Diemel, Sabraski, Spacek Capture Wins in Rain-Shortened Red Clay Classic at ABC Raceway
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, October 2 – Despite a constant threat of rain, every scheduled race but one was completed during the 46th annual Red Clay Classic at the ABC Raceway, held over Friday and Saturday, October 1-2, in front of a near-capacity crowd.
Only the WISSOTA Midwest Modified feature, which was slated as the final race of Saturday’s portion of the program, was lost to precipitation. The other 31 races held over the two-day program, presented by FastLane Motorsports & Custom Powdercoating, Tim’s Automotive Machine and Red’s Auto, were completed with minimal adjustments and resulted in one repeat champion and two first-time winners.
AJ Diemel of Elk Mound won the event’s WISSOTA Late Model feature for the second time, with the other victory coming in 2017. Shane Sabraski of Rice, MN, took a huge step in his quest for a WISSOTA Modifieds national championship with a nail-biter win. And Phillips’ Terran Spacek claimed his first-ever RCC win in a thrilling WISSOTA Super Stock main event.
With weather threatening, the ABC Raceway’s Board of Directors rearranged the Saturday schedule of events, moving the start time up by 1-1/2 hours and putting the Late Models at the head of the program. Diemel started from the outside of the front row and immediately beat polestarter and 2010 RCC champ Kyle Peterlin through the first turn.
Diemel led every one of the 40 laps, and early on his advantages were significant – including as much as 1.8 seconds after just eight laps. But once he began to deal with slower backmarkers, Pat Doar, who took second away from Peterlin on lap 5, and six-time RCC champ Jimmy Mars, who displaced Peterlin for third while navigating lapped traffic on lap 18, closed up most of that gap.
Doar thinned Diemel’s buffer down to three-quarters of a second by lap 9, but he, too, had to weave his way through the back of the field. And once Diemel got to an open gap in the running order, the leader re-established his dominant margin.
Rick Niemi had been putting up a strong top-five showing through much of the first 20 laps, but not long after taking fourth away from Peterlin, he in turn was shuffled back to fifth by Jimmy Mars’ son Sam.
With 18 laps remaining Chad Mahder spun to slow the proceedings and once again give Diemel some open race track to run. Diemel fended off a brief three-wide threat by Doar and Mars on the restart and again bolted to a dominant advantage. Diemel caught the tail end of the pack within eight short laps, sifting through the traffic to extend his lead over to nearly a full second.
With five laps remaining, heavy contact between Aaron Lillo and Ron Hanestad brough Lillo’s car to a grinding halt against the wall at the turn 1 pit exit, which brought about another caution flag. Over the closing laps Diemel, who leaned on what little berm there was at the top of the turns, bobbled ever so slightly in turn 3 with a couple laps remaining, but he overcame the error and held on for a winning margin of .868 seconds and a $5,700 payday – the largest check ever offered to a WISSOTA-sanctioned driver in the Raceway’s 57-year history.
Doar, Jimmy Mars and Sam Mars followed at the checkers in close formation, with Niemi completing an impressive fifth-place run. Travis Budisalovich, James Giossi, Derek Vesel, 2019 RCC champ Jesse Glenz, and Peterlin completed the top ten.
At the conclusion of Friday’s preliminary events, the top 16 vote-getters in a pre-weekend online poll of Late Model entrants were brought out for a “Fan’s Choice Dash for Cash,” presented by Red’s Auto of Ironwood, MI. The field was set by the number of votes, and Glenz, who received the most votes, drew a random number to determine an invert for the starting line-up.
Fortunately for Glenz he drew the “1” and started on the pole anyway, and he led all 16 non-stop laps for $800 win, followed by Diemel, Darrell Nelson, Doar and 2013 RCC winner Nick Anvelink.
Sabraski, who is in the heat of national championship battles in both the Mods and Super Stocks, started the 30-lap, $4,000-to-win Modified A-main on the outside of the second row, but his row mate – three-time RCC winner Ashley Anderson – found himself spun around with a damaged race car about 30 yards short of the starting line while coming for the green flag to start the race.
