Van Natta, Mackey, Weinberger Score First-Ever Wins During ABC Fundraiser Night
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, July 11 — On a Saturday night at the ABC Raceway filled with fundraising and fireworks, Andrew Mackey won his first career feature, while Alex Van Natta and Justin Weinberger claimed their first-ever wins here in their respective divisions.
Enjoying another unseasonably warm northern Wisconsin evening, the large crowd contributed generously to the various fundraising programs for local charities during Northern Clearing Inc’s annual “Racing for a Reason” Community Celebration Night, presented by Little Caesar’s Pizza of Ashland. The fans were treated to free general grandstand admission for the six-division race program; donated through favorite-driver voting, lapel pin purchases, and other fundraising efforts; partook of a number of food and beverage specials offered; and stuck around afterwards for a tremendous fireworks and pyrotechnics display.
Mackey, a second-year, second-generation driver from Duluth, MN, kept well ahead of the fireworks going on behind him in the WISSOTA Super Stock feature. After a grinding crash on the back stretch that saw Nick Oreskovich turn sideways and collect Don Muzzy on the opening lap, Mackey started from the pole and led all 15 laps on the way to his landmark win.
The race stayed under green the rest of the way after the initial wreck, allowing Mackey to build a strong lead over the race-long battle for second between Oreskovich and Dave Flynn. Before mid-race Mackey’s cushion was already well over two seconds, while Flynn and Oreskovich swapped the runner-up spot practically with every lap. Eventually a hard-charging Steve Stuart joined the fray, making the dogfight for the position even more tense, but that just allowed Mackey to pull away even further.
By the time the sophomore driver took the checkers he was 3.1 seconds ahead of Flynn, who edged Oreskovich coming out of the final turn for second. Stuart was right on their tails, while Matt Deragon finished a distant fifth.
Van Natta’s first-ever win in the WISSOTA Modifieds was a bit more dramatic, and, perhaps, even more meaningful. On a night when one of the beneficiaries of the fundraising efforts was a local cancer charity, the Minocqua “big Mod” rookie explained in Victory Lane that his racing efforts in 2020 are due in large part to honor his three-year-old cousin, who is fighting leukemia.
Shane Kisling seemed to have things well in hand at the start of the 20-lap headliner, sprinting from the outside of the front row to lead the first 17 laps. The first half of the race was scored in non-stop fashion as Kisling pulled to a 1.27-second advantage over a multi-car scramble for second that included Paul Suzik, polestarter Tyler Vernon, Neil Balduc, and Jake Hiatt.
Brandon Copp’s lap 10 spin erased Kisling’s lead, and that was followed quickly by a Bill Byholm-Tyler Luger get-together. Van Natta, who had started outside on row 4, was in the top-five for that restart and passed a loose Suzik for fourth; he then moved outside on Vernon to take third and stole second from Balduc over laps 13 and 14.
Van Natta’s winning pass came via an inside move on Kisling just before Copp’s second spin with three laps remaining. As the field was forming up for the restart Vernon pulled his ride into the infield, after which Pat Cook’s pass of Kisling for second was negated by a Suzik spin. But Van Natta held on over the final sprint for his first win in Ashland since June 2012 in a WISSOTA Midwest Modified, 1.78 seconds ahead of 11th-starting Cole Spacek, who stole second from Kisling on the final lap. Cook and Hiatt completed the top five.
Weinberger, the former ABC Pure Stock champ from Butternut, finally added a long-overdue feature win in the Midwest Mods to the seven Pure Stock victories he has earned on Ashland’s red-clay oval. He started on the pole, was turned around by Tanner Hicks before the first lap was completed, restarted up front and never looked back.
The 20-lapper went green-to-checkered after the initial incident, and it took just six laps for Weinberger to draw away to a 1.4-second lead. Runner-up Ross Fuhrman was safely ahead of a fierce battle for third, where Jimmy Latvala had his hands full trying to fend off Duane Dunbar, Vernon, Jack Rivord and Marcus Dunbar.
