Six More Inducted into ABC Raceway Hall of Fame
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, July 10 – The Ashland-Bayfield County Racing Association added six new members into its ABC Raceway Hall of Fame, during induction ceremonies at the Raceway on Saturday, July 9.
The inductees were selected from a large ballot of nominees presented to the Hall of Fame’s steering committee based on their accomplishments, commitment, contributions and dedication to the overall success of the Association and to the ABC Raceway throughout its 58-year history, as well as to short-track stock car racing throughout the Upper Midwest.
Two local businesses were added under the Contributors category, chosen specifically by the HoF committee for their direct contributions to the Raceway.
Ashland Construction Co made its mark for its willingness to help with a large number of maintenance and improvement projects at the track for over 25 years. Under the guidance of previous owner and avid race fan Bill Kacvinsky, who accepted the inductee’s plaque of recognition on its behalf, the local contractor often donated materials, equipment and services; annually purchased billboards for display in the track’s infield; and sponsored many race drivers over the years, doing so without recognition or fanfare.
Lake Nebagamon Redi-Mix, previously owned and operated by the Yrjanainen family, was also selected for its “behind the scenes” contributions to the facility, especially for some of its larger construction projects, including donating the concrete used for the construction of its restrooms and concession building. They delivered concrete nearly 30 miles from their plant to the track for various projects – often after-hours – but never asked for, nor expected, any recognition in return. They also contributed to local racing by sponsoring several racers over the years, especially for popular and successful Modified racer Dean Yrjanainen.
Three drivers were chosen for induction into the Class of 2022, based on their on-track accomplishments as well as their loyalty to the ABC Raceway and positive representation of area stock car racing.
Keane Laakson, who traveled from the Stone Lake area, raced at ABC from the mid-1990s until 2010, initially in the WISSOTA Super Stocks, where he won three features and finished top-10 in points three times, in 1999-2001, over a nine-year stretch. He switched to running WISSOTA Late Models in 2003 and competed in a number of special events here before retiring from the sport in 2010. Laakson struggled with health issues after that and passed away in July 2012 at a very young age, but he was known as a friendly, personable guy who always had time to visit. His former wife Sam accepted the induction plaque on Keane’s behalf.
Brady Smith, of Solon Springs, first raced here in a WISSOTA Street Stock in 1996, but he moved into a WISSOTA Super Stock the following year and finished in the top-five in points at ABC for four straight years, scoring track championships in 1998 and ’99 and winning the 1999 Red Clay Classic. In 2001 he became a full-time Late Model racer and tallied many prestigious wins and titles, including the 2003 Red Clay Classic here, a number of other local invitational wins, and victories and championships with several national Late Model touring series, including the World of Outlaws and Lucas Oil Series. At ABC he earned a total of 21 feature wins, 19 of which were in the Super Stocks.
Ken Truscott, who was known as a fan favorite, a strong competitor, and a classy gentleman, began hauling to race here from Greenwood, MI, in the early ‘90s as an infrequent visitor before making ABC his regular Saturday night track in 2000, finishing in the top-10 in the WISSOTA Super Stock standings 14 times over a 15-year stretch, including career-best fourth-place finishes in 2004, ’05 and ’13. He also scored six feature wins here, all in the Supers, but he may best be remembered for his amazing effort during the 2004 Red Clay Classic when, out of a field of 100 Supers, after a difficult heat race, he came from well back in both a C-feature and a B-feature to win and transfer to the A-main, where he came from the back row to finish fifth.
The lone inductee added under the Volunteers category (those who have provided a minimum of ten years of service to the organization and are recognized for their significant positive contributions and dedication to the organization’s success) is Lori Schmidt, who began her over 30 years of service working at the pit-entry gate at the young age of 22. Eventually she was elected to the Raceway’s Board of Directors, where she served for nearly 30 years, including as secretary for three years and as part of the Board’s financial auditing committee for seven years.
Inductees and their guests, along with past inductees, were treated to a luncheon earlier on Saturday afternoon at Zar’s Banquet Hall in Ashland before heading to the Raceway for the evening’s six-division race program. The formal induction ceremonies took place during intermission of the race program.
With the addition of the Class of 2022, the total number of members of the ABC Raceway Hall of Fame now stands at 73.