Jeremy Nelson, who started just in front of Sabraski, got a strong run on the restart and set a quick early pace, while Sabraski contended with polestarter Brandon Copp, Clayton Wagamon and two-time RCC Mod champ Darrell Nelson. Wagamon claimed third from Copp after the first two laps, and just a circuit later 2007 RCC Mod champ Jody Bellefeuille moved past Copp to take fourth, with Darrell Nelson climbing into fifth within a couple more laps.
Jeremy Nelson owned a strong 1.25-second lead on Sabraski at the one-quarter pole, but that lead began to shrink as the laps clicked off. By the time the race had reached its midway point, Sabraski had closed to within a couple of car-lengths, and on lap 17, while contending with slower traffic, he used a three-wide pass to take over the lead.
Further back, Bellefeuille was in the midst of a side-by-side duel with Wagamon for third, eventually taking over the spot with nine laps left. Bellefeuille then closed in on Jeremy Nelson, and those two battled just a few car-lengths behind the leader while weaving their way through the back of the field.
Sabraski had just broken into the clear after passing a slower car when, with two laps remaining, Cole Spacek and Mike Anderson, while racing for top-ten positions, tangled with Adam Ayotte in turn 3 to bring out the yellow flag and set up a green-white-checkered sprint. On the restart Sabraski was challenged closely by Bellefeuille to the inside and Nelson on his rear bumper, but the leader held on for a winning margin of .225 seconds – maybe a car-length at most – and his sixth career feature win in Ashland but first in the Red Clay Classic.
Bellefeuille was at Sabraski’s inside flank to finish second, and Jeremy Nelson was on Sabraski’s back bumper in third. Diemel, who started 12th, charged home late for fourth-place money, just ahead of his sixth-row starting mate, 2021 ABC Raceway point champ Cole Spacek.
Coming home in the second five were Darrell Nelson, Wagamon, Jimmy Mars, two-time RCC Midwest Mod winner Michael Truscott, and Dave Cain, who started last on the 25-car grid after accepting the defending champion’s provisional.
Terran Spacek’s father Randy has captured a number of feature wins over his 30-plus seasons of racing, including 36 at ABC to put him 12th on the track’s all-time feature win list. But the one win that had eluded Randy – the Red Clay Classic Super Stock feature – is the one that his son earned Saturday night.
The younger Spacek showed that he had the poise of his father throughout the 25-lap feature, as he led every lap from the pole despite persistent challenges by Kevin Burdick, the 2014 RCC Super Stock champ who is in the down-to-the-wire battle with Sabraski for the WISSOTA national title in this division.
Spacek’s chance for the win almost disappeared early in the race, as on lap 2, while battling with fellow front-row starter Brandon Duellman, contact between the two sent Spacek for a spin in front of the field. But Duellman was charged with the incident and penalized to the back of the 24-car field, putting Burdick in second for the restart.
Kevin Salin’s spin on lap 4 brought about another quick caution stop, during which multi-time track champ Scott Lawrence pulled into the pits to end his night. Over the next eight green-flag laps Spacek hugged the bottom groove of the smooth red-clay oval while Burdick and 2016 RCC winner Tommy Richards led a tight pack of contenders right behind him.
Other than Spacek at the front, the running order of the top-ten seemed to change with every lap. Burdick and Richards ran side-by-side exchanging second, while Shawn McFadden switched from the high groove to the low groove frequently to pull alongside Richards. Dave Flynn charged from his tenth-place starting spot to contest fourth with McFadden, but he would be tested by the high-flying Steve Stuart, the division’s 2021 ABC Raceway points champ, who seemed determined to sweep around the frontrunners using the outermost line on the track while slamming the turn 1 guardrail on nearly every lap.
The furious action was only paused once more, when Sam Fankhauser spun on lap 12. From there Spacek held firm to the low racing groove while Burdick worked a couple of lanes higher. The lead pair never seemed to be more than a car-length or two apart, while the chaos just behind them resumed. Over the final five laps Burdick made several strong efforts to pull alongside the leader, but Spacek answered every challenge.
Coming off of turn 4 for the final time, Burdick made one last desperation move, using his momentum off the top of the corner to dive low for the pass. But Spacek maintained his composure and his line and held on for a narrow .165-second victory, with Burdick pulling alongside his left-rear fender. Flynn’s strong run earned a third-place effort for the 2016 RCC Midwest Modified champ, just ahead of Richards and Stuart.
