Fans, Racers Celebrate Historic 2019 Season at ABC Raceway Banquet
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, January 10 — Over 200 racers, crews, fans, track employees and their family members attended Saturday’s Awards Banquet to officially close the book on the ABC Raceway’s 2019 stock car racing season at the Bad River Lodge, Casino & Convention Center in Odanah.
Following a buffet dinner, the top ten drivers in final points in each of the Raceway’s six weekly divisions were awarded trophies and banners marking their accomplishments. In addition, qualifying drivers were presented checks from a points fund that exceeded $8,100, and jackets have been ordered for the divisional champions.
In his pre-ceremony remarks, Raceway Board president Eric Erickson praised the champions and all drivers in attendance, and he thanked the race teams’ pit crews for their selfless efforts in helping the drivers prepare for each race night. He also expressed appreciation for the generosity of the many sponsors who support the historic facility, and he paid homage to the Raceway’s Board of Directors and staff of nearly 40 volunteers who work tirelessly to put race programs together at the venerable northern Wisconsin red-clay oval.
Erickson also presented commemorative plaques to longtime Raceway Board members Ray Stuart and Katie Stuart. Ray has filled a number of capacities over the past several years, most notably as the track’s flagman, while his daughter-in-law Katie worked as Raceway Board secretary for nearly ten years. Each had recently announced that they would be stepping away from their involvement with the organization for family and personal reasons.
Emcee and Raceway announcer Nick Gima commented on the historic significance of the 2019 season, noting the addition of the WISSOTA Hornets to the weekly program, the first-ever appearance by the nationally-touring World of Outlaws Late Model Series, and several driver-attained milestones. The top-ten in points in each division were then introduced to the large crowd in attendance.
Steve Stuart of Ashland joined an elite group of drivers at ABC by winning his sixth track championship in 2019 and third in the WISSOTA Modifieds. A last-lap pass of Jeff Spacek in the final turn of the final feature of the regular season gave Stuart a one-point edge in the final standings.
Stuart scored two feature wins during the season to move him into a tie for 12th on the Raceway’s all-time win list, and with his sixth title he joins Scott Lawrence, Don Copp, Spacek, Al Uotinen and Dean Yrjanainen in reaching that total.
Spacek, of Phillips, reached a milestone of his own during 2019 when the second of his two feature wins brought his career total at ABC to 60 – good for third-best all-time. Steve Lavasseur of River Falls won that finale-night feature to clinch third in the standings, while Washburn’s Pat Cook scored the tenth A-main win of his career en route to a fourth-place points finish. Neil Balduc of Bessemer, MI, also tallied a feature win and ended up fifth in the rankings.
Sixth through tenth in the “big Mods” were claimed by Tyler Luger of Oxford; Paul Suzik of Ironwood, MI; Uotinen of Superior; Paul Niznik of Medford; and Mason’s Jacob Hiatt.
Nick Oreskovich of Mason accepted his fourth WISSOTA Super Stock championship trophy in as many seasons, establishing the third-longest consecutive-title streak in Raceway history, behind Lawrence (11) and Copp (six).
Oreskovich used consistently strong nightly efforts to dominate much of the season’s points chase, with one feature win, eight other top-five runs, and no finish worse than ninth.
Cory Casari of Montreal was runner-up in the Supers, scoring two feature wins to bring career total here to 26. Rookie Kyle Copp of Brule was third in the final rundown, ahead of Ashland’s Matt Deragon and Andrew Mackey of Roseville, MN.
Shawn McFadden Jr of Ashland led the second five in Super Stock points, followed by Greg Kuklinski of Ironwood, MI; Aaron Mashlan of Ashland; and Ironwood racers Patrick Beeksma and Don Muzzy.
An enthusiastic George Dalbeck of Wakefield, MI, claimed the champion’s trophy for his efforts in the WISSOTA Midwest Modified division. The title is the second for Dalbeck, who also won here in 2011.
The veteran racer started the season with five feature wins over the first seven nights of racing, becoming the all-time leader in Mid-Mods wins at ABC with 18.
