‘444 Memorial’ Features Go to Glenz, Anderson, Vernon at ABC
Huge crowd, star drivers pay tribute to young Byholm
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, July 29 – Emotions ran high – in a good way – on a warm late July night at the ABC Raceway, as the track hosted its first-ever “444 Memorial” special on Thursday.
The event was organized to pay tribute to Tanner Byholm, a popular up-and-coming Modified and Midwest Modified star racer who was killed in a tragic airplane crash in southern Wisconsin this past February. Byholm raced primarily at ABC during his short career and was the son of 2017 ABC Raceway WISSOTA Modified champion Bill Byholm.
The younger Byholm had sported the number “444” on his car, as a third-generation tribute to his father and grandfather, who raced with the number “4” on their cars. Hence, there were a lot of “444”-themed aspects to the evening.
A star-studded field of 84 WISSOTA drivers from four states – including 19 with a combined 38 Red Clay Classic feature wins – registered to perform in front of a near-sellout crowd, and by evening’s end the winner’s checks went to Jesse Glenz of Chippewa Falls, Ashley Anderson of Elk Mound, and Tyler Vernon of Mason. The 99 scheduled feature laps clicked off with only one caution-flag slowdown despite three-wide and sometimes four-wide action on the fast, wide, smooth red-clay race surface.
Glenz, who won the last Red Clay Classic Late Model title here in the Fall of 2019, started on the pole of the Structural Buildings WISSOTA Late Model Challenge Series spotlight event and led every one of the race’s 44 laps on his way to his third career feature win at the northern Wisconsin speedplant and a $3,444 first-place paycheck.
Glenz beat fellow front-row starter Pat Doar through the first turns and pulled away almost immediately, while Doar had his hands full fending off a determined Derek Vesel. Behind them, Steve Laursen tried to stay close, while John Kaanta held tight to fifth.
By lap 9 Glenz had closed on the tail-end of the field, while Laursen had become a factor in the battle for second. But Laursen looped his ride in turn 2 to bring out the only yellow flag of the three features. Laursen decided to retire for the event, and although this put Doar and Vesel directly behind Glenz for the restart, it also took the leader out of slower traffic, and Glenz took advantage of the favorable situation.
Within five laps of the restart Glenz had reconstructed his lead, building it back up to just over two seconds, while Doar gained some breathing room over Vesel, Kaanta and 14th-starting AJ Diemel. Glenz caught the backmarkers again by lap 20 and weaved his way through the first few tail-enders with relative ease, while for the most part maintaining his cushion over Doar. But when Glenz caught Buddy Hanestad and Jeff Provinzino, who were battling for 14th at the time, the leader struggled to get by, allowing Doar to close the gap.
Over a ten-lap stretch Doar slowly reeled in Glenz, getting to within a few car-lengths at times, but the heavy traffic also allowed Vesel to catch and challenge Doar, which in turn gave Glenz a chance to get away. With five laps remaining Glenz, who had bypassed Provinzino but could not get around Hanestad, saw his lead shrink to less than a second, but Doar could not draw any closer, and Glenz’s final margin of victory was just over a second-and-a-quarter.
Vesel’s late push for second fell short, and Kaanta held on for fourth as Jimmy Mars got into the top-five late in the go. The second five included Diemel, Challenge Series points leader Darrell Nelson, Travis Budisalovich, Jimmy’s son Sam Mars, and Iowa visitor Todd Frank.
Glenz got understandably choked up in Victory Lane after his win, saying about the young Byholm, “You can see by the (huge) crowd on hand that he touched a lot of hearts. This win means a lot.”
The 30-lap WISSOTA Modified feature was also led flag to flag, with Anderson collecting his fifth ABC Raceway A-main win and first since the 2016 Red Clay Classic. Anderson overcame a first-lap challenge from Jody Bellefeuille and pulled away to a dominant win.
With the lead pair well ahead of the pack, the early battles included a great side-by-side race for third between Jimmy Mars and Mike Anderson, and an equally compelling fight for fifth between Michael Truscott and Dave Cain. Adam Hensel clawed his way into the top five by lap 6 as he displaced both Truscott and Cain.
By lap 10 the leader began to contend with the slower cars at the back of the running order, and Anderson’s lead shrunk from 1.74 seconds on lap 11 to .89 seconds on lap 14. Still, Bellefeuille could not close the gap any further as Anderson deftly weaved his way through traffic.
