Copp, Oreskovich, Inman Earn Race of Champions Qualifier Berths at ABC
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, June 18 – Brandon Copp continued his winning ways, Nick Oreskovich returned to Victory Lane for the first time in two seasons, and Andrew Inman won his first-ever feature in Ashland.
With their wins at the ABC Raceway during Saturday night’s race program, presented by the Safari Tavern of Ashland, these three drivers gained invitations to compete in the prestigious Afco Shocks Race of Champions, to be held as part of the Speedway Motors WISSOTA 100 weekend in mid-September at the I-94 Speedway in Fergus Falls, MN.
Travis Hazelton, Dennis Groom and DeJay Jarecki also picked up feature wins during the 18-race program, which was completed by 10 pm on a cool, overcast evening.
Copp, of Brule, started the 20-lap Outlaw Wraps & Apparel WISSOTA Modified feature on the inside of row 2 behind Todd Gehl and Alex Van Natta, and he followed the father-and-son combination of Jeff and Cole Spacek through early traffic into fourth, as Van Natta rode the rim around the three-eighths-mile oval to hold the lead. The Spacek boys battled side-by-side for the early third of the race, allowing Van Natta to pull away to a margin of more than half a second.
Cole Spacek finally gained the edge on his dad on lap 7 and began chipping away at the leader’s cushion, while Jeff fell back into a fierce battle with Copp and Jody Bellefeuille. It took until lap 11 – when Canadian visitor Colin Chaschuk spun in turn 2 – for the Mods to see their first yellow flag in a feature in 2022 at Ashland – a total of 71 circuits. Tyler Luger got punted into the infield to quickly bring out the second caution stoppage of the season for the Mods, but over the final nine laps the race stayed under green.
Cole Spacek slipped inside on the high-flying Van Natta to take the lead on the latter restart, and Copp and Van Natta exchanged slide-jobs before Copp gained control of second on lap 13. From there Spacek and Copp – a pair of second-generation drivers whose dads spent many laps battling each other on Ashland’s red clay – raced side-by-side during the waning laps until Copp edged ahead while taking the white flag and hung on for a .380-second margin of victory.
Jeff Spacek, Bellefeuille and Van Natta competed the top five a fair distance back.
A three-car tangle spoiled the start of the 20-lap WISSOTA Super Stock feature, and after one green-flag lap was completed two more cars got together, as this race struggled to stay green until after its midpoint. Traffic was heavy behind early leader Matt Deragon, who held his car right to the lowest possible groove on the track and paced the first five laps.
The sixth-starting Oreskovich, the former four-time track champion from Mason, quickly picked his way to the front, grabbing second from Shawn McFadden on lap 2 just prior to Patrick Beeksma’s spin a circuit later. Oreskovich used the restart to set up outside on Deragon and, using high-side momentum, eventually swept around the leader within three laps.
Three successive stoppages on lap 8 kept the field close, but after that Oreskovich set sail as Deragon had his hands full fending off a determined Terran Spacek. Oreskovich led by 3.3 seconds at the checkers to pick up his first feature win at ABC since late June 2020, with Spacek finally clearing Deragon for second with two laps left. Steve Stuart battled heavy traffic throughout the run before gaining fourth late, and Beeksma finished a strong fifth.
Inman opted to make a rare appearance at Ashland after his primary Saturday-night option cancelled due to potentially wet weather, and his decision paid off in dramatic fashion. The Canyon, MN, pilot started the 20-lap WISSOTA Midwest Modified A-main on the pole and led until just beyond the race’s midpoint, then took advantage of late-race cautions to steal his historic win.
As the first six laps clicked off non-stop, there was plenty going on just behind Inman. Over successive laps, Duane Dunbar, Brady Uotinen and Marcus Dunbar all got by the high-groove-running James Vendela, who had started beside Inman but fell back quickly. After a lap 6 spin to bring out the race’s first yellow flag, and another on the ensuing restart, Marcus Dunbar slipped low on his dad Duane to take away second.
