Fast-Paced Program Kicks Off ABC Raceway’s ’19 Season
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, June 1 – The 55th season opening program of the ABC Raceway on Saturday night included quite a few “firsts” that the hearty fans in attendance witnessed.
The program, which was sponsored by the Northern State Bank and the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce, was completed in just shy of three hours and included the first appearance of the WISSOTA Hornet division as part of the track’s regular weekly offering. And no fewer than three different drivers posted either their first-ever feature wins at the three-eighths-mile red-clay oval or first-time wins here in their respective divisions.
The Hornets, which debuted at the track with seven cars in attendance, put on an entertaining feature to close out the program on a clear, crisp evening. First-night racer Jason Ronning started on the pole alongside Hunter McDougall – by comparison, a relative veteran in his fourth season in the division – for the 10-lap finale, and McDougall grabbed the early advantage. Within a couple of laps Paul George had worked his way forward to challenge Ronning for runner-up honors, but the two got tangled on the back straight, sending Ronning into a wild spin and bringing about the only caution flag of the race.
For the remaining eight laps McDougall had all he could do to hold off the charging George, with the pair running nose-to-tail, but McDougall, from Duluth, MN, held on for his first-ever feature win on the Ashland track. Ronning recovered for a third-place finish, with Neil Schwab and Mitch Kieber filling out the top five.
Michael Truscott of Chippewa Falls is not really a stranger to ABC’s victory lane, with 18 career feature wins here, including a track-record 17 in the WISSOTA Midwest Modified division. Nevertheless, he had never won here in a WISSOTA Modified despite becoming a force at other tracks since moving up into the division in recent years.
Truscott started on the outside of the second row and followed outside-front-row starter Jeff Lavasseur to the front after the first corner of the 20-lap Modified main event. Lavasseur ran the high side around the smooth, slick red-clay oval and held off Truscott’s challenges for the first few laps, but on lap 5 Truscott found some bite on the low side of turn 4 and slipped by into the lead.
From there the only way anyone would catch Truscott would be if the race was slowed under caution, although defending track points champ Kevin Eder spent most of the remainder of the race chipping away at Truscott’s lead, which was nearly 3.5 seconds at mid-race. Eder did get to within a couple of car-lengths with only a couple of laps left when the “if” happened – Paul Suzik spun and slapped the turn 4 guardrail, closing the field up behind Truscott for a green-white-checkered finish.
Truscott was undeterred, however, and fended off Eder and the rest of the tight lead pack for his first “big Mod” feature win at ABC, with Eder close in tow. Lavasseur and Neil Balduc were not far back, but fifth-finishing Jeff Spacek’s car failed to meet minimum weight at the scale afterward, forfeiting the position to Cody Carlson.
Another “first-timer” for the ABC victory lane was Superior’s DJ Keeler, who led flag-to-flag for his first WISSOTA Super Stock feature win here. Keeler, who came into the night with three prior wins in Pure Stocks, hadn’t taken a checkered flag here since the last of those wins in June 2012.
Keeler started outside on the front row and beat pole-starter Matt Deragon out of turn 2 and never looked back. The 20-lapper was interrupted only once, when third-running Terran Spacek looped his ride in front of the rest of the field after a little more than a lap, but from there Keeler took advantage of the green-flag conditions to run off to a final winning margin of over 3.8 seconds.
Deragon battled with Shawn McFadden Jr early on for second but eventually wrested the position for good within a lap after the early restart, and McFadden fell back additional spots as Patrick Beeksma and three-time defending track points champ Nick Oreskovich slipped by over the next three laps. Eleventh-starting Scott Lawrence also moved into the top five just after the race reached the quarter-mark.
With Keeler off in the distance and Deragon solidly in second, the laps clicked off quickly, as Beeksma held off Oreskovich’s challenges right to the finish. The only change in the top five came from Spacek, who recovered from his early spin and restart at the tail of the field to work his way past Lawrence for fifth in the closing laps.
The Midwest Mod feature boiled down to three cars, running in tight formation at the front and swapping lanes and positions with nearly every lap, keeping fans anxious to see who could prevail and who might make a mistake.
