Jarecki Takes First Feature Win on ABC Raceway Opening Night
Cook, Flynn, Vernon, Akervik, Graham also score
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, May 30 — Despite the chaos and concerns that the coronavirus pandemic has caused in recent weeks, the ABC Raceway opened its 56th stock car racing season in front of a great turnout on Saturday night.
During the program, presented by the Northern State Bank of Ashland, the big crowd watched 79 entries take to the historic three-eighths-mile red-clay oval in six divisions, and by the end of the night one veteran local driver had scored his first career feature win and two past track champs also kicked off their 2020 seasons here in winning fashion.
Ashland’s DeJay Jarecki, who had become a local favorite over his 12 seasons in the Raceway’s Six-Cylinder division, made the move into a WISSOTA Hornet for the new season, and his decision has already paid a dividend, as he earned the first-ever feature win of his career on Saturday. Jarecki started outside on the front row and grabbed the initial lead, bringing Hunter McGougall and AJ House in tow to second and third before Josh Johnson Jr’s spin brought about an early caution stop.
The order up front remained the same for the first half of the race, despite the field staying tight due to stoppages for spins by first-time visitors Harry Ruikka on lap 3 and Brady Albertson on lap 6. But during the second half of the 12-lapper Derek Ament and Kaleb Ruikka became serious contenders for the win, with Ament stealing second on the lap 6 restart, only to lose it back to House a circuit later. Ament tried to take it back with two to go, but House prevailed for runner-up honors while staying tight on Jarecki’s trunklid over the closing laps.
Jarecki celebrated the landmark win with family and friends in Victory Lane after the race, as House, Kaleb Ruikka, Ament and McDougall completed the top five.
During earlier Hornet heat race action, Jason Ronning took a wild three-turn barrel-roll in turn 4 while battling for a top-three position. Ronning was unhurt but unable to start the feature due to the damage to his car.
Tyler Vernon, the 2017 ABC Raceway WISSOTA Midwest Modified champion from Ashland, sent a signal to his fellow competitors that he could be tough to beat this season, taking the early lead in the Mid-Mod main event on Saturday and running away to his eighth career feature win here and fifth in this division.
Vernon who started outside on row 2, waited patiently through four frustrating attempts to start the 20-lap race, but on that last attempt he used an inside move to get by Ross Fuhrman to find himself in second behind polestarter and first-time visitor Justin Jones. Two laps later Vernon used the inside line again to take the lead from Jones and, after one last yellow flag for debris on lap 3, led the field the rest of the way.
With no further delays in the run, Vernon was able to stretch his lead to over a second, while Jones stayed firmly entrenched in second. Fuhrman lost third to Marcus Dunbar shortly after the last restart but was solidly ahead of visiting Dan Wheeler, who spent much of the last half of the run fending off Tanner Hicks.
Vernon crossed under the checkers 1.5 seconds ahead of Jones, whose car failed a post-race technical inspection. Dunbar was moved to second, with Fuhrman third, Wheeler fourth and Hicks fifth in the final rundown.
Despite a thin field of ABC Six-Cylinders, defending track champ Randy Graham of Trego continued his winning ways by picking up that division’s opening-night feature win – but it was certainly not a cakewalk. Graham started on the pole and led every lap but one, as Forrest Schultz swiped second from Dalton Truchon after two laps had been scored and challenged the champ throughout the 12-lap run.
Truchon, running alone in third, looped his ride with three laps remaining and was pushed to the pits. Joshua Saunders would have inherited third for the re-do, but he left the track with a flat during the yellow, ending his night. Schultz surprised Graham with a strong run off of turn 4 after the restart and nosed ahead at the line to lead lap 10, but Graham charged back to take the lead for good a half-lap later, just a couple of car-lengths ahead of Schultz at the final stripe. Second-year man Mathew Rohlfing and first-nighter Dominic Hmielewski were the only others running at the finish.
Pat Cook of Washburn won a thrilling WISSOTA Modified feature from the pole, but it took a heartbreaking error by Brandon Copp to get the win. Copp, in his rookie season in the “big Mods” after several strong seasons in the Mid-Mods, shot out to a huge lead over Cook after a lap 1 restart, building the advantage to nearly two full seconds before a lap 4 stop for debris.
Copp drove away again, but just as the margin got comfortable sixth-running Greg Chesley spun in traffic to stop the pace on lap 7. After this restart, however, Cook didn’t let Copp run off to hide, staying side-by-side with the leader through mid-race.
Neil Balduc took third from 14th-starting Michael Truscott at the halfway point, and a couple laps later Copp had barely shaken loose of Cook’s threats when Jake Hiatt and Shane Kisling crashed together on lap 13, knocking Kisling from a top-ten run. Three laps after that restart Copp, who was getting pressure from Cook and the others, bobbled in turn 4, allowing Cook, Truscott and Balduc to slip by.
From there Cook withstood one last challenge from Truscott for the 11th feature win of his career and fourth in a “big Mod” here. Chesley recovered from his early miscue and took advantage of the yellows to climb back to third, ahead of Balduc and Copp.
Dave Flynn of Superior dominated the opening-night WISSOTA Super Stock A-main, leading every lap from the pole and running away from defending national champion Kevin Burdick.
It did not take long for Flynn to flex his car’s muscles, pulling to a 1.1-second advantage on Burdick after just four laps and extending that lead to over two seconds another four laps later. Burdick had plenty of distance on Matt Deragon, so there was no challenge to hold Burdick back; Flynn was just that fast and smooth on this night. Even the lap 10 caution flag – the only stoppage of the race – for Andrew Mackey’s stalled car didn’t seem to concern Flynn, as he sailed away again over the last ten laps and finished 3.2 seconds ahead of Burdick for his 17th career Super Stock feature win at ABC and 19th overall here.
