59th ABC Raceway Opener Wins to Copp, Oreskovich, Dalbeck, Bernick, Basina
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, May 20 – A comfortable mid-May evening and some thrilling action greeted the fans on hand for the ABC Raceway’s 59th Season Opener race program presented by Northern State Bank on Saturday night.
The five feature races combined yielded just five total yellow flags – but in two of those features the slowdowns provided significant twists to the races’ storylines.
In the 20-lap Outlaw Wraps & Apparel WISSOTA Modified feature, no such drama existed, as Brandon Copp of Brule made it clear that he has strong intentions of successfully defending his 2022 track points title with a dominant win – the tenth of his career here. He started the headliner directly behind “big Mod” rookie Justin Weinberger, but he got caught up in heavy traffic as Weinberger pulled away from the pole.
Weinberger had built a nice lead until lap 5, when his racer began to fail him, causing him to drop back and eventually pull out of the race. Copp, who was dueling with six-time ABC champ Jeff Spacek for second, took advantage of the rookie’s misfortune and stole the lead away. Only a lap 7 caution stop for Jake Hiatt’s stalled ride slowed Copp’s pace the rest of the way.
Just past mid-race, Spacek slipped up a bit in turn 4, opening the bottom for his son Cole to drive low and get by for second, with Pat Cook in tow to third, but by that time Copp was already over 2.5 seconds ahead. Copp hit his marks the rest of the way and stretched his final winning margin to 8.2 seconds – about a half a lap – over Cole Spacek, with Cook, Hunter Anderson and Jeff Spacek completing the top five.
Former four-time ABC Raceway champ Nick Oreskovich also had the field covered in the Superior Floral WISSOTA Super Stock feature – or so he thought, until a late-race caution put his strong race car to the test. Still, the “Flyin’ Farmer” from Mason held on for win number 25 of his career at ABC.
Oreskovich lead all 20 laps of the run, with the winning pass coming in the form of a drive around polestarter Aaron Mashlan in the first turn. A great battle for second between Andrew Mackey and defending track Supers champ Steve Stuart allowed Oreskovich to build his lead to 1.4 seconds as he was able to catch slower traffic on the sticky-fast red-clay surface before mid-race.
Oreskovich continued to pull away as he worked his way through the backmarkers, stretching his advantage to nearly three seconds, until lap 17, when Mashlan spun in turn 2 to slow the pace. Stuart gained the most from the restart by edging ahead of Mackey, and he kept the pressure on the leader, but Oreskovich held on to win by a slim three-quarters of a second. Mackey and Matt Deragon were next, and Patrick Beeksma edged out DJ Keeler and Shawn McFadden for fifth by a nose.
A bobble on a restart cost three-time ABC champ Paul Suzik an opening-night win in the Harmony Wealth Management WISSOTA Midwest Modified feature, but it was a blessing for Wakefield, MI’s George Dalbeck, who scored his first win here since June 2020 and his 23rd overall.
Suzik started the 20-lap A-main outside on the front row and was the class of the field, taking just six laps to build a 2.66-second cushion over a cluster of drivers racing for second. That cluster included Dalbeck, who had followed James Vendela around Tanner Hicks into fourth on lap 5 and was battling with Vendela when the two made contact a lap later, causing Dalbeck to spin to bring out the race’s lone yellow flag. Vendela was sent to the tail of the line-up for the restart, and when the green lights came back on Suzik caught a rut in the first corner and stumbled, allowing Dalbeck to slip by on the outside for the lead.
Suzik recovered quickly and kept the heat on the leader, but eventually the two-time ABC Mid-Mod champ pulled to a .82-second cushion at the checkers. Evan Checkalski, who started eighth, just nipped defending division champ Marcus Dunbar at the stripe for third, and Vendela clawed his way back to a top-five finish.
Aaron Bernick of Duluth, MN, scored his second career Patsy’s Bar & Grill WISSOTA Pure Stock feature win at ABC on Saturday, but while he led every one of the ten laps, he had his hands full in securing the victory.
Bernick beat polestarter Tom Treviranus into and out of the first corner and then repelled Treviranus’ steady challenges. But on lap 6 Treviranus suddenly slowed, forcing Brent Mindock and Treviranus’ daughter Jessie to take evasive action to avoid contact. Mindock got the better of the deal, taking over second and reeling in Bernick.
With the white flag in the air Mindock stuck his car’s nose alongside Bernick’s driver’s-side door, in an attempt to take the lead, but Bernick kept his cool and maintained a slight advantage for the win. Daughter Jessie and father Tom Treviranus finished a close third and fourth, respectively, and rookie Katlin Pritzl completed his first night at ABC with a top-five run.