Over the final stages of the non-stop run Anderson found a gap in the field where he did not have to contend with slower cars, and he extended his lead to nearly 6.5 seconds by the time he reached the checkered flag for the $2,444 win. Bellefeuille was challenged briefly by Mars but prevailed for second, while Mike Anderson threatened Mars for third for a time before fading back to fifth, behind a resurgent Truscott.
Dan Ebert came home in sixth, as Hensel fell back to seventh and Cain did likewise to eighth, just ahead of Brandon Copp and Nelson. The fast-paced 30-lap run spun off in less than nine minutes.
While Glenz and Anderson staked their respective feature claims early, the WISSOTA Midwest Modified win was hotly contested throughout and in doubt nearly to the end, thanks to a thrilling battle between front-row starters Vernon and Brady Uotinen that lasted better than 21 of the 25 caution-free laps.
Vernon, who started on the pole, edged ahead of Uotinen coming off of the first corner of the race, but Uotinen fought back until he was finally scored as the leader – by a mere 39 one-thousandths of a second – at the end of lap 3. As the lead pair literally raced door-to-door, Jesse Aho followed in third at a distance until he was overtaken by eighth-starting Joey Jensen on lap 7.
Just as the leaders began to slice their way through slower traffic on lap 12, Jensen lost control of his racer and nearly spun, costing him a couple of spots as Aho and Paul Suzik slipped by. Suzik continued his strong showings as of late by catching and eventually passing Aho for third on lap 14, while Uotinen and Vernon put on a show up front, weaving through thick backmarkers while racing practically side by side.
The deciding moment came with less than four laps remaining, when Vernon took advantage of Uotinen’s struggles to get by a slower car to take the lead for good, and he pulled away over the final circuits to a 1.3-second advantage for his third feature win of the season and 13th of his career here, this one worth $1,444. A closing Suzik claimed third-place money, while Aho finished a solid fourth ahead of Jensen.
Finishing sixth through tenth were young visitor Kennedy Swan, George Dalbeck, Marcus Dunbar, Jack Rivord and Tanner Hicks.
Jimmy Mars and Cole Spacek each paid tribute to Tanner Byholm with special decorative themes and the number “444” on their Modifieds for this night, with Mars’ car sporting a vinyl-decal livery to exactly match Byholm’s last Mod. The door- and quarter-panels from Mars’ car were given away to winners of a raffle in which all proceeds were used to establish a scholarship in Tanner’s name.
Spacek also provided a heartfelt message to his long-time friend which was read to the crowd during pre-race ceremonies.
Also included in the preliminary activities were a flyover saluting Byholm’s military career and the National Anthem performed by Mark Donner, a retired choir director who taught at Tanner’s alma mater, Chequamegon High School. The top three in each feature were awarded very unique commemorative trophies.
Over 45 different race teams, businesses and individuals contributed to a total purse estimated at over $37,000 for this very special night of racing. Bonuses of $444 awarded to the drivers posting the fastest laps in their respective features went to Glenz in the Late Models (15.922 seconds; 84.788 mph), Ashley Anderson in the Modifieds (16.081; 83.950), and Uotinen in the Mid-Mods (16.957; 79.613). Hard-charger bonuses were awarded to Diemel in the Late Models (up eight positions, based on higher finish), Clayton Wagemon in the Mods (up eight positions), and John Darwin in the Mid-Mods (up six positions).
Action returns to the ABC Raceway on Saturday, July 31, when the FastLane Motorsports Northland Super Stock Series comes to town for the sixth race of its seven-race series. The first four races of the Series have seen WISSOTA Super Stock car counts average over 40, and the Ashland track – which has hosted the Series in each of its previous six seasons – has traditionally drawn some of the largest fields of the tour.
Five of the track’s six regular weekly divisions will be in action, with Mods getting the night off, and adult fans who present their admission wrist bands from Thursday’s “444 Memorial” will be offered a special discounted entry price on Saturday. Younger fans who dress as their favorite “super-hero” will be allowed free admission.
The grandstand gates and pits will open at 5 pm, followed by hot laps at 6:15 and the first green flag of the night scheduled for 7 pm. WSBZ, 93.3 FM, will air updates from 4:30-6 pm on Saturday, with simulcasts online via the station’s website, www.wbszfm.com.
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.
WISSOTA Late Models
Feature: 1-10: Jesse Glenz, Chippewa Falls; Pat Doar, New Richmond; Derek Vesel, Hibbing, MN; John Kaanta, Elk Mound; Jimmy Mars, Menomonie; AJ Diemel, Elk Mound; Darrell Nelson, Hermantown, MN; Travis Budisalovich, Minneapolis, MN; Sam Mars, Menomonie; Todd Frank, Montrose, IA.
