First-Time Winners Shine on ABC Raceway Fundraiser Night
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, July 24 – Paul Schultz of Grand Rapids, MN, led flag-to-flag to score his first-ever Northern Renegades Traditional Sprints feature win at the ABC Raceway to cap off a very special Saturday night race program.
The “Racing for a Reason” event, presented by Northern Clearing Inc of Ashland with help from Beard Oil Distributing of Mt Pleasant, MI; White River Ag Products of Mason; Country Corner Equipment of Ashland; and Windy Acre Farms of Ashland, provided the capacity crowd on hand many opportunities to contribute to fundraising efforts through button and pin sales, favorite driver votes, candy sales and more, with proceeds to be presented to the local American Cancer Society programs as well as The Brick Ministries, the Chequamegon Bay area’s charitable food pantry.
Fans also got to meet up-and-coming NASCAR star Noah Gragson, who drives for Dale Earnhardt Jr’s Xfinity Series race team. Gragson’s Beard Oil-sponsored NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series race car was on display, Gragson signed autographs and visited with the crowd, and later he ran his first-ever laps in a sprint car, courtesy of Northern Renegades Series owner Caley Emerson.
Also part of the fundraising fun was a grudge match between WISSOTA Modified driver Brandon Copp and Joe Burch, who drives a non-sanctioned Mod sponsored by Beard Oil and competed here on this night. Northern Clearing CEO Richard Vernon and Beard Oil vice-president Karl Schwartz staged a friendly “wager” of $1,000, each betting on their sponsored driver, with the funds donated toward the Cancer Society collection.
Schultz benefitted from an outside-front-row start, replacing Tyler Wass after his car failed during the parade laps, and he shot around polestarter Corey Olson to set the pace, a task he did not relinquish throughout the 15-lapper. Chris Lewis, who won here in the Renegades’ last visit in late June, followed Schultz around Olson to second, and Ken Hron copied the move to claim third before the end of the first lap.
Schultz and Lewis drew away from the field over the course of the non-stop run, while Hron battled with Lance Solem and Emerson, eventually losing third to Solem. Lewis stayed within a half-second of the leader until the waning laps, when Schultz used slower traffic to pull away to a full-second final margin of victory – his first at ABC since an August 2002 win here in a WISSOTA Super Stock.
Solem, Hron and Emerson completed the top five in close formation. In heat race action earlier in the program, Solem’s car got loose and made contact with Hron’s, causing Solem’s car to roll over. Both drivers were okay, and after all six other Renegades race teams pitched in to help make repairs, Solem was able to start the feature and enjoy a strong run.
Two other drivers captured their first-ever feature wins on Ashland’s red-clay oval. In the WISSOTA Pure Stocks, Dylan Shelton of Wrenshall, MN, started from the pole and led from green to checkered to finally score what had been an elusive first win here.
After a scary three-car spin on the back straight on the opening lap, Shelton and Cory Jorgensen slipped past RJ Holly to grab the top two spots, with Aaron Bernick diving low to get by Holly and first-nighter Steve Pohl a lap later for third. The field settled into a steady running order and, without another yellow flag to slow the pace, ran the last seven of the ten scheduled laps without change.
Shelton pulled away from Jorgensen to take the checkers here by several lengths, with Bernick and Pohl a distant third and fourth. Holly’s night ended early with mechanical woes but he still received credit for fifth and maintains the divisional points lead.
Also getting that long-awaited first-ever win was Ashland’s Jake Nevala, who took advantage of another driver’s misfortune for the ABC Six-Cylinders feature checkers. In what turned into another non-stop A-main, Nevala started on the pole but was overtaken by Shane Basina and Dennis Groom at the drop of the green. Nevala fought back and eventually retook second on lap 3, then set out to catch the leader.
Basina maintained about a two-length buffer as the laps clicked off, while Groom battled with Dalton Truchon for third a good distance back. With three laps to go Truchon finally won that fight, but Basina and Nevala were too far ahead to challenge.
