Stuart, Oreskovich, Suzik, Hanson Dominant During ABC Raceway Opener
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, May 26 — As the ABC Raceway kicked off its 2018 stock car racing season on Memorial Day Saturday with a salute to military personnel and a first-time visit by an entry-level class, dominant performances were a prevalent theme on the night.
The 54th season opener, presented by the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce and the Heartland Communications Group radio stations, saw 73 entries in six divisions take to the track on a night that started out hot and muggy but ended cool and damp – perfect conditions for cars to create big horsepower and go fast on the smooth, wide three-eighths-mile red-clay oval surface.
The “Salute to Military” program saw four of the six feature winners run away to big margins at the checkers, including Ashland’s Steve Stuart in the WISSOTA Modifieds, Mason’s Nick Oreskovich in the WISSOTA Super Stocks, Ironwood, MI’s Paul Suzik in the WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds, and Andrew Hanson of Iron River in the WISSOTA Pure Stocks.
The other two winners – Ashland’s Tiffany Hudack in the ABC Six-Cylinders, and Dan Prissel of Mondovi in the visiting Hornets – had to hold on against strong challenges for their wins.
The Hornets – a beginner’s class of four-cylinder, primarily front-drive cars – didn’t show up in the big numbers that were anticipated for the division’s first-ever appearance at the track, but those that made the trip put on the best two races of the night, with both their heat race and feature highlighted by three-wide battles for the win.
In the 12-lap feature polestarter Paul George, outside front-row starter Prissel and Jake Halterman, who started directly behind George, pulled away from the other three cars in the field to put on a show for the fans. George rode a higher line, Halterman used the middle groove, and Prissel hugged the bottom as the trio raced side-by-side-by-side for the first half of the race, just as they had in their heat.
Then, on lap 7, George slipped too high in turn 3 and lost his momentum, handing the lead to Halterman. Prissel maintained his pressure on the leader and, coming out of the final corner to the checkered flag, he dove low to edge ahead and win by mere feet in the historic event.
“We could race anywhere on this track,” Prissel told the crowd from Victory Lane after the race. “It’s not like what we’re used to running on; there’s a lot of grip here.
“We race with Jake at our home track (Eagle Valley Speedway in Jim Falls) and we knew he would race us clean. It was a fun race.”
Behind George in third were Bobby LePage and Christian Ripley.
Stuart, the five-time ABC champ, started the 20-lap Mod A-main on the outside of the front row, just like he did in his heat race earlier. And, just as he did in his heat, he blew away from the polestarter – in this case, six-time track champ Jeff Spacek – on the opening lap and was never seriously challenged again for his 32nd career ABC Raceway feature win.
Stuart stayed on the high lane of the well-prepared oval and flew out to a lead of well over two seconds on Spacek during the first seven laps, before Tanner Byholm’s spin brought about the first of only two yellow flags during this event. Todd Gehl’s bobble and spin prior to taking the next green was the only other delay, as Stuart again took to the top shelf to set the pace for the rest of the event.
Spacek didn’t allow Stuart to get as far away after the latter restart, staying within about a second as the field strung out during the long green-flag run over the second half of the event. But he couldn’t close the gap, either, as Stuart’s lead at the checkers was about nine-tenths of a second. Neil Balduc got by defending track champ Bill Byholm shortly after the last restart and held on for third, while Kevin Eder slipped past Cody Carlson for fifth on lap 11 and stayed there.
Oreskovich, the two-time defending Super Stock champ at the Raceway, continued his white-hot start on the season as he collected his fourth victory overall on Saturday. The start of this 20-lapper was about as thrilling as possible, with polestarter Shawn McFadden Jr and visiting Cody Kummer racing side-by-side for a couple of laps until Oreskovich stuck the nose of his car between them. Over the next three laps the trio ran in near-perfect three-wide formation until McFadden slipped coming out of turn 2 on lap 5, allowing Oreskovich enough room to drive past Kummer.