Outside-front-row starter George Truscott bolted past Clay Passuello into the initial lead and was there when Brandon Copp and Travis Nye tangled coming out of turn 2 during lap 2, sending Copp’s car bouncing into the air and Nye’s into the back-stretch wall. Truscott led the field back to green and David Simpson slipped past Passuello and Colin Chaschuk into second before Marcus Dunbar tagged the turn 1 rail after another completed lap.
For the remaining 18 laps the green light stayed on and the action heated up, as eighth-starting George Dalbeck moved up to third when Chaschuk bobbled and slipped high on lap 6. The lead trio gradually drew away from the rest of the pack, running bumper-to-bumper and door-to-door with both Simpson and Dalbeck taking turns at threatening Truscott’s lead.
Truscott ran a smooth line and kept the other two at bay until lap 18, when he pushed his racer too high into turn 4, opening the door for Dalbeck to sneak by. Simpson followed suit, but Dalbeck, of Wakefield, MI, ran away to a two-second lead over the final laps for his 17th career feature win here. Truscott recovered to salvage a distant third-place run, ahead of 13th-starting Jesse Aho and an impressive effort by Chaschuk.
Trego’s Randy Graham finished second in points in the ABC Six-Cylinder class a year ago, but with defending champ Tiffany Hudack not in attendance Graham made sure he got off to a strong start in the division in 2019 by running off to the opening-night feature win.
After Devin Dalbec’s first-lap spin and a breakdown by pole-starter Matt Deragon, Graham outran a determined DeJay Jarecki to take the early lead. As Graham pulled away, Forrest Schultz and Jonathan Popp battled for third and Bubba Anderson had his hands full with Joshua Saunders for fifth.
Popp’s car broke loose on the back stretch on lap 5 and tagged Saunders’ ride, bringing out the second of the race’s three yellow-flag slowdowns. After the restart Schultz got by Jarecki for second, but three laps later Dalbec spun again to bring the field back together behind leader Graham. In the scramble after the final restart Jarecki stole second back and Anderson sped past Schultz into third, but Graham had the field covered, pulling away over the final four laps to a 2.1-second win over Jarecki – the 18th of his career here and ninth at ABC since the start of last season.
Anderson was called for a “jump” on the last restart and hence penalized back to fifth in the final rundown, behind Schultz and Jake Nevala.
Arguably the most thrilling finish of the night came at the end of the WISSOTA Pure Stock feature, where Justin Weinberger edged James Vendela by 15 one-thousandths of a second. As was the theme throughout the features, Vendela shot from the outside of the front row to take the early lead, with Weinberger following into second ahead of pole-starter Brandle Pupp. Graham got by Pupp after a lap, and during the next circuit Pupp tangled with Jeff Christman to bring about the race’s only stoppage.
Vendela stuck to a line just off the bottom of the racing groove, while Weinberger worked diligently on the high side, building momentum until he began to pull even with the leader in the straightaways, although Vendela would regain his advantage coming out of the corners. This pattern continued for the final ten laps of the race, until Weinberger stayed even with Vendela coming out of the final turn. The two cars bumped, and Weinberger edged Vendela by a bumper-width at the stripe for the photo-finish win.
Graham was in great position to watch the drama unfold from his close third-place position, while Don Livingston and Christman completed the top five.
The fastest feature laps of the night were posted by Michael Truscott in the Mods (18.114 secs; 74.528 mph), Keeler in the Supers (18.509; 72.937), George Truscott in the Mid-Mods (18.207; 74.147), Graham in the Sixes (19.371; 69.692), and Weinberger in the Pure Stocks (20.258; 66.640).
The “Kwik-Trip 35” Advantage RV Mod Series regional touring event is up next, slated for June 8. Several top-level WISSOTA Modified racers are expected to visit the northern Wisconsin speedplant for the third race of a four-track, four-night swing through the region that includes stops at Grand Rapids, MN; Superior, and Proctor, MN. All six divisions will once again be in action for the program, which will be presented by the three Ashland area Kwik-Trip convenience stores.
The grandstands will open this Saturday at 5 pm, hot laps will start at 6:15, and the first green flag of the night is scheduled to fly at 7 pm. “Race Night” will air on WBSZ, 93.3 FM, with up-to-date track news and weather updates every 15-20 minutes from 4:30-6 pm; coverage will also stream on www.wbszfm.com and on the free Heartland Communications Group radio app.