Sabraski, who started 19th, picked his way through the field to finish an impressive sixth, followed closely by McFadden, three-time and defending RCC Supers champ Curt Myers, DJ Keeler and Ron Mahder. Spacek didn’t have to deal with slower traffic during the run, as all 23 cars still running at the end of the race finished on the lead lap – a testament to the close, competitive racing throughout the field.
The Neighborly Bar of Ashland once again raised a huge purse for its “Bridesmaid’s Challenge,” offering over $1,200 to each feature’s second-place-finishing driver if they agreed to don a formal gown in Victory Lane after their race. While Doar declined, Bellefeuille and Burdick happily agreed to accept the dare, and each took home a check larger than their respective feature winners’ earnings.
The “Bridesmaid’s Challenge” purse was divided equally among all Midwest Modified feature starters, as was that feature’s scheduled purse, which was set at $1,500 to win and $200 to start.
Drivers setting the fastest single-lap times in each feature were presented a $100 bonus from Northern Clearing Inc of Ashland. Those lap times were set by Diemel in the Late Models (15.574 secs; 86.683 mph), Jeremy Nelson in the Mods (17.202; 78.479), and Terran Spacek in the Supers (18.243; 74.001).
Clint Larson Trucking offered a $125 bonus to each driver who advanced the furthest in their respective features from their original starting spots. These “hard-charger” bonuses were presented to Glenz in the Late Models (18th to ninth), Cain in the Mods (25th to tenth), and Sabraski in the Supers (19th to sixth).
In all, 176 racers registered to compete for a share of the over-$110,000 purse offered on a weekend that included unseasonably warm, humid conditions. Friday’s track was very smooth and very fast, as proven by Jimmy Mars completing his ten-lap Late Model heat race win in a time of just two minutes, 35 seconds, and Kyle Peterlin nearly matching that later during his Late Model heat win, with his ten laps taking just 2:40.
Saturday’s program began under similar conditions – warm and extremely humid – but the cloud cover moved in and a light shower watered the track immediately after the first semi-feature of the night, run by the Late Models. The wide, smooth track became very sticky-fast again, but the skies continued to threaten throughout the rest of the evening, and it wasn’t until the Midwest Mods entered the track for their feature to cap off the weekend’s festivities that the clouds finally let loose with a soaking shower that spoiled their chance to race.
During Friday’s pre-race ceremonies, the 13 US Military personnel who lost their lives during the recent attacks in Afghanistan were honored, with local retired and active Military personnel and members of the ABC Raceway staff presenting 13 folded US flags in Victory Lane in their memory. An additional flag was placed in honor of former Modified racer and Air Force Reservist Tanner Byholm, who was killed in an aircraft accident earlier this year.
In addition, two Late Models – Lillo’s number 9 and Doar’s number 11 – were displayed in Victory Lane in memory of the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001.
The ABC Raceway has plans to host its annual banquet celebrating the 2021 racing season at the AmericInn of Ashland in January. Details of this event will be forthcoming.
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: AJ Diemel, Elk Mound; Pat Doar, New Richmond; Jimmy Mars, Menomonie; Sam Mars, Menomonie; Rick Niemi, Eveleth, MN; Travis Budisalovich, Minneapolis, MN; James Giossi, Hudson; Derek Vesel, Hibbing, MN; Jesse Glenz, Chippewa Falls; Kyle Peterlin, Hibbing, MN.
11-20: Steve Laursen, Cumberland; Kevin Eder, Ashland; Chad Mahder, Bloomer; Darrell Nelson, Hermantown, MN; Gunner Frank, Montrose, IA; Jake Redetzke, Eau Claire; Harry Hanson, Eveleth, MN; Rick Hanestad, Boyceville; Buddy Hanestad, Boyceville; Clint Larson, Superior.
21-24: Aaron Lillo, Proctor, MN; Robbie Johnson, Wilson; Nick Anvelink, Bonduel; Tim McMann, Duluth, MN.
Heat 1: Doar; S Mars; Nelson; Laursen; Glenz; R Hanestad; Anvelink; Mike Bellefeuille, Duluth, MN.