However, Basina suffered the worst heartbreak of the night when, coming through turn 4 with the white flag in the air, he lost control and spun, giving up the lead to Nevala, who led the final lap for the first feature win of his seven-year career. Truchon also saw a great run ruined by a flat tire on the final lap, giving up second to Groom, who took over the division’s points lead, while Mathew Rohlfing, rookie Austin Olby and Trenton Bond also sped by to complete the top five.
Copp, who had won his heat race and the “grudge match,” scored the rare trifecta at ABC with his second WISSOTA Modified feature win of the season. With scheduled polestarter Anthony Forfa III opting to start the 20-lap A-main at the tail of the field, Copp took full advantage in replacing him at the pole and ran away from the field.
It took a couple of laps for points leader Cole Spacek to clear a determined Rick Rivord for second, but by the time he did on lap 3, Copp already had built a commanding 1.8-second advantage. Spacek gave up second to Rivord on lap 4 but earned it back on lap 5 and stayed there throughout the balance of the caution-free run. Rivord pulled off the track with mechanical issued just before mid-race, giving way to a great three-car battle between Jeff Spacek, Paul Niznik and Pat Cook for third.
Copp maintained his dominance through to the checkers, ending up with a 6.9-second margin at the stripe – more than a full straightaway. Cole Spacek finished well ahead of his father Jeff in second, as the six-time track champ edged Niznik for third, and Cook finished a close fifth.
The WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds saw one caution stop at the very beginning of their 20-lap feature, and another one with two laps to go, but in between Marcus Dunbar of Marenisco, MI, dominated the event for his second win of the season.
Polestarter Matt Jacobson looped his ride in front of the entire field in the first corner to bring about the first stoppage, but Dunbar, the track’s defending Mid-Mods champ, used the fast, smooth red-clay surface to pull away from Paul Suzik by a significant margin. Behind Suzik, an exciting dogfight ensued as Dalton Mains worked to fend off challenges from Marcus’ father Duane Dunbar, divisional points leader Tyler Vernon, and Tanner Hicks, among others.
By lap 7 the younger Dunbar had built his lead to nearly two full seconds, and at mid-race he was contending with drivers at the tail-end of the field, but he weaved his way through with ease and continued to increase his advantage. Dunbar was a full 2.5 seconds up on Suzik when Diamond Bressette spun after the leader took the white flag. The field was reset for a green-white-checkered finish with Suzik and Vernon restarting on Dunbar’s rear bumper, but Dunbar was up to the task and held on by three-quarters of a second.
Suzik edged Vernon for second, and Mains finished fourth just ahead of a charging Hicks.
DeJay Jarecki extended his winning streak in the WISSOTA Hornets to seven straight feature wins, although some friendly “bounties” posted made his job a bit tougher on this night. Jarecki started inside on the second row of the eight-lap run and followed his “spare” car, once again driven by Sixes pilot Basina to second place in the early stages.
After following for a couple of laps, Jarecki moved by Basina for the lead but didn’t pull away as much as he had in recent weeks. Eventually Jarecki gained a half-dozen lengths as he claimed his 11th career feature win – all coming within the past season-and-a-half since moving into the division from the Sixes – while Basina stayed as close as he could as runner-up. Brandon Hummelmeier made a strong late charge but came up short in third, ahead of Derek Dunbar and long-haul traveler Deacon Pratt.
Despite an overnight thunderstorm that dropped heavy rains in the area early Saturday morning, the track prep crews were able to provide a smooth, slick track that produced lots of side-by-side and often three-wide racing. Fast lap times in the features were posted by Lewis in the Renegades (18.115 seconds; 74.524 mph), Copp in the Modifieds (17.138; 78.772), and Marcus Dunbar in the Mid-Mods (17.643; 76.518).