Within three laps the junior Dunbar was threatening Inman for the lead, and he made an inside pass stick on lap 12, although Inman, Uotinen and Duane Dunbar stayed in tight formation behind him. The running order stayed this way until a Kolby Reed spin with two laps left set up a green-white-checkered finish.
Uotinen made a strong move to drive past Inman and pull alongside Marcus Dunbar just after taking the white, but Tanner Gehl’s spin drew the yellow bunting, and officials deemed that the white-flag lap had not been completed by the field. So, on the second two-lap sprint to the finish, Inman kept Uotinen behind him and drew up alongside Dunbar. Coming off of turn 4 for the final time, Inman got just enough of a run off the banking to come home ahead of Dunbar at the stripe by 85 one-thousandths of a second – barely the thickness of his front bumper.
Uotinen, Dalton Mains and Duane Dunbar completed the close-knit top-five. Mains, who started tenth, received a “hard-charger” bonus complements of fellow Mid-Mod driver Tanner Hicks, whose car was significantly damaged during his roll-over here the previous weekend.
Hazelton, of Chippewa Falls, made the long haul north to overcome his struggles from last week’s WISSOTA Pure Stock outing here, leading every lap to dominate this night’s ten-lap main event. Starting outside on the front row, Hazelton outran polestarter Brandle Pupp, who was racing for the first time since 2019, and never looked back for his first career feature win here.
The red-hot Cory Jorgensen, who came into the weekend with nine feature wins over the first seven weeks of the season locally, struggled to get through the tight pack of cars debating second place, as Aaron Bernick got by Jorgensen just a couple of laps in to claim second, and Tyler Kachinske followed Bernick into third. However, Jorgensen kept close to those two and eventually worked inside to pass them both back on lap 6.
As the laps ran out Hazelton was too far gone – a full ten car-lengths out front as he crossed under the checkers. Behind runner-up Jorgensen were Kachinske, Bernick and Pupp, who was driving defending track champ RJ Holly’s car on this night.
Groom, the Raceway’s defending champ from Ashland, beat rookie Jacob Johnson to the first corner after the drop of the green flag in the ABC Six-Cylinder feature and withstood a couple of early threats from Dalton Truchon before pulling away to his second feature win of the season. Groom and Truchon hooked up to draw away from a great early battle for third between Austin Olby and Johnson, and as the green flag stayed out Groom benefitted by inching further and further away.
Groom’s lead was nearly a second-and-a-half when the fourth-running Olby looped his ride with 8 of the 15 laps remaining, putting Truchon right on Groom’s back bumper for the restart. But the leader was up to the challenge, running a smooth line and accelerating away to a final margin of victory of over two-and-a-quarter seconds. Mathew Rohlfing earned his second consecutive third-place paycheck, and Johnson just nipped Jake Nevala for fourth.
Jarecki, the defending Lightning Storm Graphics WISSOTA Hornets champ from Ashland, wasn’t the only one to hit the track for his feature on this night, as he had the previous week, but he still outran another former ABC Hornets champ in Paul George for the win.
Jarecki had to start behind polestarter George for the eight-lap program finale, but he quickly moved alongside and, just after a lap was completed, grabbed the lead. From there the only thing in doubt was the margin of victory – until Brandon Hummelmeier’s car completely stopped in the middle of the back straight with two laps left. Jarecki held serve for the final two laps for the 16th Hornets win of his career at ABC, with George a healthy distance back.
Next Saturday night, Northern Clearing Inc of Ashland will present its “Racing for a Reason” event, a fundraiser intended to benefit local charities. Fans entering the track through the main grandstand gate will be allowed free admission, there will be a number of fundraising activities taking place, and fans are welcome to donate goodwill offerings which will be designated directly to the charities.
On the track, the Raceway will host its popular annual “Meet the Drivers” session prior to the first green flag, and the Northern Renegades traditional sprint cars will make the first of its two visits of the season, creating a seven-division program. During the race night, fans can sign up for rides in the ABC Raceway’s new two-seater Modified, with the rides taking place following the features.
The grandstand gates and pits will open at 5 pm and hot laps will be run at 6:15, followed by the meet-and-greet session, with heat-race action scheduled for shortly after 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.