Duane Dunbar finally got the better of Latvala on lap 7, but his son Marcus followed him to fourth and immediately put the pressure on. It took until lap 13 for the junior Dunbar to finally overtake his dad, but the lead pair were just too far ahead to catch without the help of a caution flag. Weinberger beat Fuhrman by a full three seconds, while the younger Dunbar, Vernon and Latvala trailed at a distance.
After the WISSOTA Pure Stock A-main, Jared Akervik of Superior exclaimed in Victory Lane that ABC was his favorite racetrack. He had good reason to feel that way, as he dominated the non-stop ten-lap run.
Akervik used a strong move to take the lead away from rookie polestarter Tanner Gehl before lap 1 was completed, and from there the leader sped away. On lap 2 Cory Jorgensen slipped low, Randy Graham went high, and Gehl was caught in the middle of a three-wide pass for second, which eventually was claimed by Graham. Jorgensen challenged Graham for several laps, using the upper groove of the wide three-eighths-mile oval, but a miscalculation resulted in Jorgensen hitting the turn 3 guardrail with three laps remaining, dropping him out of touch with Graham.
Akervik won his second feature here, and fifth of his career at ABC, by nearly four full seconds over Graham. Gehl overtook Jorgensen in the closing laps, and visiting Casey Hartshorn claimed fifth.
Three-time ABC Six-Cylinder champion Tiffany Hudack of Ashland made her first run of the season a successful one, surviving threats from Graham to win both that division’s heat race and her 20th career feature.
The 12-lap main event started with a Dalton Truchon spin that collected Mathew Rohlfing, taking out two of the nine starters before a lap was scored. Hudack worked her way by polestarter Jordan Pearce after a couple of laps under green, while Graham, whose car broke in the heat to end a ten-race winning streak, charged around the high side from the last starting spot on the grid to take second on lap 3.
After a slowdown for Josh Saunders’ stalled ride on lap 5, Graham drew alongside Hudack to challenge for the lead, while on consecutive laps the cars of first-nighter Trenton Bond and rookie Dominic Hmielewski dropped out. Then, on lap 8, Graham’s car slowed drastically, leaving Hudack needing to outrun just Pearce and Forrest Schultz over the remaining four laps, which she did to a two-second margin of victory.
To cap off the on-track action, Ashland’s DeJay Jarecki held off AJ House to collect his second WISSOTA Hornet feature win of the season. Over the non-stop ten-lap run, polestarter Jarecki led flag-to-flag, while House, who started on the third row, needed a couple of early laps to get by Derek Ament into second.
The lead pair steadily pulled away to decide the outcome, while Ament settled back into a dandy three-car skirmish for third with Hunter McDougall and Caleb Decker. With four laps remaining Decker worked his way by the others for the spot, but McDougall fought back to take the position during the next circuit.
Jarecki edged House by not much more than a couple of car-lengths, while Decker overtook McDougall on the final lap for third. Ament held firm to fifth.
Feature fast laps were recorded by Kisling in the Mods (17.249 secs; 78.265 mph); Mackey in the Supers (17.382; 77.667); Weinberger in the Mid-Mods (17.443; 77.395); Akervik in the Pure Stocks (19.107; 70.655); and Graham in the Sixes (18.422; 73.282).
On Saturday, July 18, the ABC Raceway will host the rescheduled first round of the three-race Ashland Ford-Chrysler Center Summer Series for the Midwest Mods. That first race, sponsored by the Safari Tavern of Ashland, will pay $1,500 to the winner of the Mid-Mod feature, thanks in large part to a significant purse contribution by Zeilie’s Tree Service of Ashland.
The WISSOTA Super Stocks will have the night off. The pit gates will open at 4:30 pm and the grandstands will be open at 5, with hot laps set for 6:15 and green-flag racing scheduled for 7 pm. Adult grandstand admission tickets are just $11 per person, either at the gate or online via www.myracepass.com, and kids ages 12 and under are admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult. Ten-race punch passes are also available at the Raceway’s ticket window on race nights, and advance pit passes are also available online.