From there, the “Flyin’ Farmer” was flying, indeed, building a huge margin over McFadden, who had recovered, reeled in Kummer, and moved into second place in a matter of seven laps. Oreskovich was just about to put Aaron Mashlan a lap in arrears when Cory Casari’s ride stalled just off the racing surface on lap 13, eliminating the leader’s 4.6-second advantage. But that didn’t affect Oreskovich, who used the last seven non-stop laps to rebuild his cushion to 3.365 seconds for his 18th career feature win here.
McFadden and eighth-starting Scott Lawrence followed for podium finishes, ahead of a great battle for fourth in which Kummer fended off Matt Deragon.
Although the first 18 laps of the Midwest Mod feature clicked off with but one early caution stoppage, it took two green-white-checkered attempts to finish the race. But two-time ABC Mid-Mod champ Suzik was up to the challenge each time.
Dan Kingsley looked strong early as he claimed the initial lead from the pole and pushed out to a four-tenths of a second lead on Suzik, who started right behind him in row 2. But on lap 2 a six-car mid-pack jumble stopped the pace, and Suzik restarted right on Kingsley’s rear bumper.
Kingsley earned some breathing room when Marcus Dunbar grabbed second away on the restart. But Suzik regained the spot on lap 10 and began to snip away at the leader’s seven-tenths of a second margin. By lap 14 Suzik was looking over Kingsley’s shoulder for the lead, and as the frontrunners dealt with slower traffic, Kingsley got caught behind Jake Kruzan, allowing Suzik to sweep by on lap 15 and quickly run off to a lead of nearly 1.7 seconds.
Dunbar and George Truscott also took advantage of Kingsley’s misfortune to grab second and third, just before Kruzan’s stalled ride brought about a stoppage of action on lap 18. On the first attempt to start the two-lap sprint to the finish Jeremy Lindquist’s car died in turn 4, the apparent victim of a rear-suspension failure. But on the second try Suzik held serve for his sixth career feature win at Ashland, ahead of Truscott by three-quarters of a second.
An impressive run by Dunbar earned him third-place money, while Kingsley held off Tanner Hicks for fourth.
DeJay Jarecki barely held on as he paced a pack of fast cars for the first three laps of the Six-Cylinder main event, but after second-running Travis Swanson spun in heavy traffic without collecting anyone to bring out the first of the two caution flags of the race, Hudack found herself in position to take control. The two-time divisional champ hugged the bottom groove and pulled alongside Jarecki just after the restart, and she stayed there for three laps before finally clearing for the lead.
Once out front Hudack walked to a one-second edge, but Jake Nevala’s spin while battling with Randy Graham for third with five laps left brought the field back to her. The great run for Jarecki ended in heartbreak when he pulled off the track under the caution, but it gave Graham a chance to challenge for the win.
Graham pulled to Hudack’s outside and edged ahead with four laps to go, but Hudack battled back to regain the top spot during the next circuit. Graham again raced her to nearly even at the white flag, but a bobble in turn 2 cost him momentum, and Hudack held on for her 13th career win at ABC. Bubba Anderson’s spin on the final lap cost him a top-three finish, which Forrest Schultz inherited ahead of a recovered Swanson and Nevala.
The 12-lap Pure Stock finale clicked off non-stop, with Hanson running away to a huge win. Polestarter Tyler Keup was no match for the defending track champ, who raced to a half-straightaway lead over Graham within just four laps.
Kyle Copp worked hard to get by Keup before finally getting third on lap 2, and it cost him valuable time as Hanson disappeared. By lap 7 Copp had caught and passed Graham for second, but Hanson was a straightaway ahead and cruising to his fifth feature win at ABC. With Graham a distance back in third, Keup held on to fourth after a brief but fierce battle with Don Livingston.
Four of the feature winners saw their checks fattened a little by fast-lap bonuses earned during their winning runs. Stuart posted the quick time in the Mods (16.711 seconds, 80.785 mph average), Oreskovich set the fast lap in the Supers (17.262; 78.206), Suzik was quickest in the Mid-Mods (17.374; 77.702), and Hudack held the mark in the Sixes (18.582; 72.651).