A strong second-half run by four-time defending track champ Nick Oreskovich, who started tenth, earned him third-place honors in the final rundown after he sped past Deragon for the spot with eight laps to go. Deragon’s impressive effort on this night kept him in front of Terran Spacek at the pay window.
In the WISSOTA Pure Stock feature, Superior’s Jared Akervik outran Graham for his second win in as many nights. Polestarter Tanner Gehl provided the early challenge to Akervik, driving low to take the lead on lap 2, before Akervik switched lanes and returned the favor on lap 3.
Akervik drew away slightly when Graham pulled even with Gehl during the race’s middle stages, but once Graham displaced Gehl for second with two laps to go he was too many car-lengths back to catch the winner. The lead trio was well out front of visiting Jennie Krause in fourth.
Quick lap times during the features were posted by Brandon Copp in the Mods (17.500 secs; 77.143 mph), Flynn in the Supers (17.538; 76.976), and Jones in the Mid-Mods (17.583; 76.779).
The Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce will present the race program slated for Saturday, June 6, at the ABC Raceway. All six divisions will once again be in action. The grandstands and pits will open at 5 pm, hot laps will start at 6:15, and the first green flag of the night is scheduled for 7 pm. Throughout the week, the Heartland Communications Group of radio stations will air Raceway news and weather updates in the Chequamegon Bay area, online on the station websites, and via the free Heartland Communications Group radio app.
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: Pat Cook, Washburn; Michael Truscott, Chippewa Falls; Greg Chesley, Duluth, MN; Neil Balduc, Bessemer, MI; Brandon Copp; Brule; Alex Van Natta, Minocqua; Jeff Spacek, Phillips; Tyler Luger, Oxford; Al Uotinen, Superior; Jake Hiatt, Mason.
11-15: Paul Niznik, Medford; Cole Spacek, Phillips; Shane Kisling, Butternut; Mike Knopps, Chippewa Falls; Tyler Vernon, Ashland.
Heat 1: Kisling; C Spacek; Balduc; Niznik; Van Natta; Chesley; Luger.
Heat 2: Copp; Cook; Knopps; Hiatt; Uotinen; Vernon; Truscott; J Spacek.
WISSOTA SUPER STOCKS
Feature: 1-10: Dave Flynn, Superior; Kevin Burdick, Proctor, MN; Nick Oreskovich, Mason; Matt Deragon, Ashland; Terran Spacek, Phillips; Kyle Copp, Brule; Patrick Beeksma, Ironwood, MI; DJ Keeler, Superior; Cory Casari, Montreal; Harley Kroening, Bemidji, MN.
11-17: Kevin Salin, Iron, MN; Greg Kuklinski, Ironwood, MI; Tyler Kroening, Bemidji, MN; Scott Lawrence, Superior; Andrew Mackey, Duluth, MN; Shawn McFadden, Ashland; Don Muzzy, Ironwood, MI.
Heat 1: Flynn; Spacek; Mackey; Beeksma; Salin; Muzzy; H Kroening; Kuklinski; T Kroening.
Heat 2: McFadden; Lawrence; Deragon; Burdick; Oreskovich; Copp; Keeler; Casari; Aaron Mashlan, Ashland.
WISSOTA MIDWEST MODIFIEDS
Feature: 1-10: Tyler Vernon, Ashland; Marcus Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Ross Fuhrman, Ashland; Dan Wheeler, Savage, MN; Tanner Hicks, Ashland; Justin Weinberger, Butternut; Cody Carlson, Superior; Jimmy Latvala, Solon Springs; John Darwin, Iron River; John Kallas, Hurley.
11-17: Ryan Barningham, Bayfield; Joey Krause, International Falls, MN; Bryan Lund, Ashland; Jesse Polson, Superior; Jennie Krause, Aurora, MN; Andy LaBarge, Keewatin, MN; Mark Kangas, Eveleth, MN.
Heat 1: Weinberger; Dunbar; Carlson; Justin Jones, Bemidji, MN; Darwin; Jennie Krause; Kangas; LaBarge; Joey Krause.
Heat 2: Vernon; Hicks; Fuhrman; Wheeler; Latvala; Barningham; Polson; Kallas; Lund.
Feature: 1-6: Randy Graham, Trego; Forrest Schultz, Ashland; Mathew Rohlfing, Cable; Dominic Hmielewski, Marengo; Dalton Truchon, Ashland; Joshua Saunders, Spooner.
Heat: Graham; Schultz; Truchon; Rohlfing; Saunders; Hmielewski.
WISSOTA PURE STOCKS
Feature: 1-4: Jared Akervik, Superior; Randy Graham, Trego; Tanner Gehl, Solon Springs; Jennie Krause, Aurora, MN.
Heat: Akervik; Graham; Gehl; Krause.
Feature: 1-10: DeJay Jarecki, Ashland; AJ House, Cloquet, MN; Kaleb Ruikka, Fort Ripley, MN; Derek Ament, Barnum, MN; Hunter McDougall, Duluth, MN; Caleb Decker, Barnum, MN; Rick Andrews Jr; Superior; Harry Ruikka, Fort Ripley, MN; Brady Albertson, Sauk Rapids, MN; Mitch Kieber, Ironwood, MI.
11-14: Josh Rowe, Duluth, MN; Andy Leino, Sturgeon Lake, MN; Cully Butterfield, Trego; Joshua Johnson Jr, Superior.
Heat 1: Jarecki; McDougall; Ament; Decker; Kieber; Albertson; Jason Ronning, Ashland; H Ruikka.
Heat 2: House; K Ruikka; Andrews; Johnson; Rowe; Butterfield; Leino.