Heat 2: Diemel; Budisalovich; Eder; Hanson; Johnson; James Kannegieser, Hayward; Tim Lillo, Superior.
Heat 3: J Mars; Niemi; Vesel; Redetzke; Larson; McMann; Paul Niznik, Medford; George Ledin Jr, Britt, MN.
Heat 4: Peterlin; Giossi; Frank; A Lillo; Mahder; B Hanestad; Jody Bellefeuille, Carlton, MN; TJ Adams, Hayward.
Semi-Feature: R Hanestad; B Hanestad; McMann; Anvelink; J Bellefeuille; M Bellefeuille; Kannegieser; Ledin; T Lillo; Niznik.
Fans’ Choice Dash: 1-10: Glenz; Diemel; Nelson; Doar; Anvelink; Budisalovich; Redetzke; J Mars; Eder; Mahder.
11-16: Giossi; Peterlin; Hanson; Vesel; S Mars; McMann.
Feature: 1-10: Shane Sabraski, Rice, MN; Jody Bellefeuille, Carlton, MN; Jeremy Nelson, Alexandria, MN; AJ Diemel, Elk Mound; Cole Spacek, Phillips; Darrell Nelson, Hermantown, MN; Clayton Wagamon, Ramsey, MN; Jimmy Mars, Menomonie; Michael Truscott, Chippewa Falls; Dave Cain, Corcoran, MN.
11-20: Steve Lavasseur, River Falls; Shane Halopka, Greenwood; Brandon Copp, Brule; Pat Cook, Washburn; Denny Cutsforth, Rice Lake; Matt Aukland, Glyndon, MN; Kelly Estey, Kelly Lake, MN; Rick Rivord, Superior; Shane Kisling, Butternut; Mark Hanson, Chippewa Falls.
21-25: Nick Koehler, Bloomer; Mike Anderson, Jim Falls; Adam Ayotte, St Paul, MN; Steve Hallquist, Fall Creek; Ashley Anderson, Elk Mound.
Heat 1: J. Nelson; D Nelson; Mars; Koehler; Alex Van Natta, Minocqua; Tyler Luger, Oxford; John Kallas, Hurley; Neil Balduc, Bessemer, MI; Daniel Bargender, Menomonie; Jeff Spacek, Phillips.
Heat 2: Sabraski; M Anderson; Truscott; Halopka; Paul Niznik, Medford; Pat Hoffman, Rice Lake; Aukland; Danny Thomas, Knapp; Jake Hiatt, Mason.
Heat 3: A Anderson; Bellefeuille; C Spacek; Kisling; Rivord; Lavasseur; Sam Fankhauser, Rice Lake; Brent Prochnow, Colfax; Zach Gibson, Chippewa Falls.
Heat 4: Copp; K Estey; Cook; Hanson; Cutsforth; Dan Kingsley, Superior; Skeeter Estey, Kelly Lake, MN; Cain; Cory Mahder, Elk Mound.
Heat 5: Wagamon; Hallquist; Diemel; Ayotte; Shaun Kreyer, Hayward; Donnie Lofdahl, Duluth, MN; Al Uotinen, Superior; Marcus Simonson, Luck; Brad Johnson, Wilson.
Semi-Feature 1: Aukland; Rivord; Kreyer; Kingsley; Lofdahl; Gibson; Prochnow; Hoffman; Bargender; Van Natta; Uotinen; Johnson; Balduc.
Semi-Feature 2: Cutsforth; Lavasseur; Niznik; Hiatt; Fankhauser; S Estey; Thomas; Luger; Cain; Kallas; J Spacek; Simonson; Mahder.
WISSOTA Super Stocks
Feature: 1-10: Terran Spacek, Phillips; Kevin Burdick, Proctor, MN; Dave Flynn, Superior; Tommy Richards, Mondovi; Steve Stuart, Ashland; Shane Sabraski, Rice, MN; Shawn McFadden, Ashland; Curt Myers, Cameron; DJ Keeler, Superior; Ron Mahder, Elk Mound.
11-20: Andrew Mackey, Duluth, MN; Patrick Beeksma, Ironwood, MI; Willie Johnsen Jr, Superior; Jim Campbell, Two Harbors, MN; Joey Jensen, Forest Lake, MN; Andy Grymala, Superior; Brandon Duellman, Winona, MN; Eric Olson, Ladysmith; Nick Oreskovich, Mason; Keith Kern, Superior.