11-20: Jeff Massingill, Keewatin, MN; Rick Hanestad, Boyceville; James Giossi, Hudson; Buddy Hanestad, Boyceville; Rick Niemi, Eveleth, MN; Jeff Provinzino, Hibbing, MN; Gunner Frank, Montrose, IA; Terry Lillo, Duluth, MN; Kevin Eder, Ashland; Harry Hanson, Eveleth, MN.
21-24: Robbie Cooper, South Range; Steve Laursen, Cumberland; Tim Lillo, Superior; Tim McMann, Duluth, MN.
Heat 1: Kaanta; Doar; Laursen; Nelson; R Hanestad; Massingill; Niemi; McMann.
Heat 2: J Mars; T Frank; Budisalovich; G Frank; T Lillo; Giossi; B Hanestad; T Lillo.
Heat 3: Glenz; Vesel; S Mars; Hanson; Diemel; Eder; Provinzino; Cooper.
Feature: 1-10: Ashley Anderson, Elk Mound; Jody Bellefeuille, Carlton, MN; Jimmy Mars, Menomonie; Michael Truscott, Chippewa Falls; Mike Anderson, Jim Falls; Dan Ebert, Lake Shore, MN; Adam Hensel, Baldwin; Dave Cain, Corcoran, MN; Brandon Copp, Brule; Darrell Nelson, Hermantown, MN.
11-20: Pat Cook, Washburn; Steve Lavasseur, River Falls; AJ Diemel, Elk Mound; Robby Bunkelman, Abbotsford; Daniel Bargender, Menomonie; Cole Spacek, Phillips; Clayton Wagamon, Ramsey, MN; Al Uotinen, Superior; Paul Niznik, Medford; Shane Kisling, Butternut.
21-25: Alex Van Natta, Minocqua; Jake Hiatt, Mason; Mark Hanson, Chippewa Falls; Jeff Spacek, Phillips; Dan Kingsley, Superior.
Heat 1: A Anderson; M Anderson; Nelson; Diemel; Lavasseur; Kingsley; Mike Klippenstein, Proctor, MN; Steve Hallquist, Fall Creek.
Heat 2: Hensel; Bellefeuille; Ebert; Copp; Kisling; Uotinen; Niznik; Wagamon.
Heat 3: Mars; Cain; Cook; Van Natta; J Spacek; Jon Frolik, Ramsey, MN; John Kallas, Hurley.
Heat 4: Truscott; Hanson; Bunkelman; C Spacek; Bargender; Hiatt; Neil Balduc, Bessemer, MI.
Semi-Feature: Uotinen; Hiatt; Niznik; Kingsley; Balduc; Wagamon; Klippenstein; Kallas; Hallquist; Frolik.
Pole Dash: Bellefeuille; A Anderson; Mars; M Anderson; Cain; Truscott; Hanson; Hensel.
WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds
Feature: 1-10: Tyler Vernon, Mason; Brady Uotinen, Superior; Paul Suzik, Ironwood, MI; Jesse Aho, Toivola, MI; Joey Jensen, Forest Lake, MN; Kennedy Swan, Chippewa Falls; George Dalbeck, Wakefield, MI; Marcus Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Jack Rivord, Superior; Tanner Hicks, Ashland.
11-20: Ross Fuhrman, Ashland; Eric Gadach, New Richmond; Tad Schoonover, Eagle River; Duane Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Dalton Mains, Foxboro; John Darwin, Iron River; Jesse Polson, Superior; Zach Slayton, Springbrook; James Vendela, South Range; Sean O’Brien, Manitowish Waters.
21-24: Matt Jacobson, Bessemer, MI; Tyler Hudack, Ashland; Jimmy Latvala, Solon Springs; Kenny Rogers, Unity.
Heat 1: Jensen; Suzik; M Dunbar; Fuhrman; Polson; Hudack; Darwin; Taylor Madrinich, Duluth, MN.
Heat 2: Swan; Aho; Dalbeck; Latvala; D Dunbar; Chris Bretting, Washburn; Mitch Kieber, Ironwood, MI.
Heat 3: Rivord; Schoonover; Slayton; Mains; Rogers; Paul Niznik, Medford; Jacobson.
Heat 4: Uotinen; Vernon; Hicks; Gadach; O’Brien; Vendela.
Semi-Feature: Hudack; Darwin; Vendela; Jacobson; Bretting; Kieber; Madrinich.