The ABC Raceway will host two more very special nights of racing over the upcoming week. On Thursday, July 29, the track will host “The 444 Memorial,” to be held in honor of Tanner Byholm, a popular young local Modified driver who tragically lost his life in an aircraft accident in February. The WISSOTA Late Model Challenge Series will compete here for a feature paying $3,444 to win and at least $344 to start, while the WISSOTA Modifieds will run for $2,444 to win, and the WISSOTA Midwest Mod feature will pay $1,044 to win.
Then, on Saturday, July 31, the Raceway will be the site of the sixth race of the seven-race FastLane Motorsports Northland Super Stock Series, to be presented by the Bad River Lodge, Casino & Convention Center of Odanah. Over 30 Super Stock stars from throughout the area are expected to compete for a share of the Series’ over $30,000 in purse and prizes. The Modifieds will be off on Saturday, but the Raceway’s other five weekly divisions will be in action.
For both nights, the pits will open at 4:30 pm, the grandstand gates will open at 5 pm, hot laps will start at 6:15, and the first green flag of each night will fly at 7 pm. WSBZ, 93.3 FM, will air updates from 4:30-6 pm each night, 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.
Northern Renegades Traditional Sprints
Feature: 1-7: Paul Schultz, Grand Rapids, MN; Chris Lewis, Grand Rapids, MN; Lance Solem, Duluth, MN; Ken Hron, Grand Rapids, MN; Caley Emerson, Grand Rapids, MN; Corey Olson, Duluth, MN; Tyler Wass, Big Fork, MN.
Heat: Emerson; Lewis; Schultz; Hron; Wass; Olson; Solem.
Feature: 1-9: Brandon Copp, Brule; Cole Spacek, Phillips; Jeff Spacek, Phillips; Paul Niznik, Medford; Pat Cook, Washburn; Jake Hiatt, Mason; Anthony Forfa III, Blythe, CA; Rick Rivord, Superior; Shane Kisling, Butternut.
Heat 1: Copp; C Spacek; Niznik; Cook; Joe Burch, Mt Pleasant, MI; Hiatt.
Heat 2: J Spacek; Rivord; Kisling; Forfa.
WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds
Feature: 1-10: Marcus Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Paul Suzik, Ironwood, MI; Tyler Vernon, Mason; Tanner Hicks, Ashland; Dalton Mains, Foxboro; Paul Niznik, Medford; Duane Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Jack Rivord, Superior; James Vendela, South Range; Jesse Aho, Toivola, MI.
11-17: Tanner Gehl, Solon Springs; Ryan Barningham, Bayfield; Mitch Kieber, Ironwood, MI; Neil Dees, Hurley; Diamond Bressette, Spooner; Anthony Forfa Jr, Phillips; Matt Jacobson, Bessemer, MI.
Heat 1: Suzik; Mains; Rivord; Barningham; Gehl; Bressette.
Heat 2: M Dunbar; Vernon; D Dunbar; Vendela; Kieber; Dees.
Heat 3: Jacobson; Aho; Hicks; Niznik; Forfa.
WISSOTA Pure Stocks
Feature: 1-6: Dylan Shelton, Wrenshall, MN; Cory Jorgensen, Duluth, MN; Aaron Bernick, Duluth, MN; Steve Pohl, Manitowish Waters; RJ Holly, Marengo; Zene Anderson, Superior.
Heat: Jorgensen; Shelton; Holly; Bernick; Pohl; Anderson.
Feature: 1-8: Jake Nevala, Ashland; Dennis Groom, Ashland; Mathew Rohlfing, Cable; Austin Olby, Marengo; Trenton Bond, Mason; Shane Basina, Bayfield; Dalton Truchon, Ashland; Dale Coddington, Hayward.
Heat: Coddington; Truchon; Groom; Nevala; Basina; Rohlfing; T Bond; Olby; J Bond, Mason.
Feature: 1-5: DeJay Jarecki, Ashland; Shane Basina, Bayfield; Brandon Hummelmeier, Ashland; Derek Dunbar, Iron River; Deacon Pratt, Aurora, MN.
Heat: Jarecki; Basina; Dunbar; Pratt; Hummelmeier.