21-24: Sam Fankhauser, Rice Lake; Darin Meierotto, Superior; Kevin Salin, Iron, MN; Scott Lawrence, Superior.
Heat 1: Richards; Oreskovich; Grymala; Mackey; Meierotto; Don Muzzy, Ironwood, MI; Aaron Mashlan, Ashland; Don Livingston, Washburn.
Heat 2: Myers; Fankhauser; Campbell; Beeksma; Lawrence; Olson; Chad Johnson, Colfax; Tristan LaBarge, Kelly Lake, MN; Shane Basina, Bayfield.
Heat 3: Duellman; Flynn; Stuart; Kern; Leslie Leu, Medford; Justin Weinberger, Butternut; Tucker Quinn, Ladysmith; Wayne Dean, Strum; Matthew Hammitt, Cloquet, MN.
Heat 4: Spacek; McFadden; Keeler; Sabraski; Cory Casari, Montreal; Kyle Copp, Brule; Jeff Eisner Jr, Merrill; Mike Sirois, Duluth, MN; Jensen.
Heat 5: Burdick; Mahder; Johnsen; Salin; Matt Deragon, Ashland; Rich Bishop, New Richmond; Brian Carl, Duluth, MN; Jason Quarders, Prairie Farm; Scott Geiger, Dorchester.
Semi-Feature 1: Meierotto; Olson; Copp; Leu; Quinn; Josh Schmidt, Elk River, MN; Sirois; LaBarge; Deragon; Basina; Mashlan; Hammitt.
Semi-Feature 2: Lawrence; Jensen; Bishop; Weinberger; Dean; Eisner; Geiger; Quarders; Muzzy; Johnson; Livingston; Casari.
WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds
Feature: rained out.
Heat 1: Brandon Jensen, Ellsworth; Ryan Savoy, Superior; Paul Suzik, Ironwood, MI; Tyler Kintner, Hibbing, MN; James Vendela, South Range; Evan Checkalski, Proctor, MN; Michael McKay, Sparta; Nick Ayotte, St Paul, MN; CJ Wagner, Rice Lake.
Heat 2: Brady Uotinen, Superior; Scott Splittstoesser, Cottage Grove, MN; Marcus Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Jimmy Latvala, Solon Springs; Paul Niznik, Medford; Austin Blom, Saginaw, MN; Neil Dees, Hurley; Bryan Lund, Ashland; Dalton Mains, Foxboro; McLean Andrews, Duluth, MN; Tanner Gehl, Solon Springs.
Heat 3: Joey Jensen, Forest Lake, MN; Jesse Aho, Toivola, MI; Tanner Hicks, Ashland; Ryan Barningham, Bayfield; Zach Slayton, Springbrook; Tyler Hudack, Ashland; Ross Fuhrman, Ashland; Chris Bretting, Washburn; Diamond Bressette, Spooner.
Heat 4: Andrew Inman, Canyon, MN; Travis Anderson, Colfax; Kennedy Swan, Chippewa Falls; Mike Widmann, Marshfield; Cody Carlson, Superior; George Truscott, Greenland, MI; Les Duellman, Winona, MN; Mitch Kieber, Ironwood, MI; Derrick Reed, Emerald; Cole Mueller, Chippewa Falls.
Heat 5: Simon Wahlstrom, Mikana; Tommy Richards, Mondovi; Jesse Polson, Superior; Darrel Hazelton, Chippewa Falls; Michael Truscott, Chippewa Falls; Duane Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Justin Bassa, Cotton, MN; John Kallas, Hurley; Matt Jacobson, Bessemer, MI; Kenny Rogers, Unity.
Semi-Feature 1: Carlson; Fuhrman; D Dunbar; Vendela; Kallas; Blom; Casey Kintner, Mountain Iron, MN; Mueller; Jacobson.
Semi-Feature 2: Niznik; Duellman; Mains; M Truscott; McKay; Wagner; Hudack; Andrews; Bretting.
Semi-Feature 3: Checkalski; Bassa; Bressette; Rogers; Kieber; Dees; Slayton; Anthony Gallian, Superior.