“Race Night” will air on WBSZ, 93.3 FM, as well as online at www.wbszfm.com, from 4:30 until 6 pm with the latest news and weather information from the track.
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, log on to the track’s website, www.abcraceway.com, or check out the track’s FaceBook page.
Feature: 1-10: Alex Van Natta, Minocqua; Cole Spacek, Phillips; Shane Kisling, Butternut; Pat Cook, Washburn; Jake Hiatt, Mason; Paul Niznik, Medford; Bill Byholm, Glidden; Neil Balduc, Bessemer, MI; Kelly Checkalski, Poplar; Al Uotinen, Superior.
11-17: Tyler Luger, Oxford; Donnie Lofdahl, Duluth, MN; Todd Gehl, Solon Springs; Paul Suzik, Ironwood, MI; Tyler Vernon, Ashland; Brandon Copp, Brule; Andy Jones, Princeton, MN.
Heat 1: Lofdahl; Van Natta; Vernon; Copp; Cook; Spacek; Uotinen; Luger; Checkalski.
Heat 2: Suzik; Balduc; Hiatt; Kisling; Niznik; Byholm; Gehl; Jones.
WISSOTA SUPER STOCKS
Feature: 1-9: Andrew Mackey, Duluth, MN; Dave Flynn, Superior; Nick Oreskovich, Mason; Steve Stuart, Ashland; Matt Deragon, Ashland; Cory Casari, Montreal; Shawn McFadden Jr, Ashland; Don Muzzy, Ironwood, MI; Aaron Mashlan, Ashland.
Heat: Flynn; Oreskovich; McFadden; Casari; Mackey; Deragon; Stuart; Muzzy; Mashlan.
WISSOTA MIDWEST MODIFIEDS
Feature: 1-10: Justin Weinberger, Butternut; Ross Fuhrman, Ashland; Marcus Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Tyler Vernon, Ashland; Jimmy Latvala, Solon Springs; Brady Uotinen, Superior; Duane Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Jack Rivord, Superior; Tanner Hicks, Ashland; Gunner Peterson, South Range.
11-15: Tyler Hudack, Ashland; Guy Carley, Eagle River; John Darwin, Iron River; Diamond Bressette, Spooner; Ryan Barningham, Bayfield.
Heat 1: Weinberger; Fuhrman; Hicks; Rivord; Peterson; Darwin; Barningham; Bressette.
Heat 2: Latvala; Vernon; M Dunbar; D Dunbar; Uotinen; Hudack; Carley.
WISSOTA PURE STOCKS
Feature: 1-6: Jared Akervik, Superior; Randy Graham, Trego; Tanner Gehl, Solon Springs; Cory Jorgensen, Duluth, MN; Casey Hartshorn, Duluth, MN; RJ Holly, Marengo.
Heat: Jorgensen; Akervik; Graham; Gehl; Hartshorn; Aaron Bernick, Duluth, MN; Holly.
Feature: 1-9: Tiffany Hudack, Ashland; Jordan Pearce, Ashland; Forrest Schultz, Ashland; Randy Graham, Trego; Dominic Hmielewski, Marengo; Trenton Bond, Mason; Joshua Saunders, Spooner; Mathew Rohlfing, Cable; Dalton Truchon, Ashland.
Heat: Hudack; Truchon; Saunders; Pearce; Schultz; Hmielewski; Rohlfing; Bond; Graham.
Feature: 1-8: DeJay Jarecki, Ashland; AJ House, Cloquet, MN; Caleb Decker, Mahtowa, MN; Hunter McDougall, Duluth, MN; Derek Ament, Barnum, MN; Josh Rowe, Duluth, MN; Cully Butterfield, Trego; Jake Wammer, Ashland.
Heat: House; Jarecki; Ament; Decker; McDougall; Butterfield; Wammer; Rowe; Mitch Kieber, Ironwood, MI.