On Saturday, June 2, the ABC Raceway will host its annual Kids’ Meet the Drivers Night, presented by Little Caesar’s Pizza of Ashland. Fans will be offered the chance to see the race cars up close and meet their favorite drivers on the track, plus get autographs and other souvenirs. The meet-and-greet session will start at 6:30, with the first race of the night set for 7 pm. There will be no hot laps on this night prior to the race program.
“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: Steve Stuart, Ashland; Jeff Spacek, Phillips; Neil Balduc, Bessemer, MI; Bill Byholm, Glidden; Kevin Eder, Ashland; Steve Lavasseur, River Falls; Cody Carlson, Superior; Al Uotinen, Superior; Pat Cook, Washburn; Paul Niznik, Medford.
11-14: Jake Hiatt, Mason; Todd Gehl, Solon Springs; Tanner Byholm, Glidden; Tyler Luger, Oxford.
Heat 1: Lavasseur; Hiatt; Balduc; B Byholm; Niznik; Luger; T Byholm.
Heat 2: Stuart; Uotinen; Spacek; Carlson; Eder; Cook; Gehl.
WISSOTA Super Stocks
Feature: 1-10: Nick Oreskovich, Mason; Shawn McFadden, Ashland; Scott Lawrence, Superior; Cody Kummer, Medford; Matt Deragon, Ashland; Greg Kuklinski, Ironwood, MI; Patrick Beeksma, Ironwood, MI; Don Muzzy, Ironwood, MI; Cory Casari, Montreal; Aaron Mashlan, Ashland.
11: Kevin Eder, Ashland.
Heat 1: Deragon; Lawrence; Kummer; McFadden; Beeksma; Eder.
Heat 2: Oreskovich; Kuklinski; Mashlan; Muzzy; Casari.
WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds
Feature: 1-10: Paul Suzik, Ironwood, MI; George Truscott, Greenland, MI; Marcus Dunbar, Wakefield, MI; Tanner Hicks, Ashland; Dan Kingsley, Superior; Ryan Barningham, Bayfield; Jesse Aho, Toivola, MI; Darren Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Cy Hoaglan, Ashland; Jack Rivord, Superior.
11-19: Tyler Hudack, Ashland; Ross Fuhrman, Ashland; Pete Paulus, Phillips; Steve Altman, Mercer; Jake Kruzan, Mellen; Jeremy Lindquist, Ashland; Jordan Barningham, Bayfield; Justin Weinberger, Park Falls; Jordan Kurtti, Bruce Crossing, MI.
Heat 1: Weinberger; Paulus; R Barningham; Diamond Bressette, Spooner; Altman; Hudack.
Heat 2: Hicks; Kingsley; Hoaglan; Aho; Rivord; Fuhrman; Kruzan.
Heat 3: Suzik; Truscott; M Dunbar; Lindquist; D Dunbar; J Barningham.
Feature: 1-10: Tiffany Hudack, Ashland; Randy Graham, Trego; Bubba Anderson, Trego; Forrest Schultz, Ashland; Jacob Nevala, Ashland; Josh Saunders, Spooner; Adam Traaholt, Ashland; Devin Dalbec, Ashland; Jordan Pearce, Ashland; Jonathan Popp, Iron River.
11-13: Aaron Mashlan, Ashland; Travis Swanson, Washburn; DeJay Jarecki, Ashland.
Heat 1: Jarecki; Hudack; Swanson; Anderson; Saunders; Mashlan; Traaholt.
Heat 2: Graham; Schultz; Nevala; Dalbec; Popp; Pearce.
WISSOTA Pure Stocks
Feature: 1-7: Andrew Hanson, Iron River; Kyle Copp, Brule; Randy Graham, Trego; Tyler Keup, Superior; Don Livingston, Washburn; Brock Beilke, Hayward; Darren Dudley, Ashland.
Heat: Hanson; Graham; Copp; Keup; Livingston; Dudley; Beilke.
Feature: 1-6: Dan Prissel, Mondovi, WI; Jake Halterman; Paul George, Princeton, MN; Bobby LePage, Duluth, MN; Christian Ripley, Duluth, MN; Hunter McDougall, Duluth, MN.
Heat: George; Halterman; Prissel; McDougall; LePage; Ripley.