The ABC Raceway is located 3-1/2 miles south of Ashland on State Highway 13 and one mile west on Butterworth Road. For raceday information call (715) 682-4990, or log on to the track’s website, www.abcraceway.com.
Feature: 1-10: Michael Truscott, Chippewa Falls; Kevin Eder, Ashland; Steve Lavasseur, River Falls; Neil Balduc, Bessemer, MI; Cody Carlson, Superior; Rick Rivord, Superior; Tyler Luger, Oxford; Paul Suzik, Ironwood, MI; Dan Kingsley, Superior; Jake Hiatt, Mason.
11-15: Tanner Byholm, Glidden; Paul Niznik, Medford; Al Uotinen, Superior; Steve Stuart, Ashland; Pat Cook, Washburn.
Heat 1: Suzik; Rivord; Kingsley; Balduc; Byholm; Uotinen; Luger; Cook.
Heat 2: Lavasseur; Truscott; Eder; Niznik; Jeff Spacek, Phillips; Carlson; Hiatt; Stuart.
WISSOTA Super Stocks
Feature: 1-10: DJ Keeler, Superior; Matt Deragon, Ashland; Patrick Beeksma, Ironwood, MI; Nick Oreskovich, Mason; Terran Spacek, Phillips; Scott Lawrence, Superior; Cory Casari, Montreal; Shawn McFadden, Ashland; Don Muzzy, Ironwood, MI; Kyle Copp, Brule.
11-14: Andrew Mackey, Roseville, MN; Greg Kuklinski, Ironwood, MI; Rita Anderson, South Range; Aaron Mashlan, Ashland.
Heat 1: Muzzy; McFadden; Keeler; Spacek; Kuklinski; Lawrence; Mackey; Rick Randall, Wakefield, MI.
Heat 2: Oreskovich; Copp; Deragon; Beeksma; Casari; Anderson; Mashlan.
WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds
Feature: 1-10: George Dalbeck, Wakefield, MI; David Simpson, Thunder Bay, ON; George Truscott, Greenland, MI; Jesse Aho, Toivola, MI; Colin Chaschuk, Neebing, ON; Ryan Barningham, Bayfield; Gunner Peterson, South Range; Justin Weinberger, Park Falls; Dalton Mains, Foxboro; Ross Fuhrman, Ashland.
11-17: Darren Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Bill Muhlig, Bessemer, MI; Steve Altman, Mercer; Clay Passuello, Ironwood, MI; Marcus Dunbar, Wakefield, MI; Brandon Copp, Brule; Travis Nye, Ashland.
Heat 1: Dalbeck; Nye; Simpson; Peterson; Altman; M Dunbar; Aho; D Dunbar; Fuhrman.
Heat 2: Copp; Chaschuk; Truscott; Passuello; Barningham; Weinberger; Mains; Muhlig; Billy Milne, Thunder Bay, ON.
Feature: 1-10: Randy Graham, Trego; DeJay Jarecki, Ashland; Forrest Schultz, Ashland; Jake Nevala, Ashland; Bubba Anderson, Trego; Jonathan Popp, Iron River; Adam Traaholt, Ashland; Devin Dalbec, Ashland; Josh Saunders, Spooner; Matt Deragon, Ashland.
11: Jordan Pearce, Ashland.
Heat 1: Graham; Jarecki; Deragon; Nevala; Saunders; Traaholt.
Heat 2: Schultz; Popp; Dalbec; Anderson; Pearce.
WISSOTA Pure Stocks
Feature: 1-6: Justin Weinberger, Park Falls; James Vendela, South Range; Randy Graham, Trego; Don Livingston, Washburn; Jeff Christman, South Range; Brandle Pupp, Highbridge.
Heat: Graham; Weinberger; Vendela; Livingston; Pupp; Christman; Jason Simonson, Poplar.
Feature: 1-6: Hunter McDougall, Duluth, MN; Paul George, Princeton, MN; Jason Ronning, Ashland; Neil Schwab, Hurley; Mitch Kieber, Ironwood, MI; Laura Luger, Ashland.
Heat: George; McDougall; Ronning; Schwab; Kieber; Luger; Derek Dunbar, Iron River.