David Simpson of Thunder Bay, ON, became the highest-finishing Canadian driver in points in Raceway history with his second-place effort, while Marcus Dunbar of Wakefield, MI, used a strong second-half of the season to move into third. Brandon Copp of Brule tallied nine top-ten runs to secure fourth, and Justin Weinberger of Park Falls had seven top-tens on his way to a fifth-place showing.
Gunner Peterson of South Range; Ashland’s Ross Fuhrman; Bayfield’s Ryan Barningham; Bill Muhlig of Bessemer, MI; and Clay Passuello of Ironwood, MI, were sixth through tenth in Mid-Mod points in 2019.
Randy Graham of Trego made Raceway history by becoming the first driver to earn points championships in two different divisions in the ABC Raceway’s 55-year history. In the ABC Six-Cylinders, Graham scored five feature wins and five other second-place efforts in the 11 shows run for his first title in that division.
A win in the 2019 season finale helped Ashland’s Forrest Schultz capture a career-best runner-up finish in Sixes points, while DeJay Jarecki of Ashland scored five top-fives on the season and finished third in the standings. Ashland’s Jake Nevala (fourth) and Jonathan Popp of Iron River (fifth) also claimed career-best points rankings.
The second five in the Sixes consisted of Adam Traaholt of Ashland; Bubba Anderson of Trego; Ashland’s Jordan Pearce; Josh Saunders of Spooner; and Devin Dalbec of Ashland.
In the WISSOTA Pure Stocks, Graham was every bit as dominant in defending his 2018 crown. He collected four feature wins and never finished out of the top-three in a main event at Ashland, and his nine combined feature wins on the ‘19 season gives him 26 for his career here.
Weinberger, pulling double-duty last summer, matched Graham for Pure Stock wins with four to grab the runner-up trophy, and Brandle Pupp of Highbridge returned from taking a season off to secure third. Jeff Christman of South Range scored his ninth top-ten points finish in 12 full-time seasons at ABC by claiming fourth, and James Vendela of South Range chalked up three runner-up finishes in seven appearances in Ashland to land fifth in the standings.
Poplar’s Jason Simonson; Don Livingston of Washburn; Jesse Mudgett of Park Falls; Cory Jorgensen of Duluth, MN; and Dylan Shelton of Wrenshall, MN, completed the Pure Stock top ten.
Traveling over three hours each weekend to race in Ashland as well as in the Twin Ports area, Paul George of Princeton, MN, became the ABC Raceway’s first-ever Hornets track champion. George ran in nine of the ten scheduled shows for the class and gained two wins, four second-places and two thirds to post the historic achievement.
Three feature wins and six other top-three finishes helped Hunter McDougall of Duluth, MN, claim second place in Hornets points, with Mitch Kieber of Ironwood, MI, taking third thanks to top-10 runs in all ten shows completed at ABC last summer. Iron River’s Derek Dunbar used seven top-tens to rank a close fourth, and Neil Dees of Hurley used six top-ten efforts in eight appearances to land in fifth.
Jason Ronning of Ashland led the second five in final Hornets points, ahead of Duluth, MN, racers Dayna Marken and Paul Ripley; Shawn Young of Stone Lake; and Tate Niehaus of Alborn, MN.
Suzik (Mods), Kyle Copp (Supers), Mudgett (Pure Stocks) and Kieber (Hornets) were each named Rookies of the Year in their respective divisions for 2019; Copp was also the WISSOTA national Rookie of the Year in the Super Stocks.
Weinberger was awarded the Raceway’s Most Improved Driver award, and Deragon was honored as the track’s Sportsman of the Year.
Erickson also announced that his annual “Valuable Volunteer” award would be presented to Lynn Chingo, a member of the Raceway’s food concessions staff.
The ABC Raceway will begin its 56th season of operation under the direction of the Ashland-Bayfield County Racing Association in mid-May, with a 16-race schedule planned. The facility is located 3-1/2 miles south of Ashland on State Highway 13 and one mile west on Butterworth Road. For more information, log on to the track’s website, www.abcraceway.com.