Feature: 1-10: Brandon Copp, Brule; Cole Spacek, Phillips; Jeff Spacek, Phillips; Jody Bellefeuille, Carlton, MN; Alex Van Natta, Minocqua; Jake Hiatt, Mason; Rick Rivord, Superior; Jack Rivord, Superior; Paul Niznik, Medford; Tyler Luger, Oxford.
11-15: Al Uotinen, Superior; Hunter Anderson, Phillips; Colin Chaschuk, Neebing, ON; Todd Gehl, Solon Springs; Mike Klippenstein, Proctor, MN.
Heat 1: Gehl; Copp; C Spacek; R Rivord; Chaschuk; Uotinen; Anderson; Klippenstein.
Heat 2: Bellefeuille; Hiatt; Van Natta; J Spacek; Luger; J Rivord; Niznik.
WISSOTA Super Stocks
Feature: 1-10: Nick Oreskovich, Mason; Terran Spacek, Phillips; Matt Deragon, Ashland; Steve Stuart, Ashland; Patrick Beeksma, Ironwood, MI; Kyle Copp, Brule; Scott Lawrence, Superior; Shawn McFadden, Ashland; Jake Froemke, International Falls, MN; Randy Graham, Trego.
11-18: Don Livingston, Washburn; Myron Basina, Bayfield; Aaron Mashlan, Ashland; Rita Anderson, South Range; Jeff Eisner Jr, Merrill; Cory Casari, Montreal; John Garrity, Thunder Bay, ON; Andrew Mackey, Duluth, MN.
Heat 1: Stuart; Spacek; Oreskovich; Lawrence; Eisner; Livingston.
Heat 2: McFadden; Graham; Froemke; Anderson; Basina; Casari.
Heat 3: Beeksma; Deragon; Copp; Mackey; Mashlan; Garrity.
WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds
Feature: 1-10: Andrew Inman, Canyon, MN; Marcus Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Brady Uotinen, Superior; Dalton Mains, Foxboro; Duane Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Tanner Gehl, Solon Springs; Dylan Miller, Hibbing, MN; James Vendela, South Range; Austin Blom, Saginaw, MN; Ryan Barningham, Bayfield.
11-20: Jesse Aho, Twin Lakes, MI; Sean O’Brien, Manitowish Waters; Evan Checkalski, Duluth, MN; Paul Suzik, Ironwood, MI; Ross Fuhrman, Ashland; Jimmy Latvala, Solon Springs; Mitch Kieber, Ironwood, MI; Warren Bartelt, Medford; Jesse Polson, Superior; Kolby Reed, Thunder Bay, ON.
21: Diamond Bressette, Spooner.
Heat 1: Uotinen; Inman; D Dunbar; Mains; Blom; Bressette; Reed.
Heat 2: Vendela; Miller; Polson; Suzik; Kieber; Checkalski; Bartelt.
Heat 3: M Dunbar; Gehl; Barningham; Aho; O’Brien; Latvala; Fuhrman.
WISSOTA Pure Stocks
Feature: 1-6: Travis Hazelton, Chippewa Falls; Cory Jorgensen, Duluth, MN; Tyler Kachinske, Duluth, MN; Aaron Bernick, Duluth, MN; Brandle Pupp, Highbridge; Nicholas Hazelton, Chippewa Falls.
Heat: T Hazelton; Jorgensen; Bernick; Pupp; Kachinske; N Hazelton.
Feature: 1-9: Dennis Groom, Ashland; Dalton Truchon, Ashland; Mathew Rohlfing, Cable; Jacob Johnson, Cable; Jake Nevala, Ashland; Jakob Bond, Mason; Shane Basina, Bayfield; Austin Olby, Marengo; Julian Root, Ashland.
Heat 1: Basina; J Bond; Rohlfing; Johnson; Trenton Bond, Mason; Bubba Anderson, Trego.
Heat 2: Truchon; Nevala; Groom; Olby; Root.
Feature: 1-3: DeJay Jarecki, Ashland; Paul George, Princeton, MN; Brandon Hummelmeier, Ashland.
Heat: Jarecki; George; Hummelmeier.