluth, MN; Tom Godfrey, Backus, MN; Mike Hudyma, Duluth, MN; Travis Doyle, Duluth, MN; Ron German, Stanchfield, MN; Scott Chilberg, Duluth, MN; Greg Manor, Chippewa Falls.
Heat: Manor; LePage; Hudyma; Godfrey; Chilberg; Doyle.
Feature: 1-7: Kevin Lipsky, New Richmond; Butch Bethke, Oakdale, MN; Mark Peine, White Bear Lake, MN; Dennis Olson, Braham, MN; Oliver Vang, Deerwood, MN; Mike Bjorklund, Sandstone, MN; Dave Whirley, Grand Rapids, MN.
Heat: Olson; Bethke; Vang; Bjorklund; Lipsky; Whirley; Peine.