Bayfield’s Shane Basina overcame heat-race gremlins and used a late-race restart to grab his fourth career feature win in the Lightning Storm Graphics ABC Six-Cylinder feature. Basina, who had to pull off the track halfway through his qualifying heat due to a mechanical issue, started ninth on the 12-car feature grid and, like everyone else in the event, was essentially racing for second as outside front-row starter Dalton Truchon ran away from the pack at the initial drop of the green flag.
But halfway through the run Basina was into the top-five, and Truchon’s three-second lead was beginning to shrink, as Austin Olby and Jacob Bond chipped away at the deficit. Then, on lap 12, Truchon’s motor popped violently and he coasted to a stop, bringing out the caution flag. And one lap after the restart, third-running Mathew Rohlfing looped his ride, putting Basina in third for the green-white-checkered dash.
Basina worked inside on Bond and then Olby to steal the lead, then held on to finish a mere half-second ahead of Bond. Olby, Jacob’s cousin Trenton Bond, and polestarter Brad Hanson completed the tightly-clustered top-five.
The Upper Midwest Sprint Car Series (UMSS) will bring its winged warriors to Ashland’s award-winning three-eighths-mile track on Saturday, May 27, in a program to be presented by the NAPA Auto Parts Stores of Ashland & Washburn. The 360 winged sprinters have been known to practically fly around the northern Wisconsin oval, with their huge roof-mounted wings providing incredible downforce while their enormous rear tires grab the sticky red-clay surface.
All five of the Raceway’s other divisions will also be in action. (It had been erroneously announced on Saturday that the WISSOTA Super Stocks would not be here for this event; the program has now been corrected to include the Supers.)
The grandstand gates and pits will open at 5 pm on Saturday, followed by hot laps at 6:30 and the first green flag of the night scheduled for 7 pm. 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.
Outlaw Wraps & Apparel WISSOTA Modifieds
Feature: 1-10: Brandon Copp, Brule; Cole Spacek, Phillips; Pat Cook, Washburn; Hunter Anderson, Phillips; Jeff Spacek, Phillips; Marcus Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Nick Oreskovich, Mason; Justin Weinberger, Elk Mound; Jake Hiatt, Mason; Bill Byholm, Glidden.
Heat 1: J Spacek; Cook; C Spacek; Copp; Dunbar.
Heat 2: Anderson; Weinberger; Hiatt; Oreskovich; Byholm.
Superior Floral WISSOTA Super Stocks
Feature: 1-10: Nick Oreskovich, Mason; Steve Stuart, Ashland; Andrew Mackey, Duluth, MN; Matt Deragon, Ashland; Patrick Beeksma, Ironwood, MI; DJ Keeler, Superior; Shawn McFadden, Ashland; Randy Graham, Trego; Don Livingston, Washburn; Paul Gucinski, Superior.
11-13: Aaron Mashlan, Ashland; Jake Nevala, Ashland; Rita Anderson, South Range.
Heat 1: Stuart; Oreskovich; Keeler; Mashlan; Gucinski; Nevala; McFadden.
Heat 2: Beeksma; Mackey; Deragon; Graham; Livingston; Anderson.
Harmony Wealth Management WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds
Feature: 1-10: George Dalbeck, Wakefield, MI; Paul Suzik, Ironwood, MI; Evan Checkalski, Duluth, MN; Marcus Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; James Vendela, South Range; Paul Ripley, Duluth, MN; Cory Jorgensen, Duluth, MN; Jesse Polson, Superior; Tanner Hicks, Ashland; Matt Jacobson, Bessemer, MI.
11-13: Ryan Barningham, Bayfield; Bryan Lund, Ashland; Jeremy Lindquist, Ashland.
Heat 1: Dalbeck; Suzik; Checkalski; Dunbar; Polson; Jacobson; Ripley.
Heat 2: Hicks; Vendela; Jorgensen; Barningham; Lund; Lindquist.
Patsy’s Bar & Grill WISSOTA Pure Stocks
Feature: 1-6: Aaron Bernick, Duluth, MN; Brent Mindock, Prentice; Jessie Treviranus, Poplar; Tom Treviranus, Hawthorne; Katlin Pritzl, Park Falls; Zene Anderson, Superior.
Heat: Bernick; T Treviranus; Anderson; Pritzl; J Treviranus; Mindock.
Lightning Storm Graphics ABC Six-Cylinders
Feature: 1-10: Shane Basina, Bayfield; Jakob Bond, Mason; Austin Olby, Ashland; Trenton Bond, Mason; Brad Hanson, Glidden; Mathew Rohlfing, Cable; Cody Eichmann, Park Falls; Cameron Bond, Mason; Alex Bond, Iron River; Bella Bretting, Washburn.
11: Dalton Truchon, Ashland.
Heat 1: Rohlfing; Anderson; Hanson; Basina.
Heat 2: Truchon; J Bond; T Bond; Olby; Bretting; A Bond.