Rivord, Stuart, Aho, Jorgensen, Groom and House Score Wins in ABC Raceway Opener
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, June 4 – It only took an extra three weeks, but it was worth the wait for drivers and fans at the ABC Raceway on Saturday, as Northern State Bank presented the award-winning track’s 58th Season Opener.
The fast-paced program, completed in just a shade over 2-1/2 hours on a smooth, wide track, saw Steve Stuart and Dennis Groom, both of Ashland, start successful defenses of their 2021 track titles with feature wins, while Jack Rivord of Superior; Jesse Aho of Twin Lakes, MI; Cory Jorgensen of Duluth, MN; and AJ House of Cloquet, MN, each claimed victories on an evening that started out warm and humid but finished under cool conditions with lightning flashing to the not-so-distant south.
Four of the six features ran non-stop, while the other two A-mains combined for just five total yellow flags.
Rivord, the 17-year-old who just moved up to the Outlaw Wraps & Apparel WISSOTA Modified division this year, continues to raise eyebrows in his first month-and-change in this class. He started the 20-lap headliner outside on the front row and chased six-time ABC Mod champ Al Uotinen for the first four laps. At that point Rivord worked his way around Uotinen and edged him at the flagstand by mere feet, then stuck to the higher line and gradually pulled away.
Farther back, Brandon Copp, who started eighth, worked both high and low to pick up positions over the first six laps, eventually getting by Jake Hiatt for third. With no caution-flag slowdowns to bunch the field, it took a few laps for Copp to reel in Uotinen, while Rivord kept building his advantage.
Rivord was 1.677 seconds ahead of Uotinen when the checkers flew over his landmark win and the seventh of his career here. Copp closed on Uotinen enough to be a threat at the end but settled for third ahead of Hiatt and another former track champ, Pat Cook.
Stuart drew from deep in the emotional well and came up strong with a dominant flag-to-flag win in the WISSOTA Super Stock feature. But in Victory Lane he couldn’t control the emotions any longer as he dedicated his win in memory of two good friends – former local racers Ryan Adamzak and Bill Muhlig – who both passed away unexpectedly during the off-season.
Stuart slipped low beneath the front-row-starting pair of Andrew Mackey and division rookie Randy Graham and set a torrid pace throughout the run, and there would be no yellow flags in this 20-lapper to help the rest of the field draw to Stuart’s rear bumper. Within five laps the seven-time ABC champ had built a 1.45-second buffer, and by the race’s mid-point his advantage had more than doubled.
Mackey tried to stay with the leader as long as he could, but he fell back to third once four-time ABC champ Nick Oreskovich closed up on him and, after several laps of close-quarters battling, overtook him with five circuits to go. With Stuart weaving deftly through slower traffic, Oreskovich actually trimmed the difference between himself and the leader down by a couple tenths of a second, but with Stuart holding an advantage of well over five seconds at that point it didn’t seem to matter.
Stuart scored the 41st feature win of his career here, with Oreskovich, Mackey, Kyle Copp and Matt Deragon trailing at a significant distance.
Aho’s fifth feature win at Ashland was much more hard-earned than Stuart’s, as four caution slowdowns kept some very tough customers nipping at his heels throughout the 20-lap WISSOTA Midwest Modified main event. He started on the outside of the front row and edged ahead of a very determined James Vendela, who stayed glued to Aho’s rear push-bar throughout the first five laps.
After a Diamond Bressette spin, Aho had to contend with both Vendela and an equally-fast Jake Smith, fresh off an impressive victory at Superior the night before. Smith and Vendela raced door-to-door behind Aho for several laps as the lead trio pulled away from Paul Suzik and Jimmy Latvala, before Mitch Kieber’s lap 9 spin slowed the pace. After that restart, former track champ Marcus Dunbar joined the fray, getting by Suzik for fourth.
The short green-flag run that followed allowed Aho to open up a bit of a gap on Vendela and Smith, who continued their heated dispute over second, but that gap disappeared again when Warren Bartelt’s car dropped its driveshaft on the backstraight on lap 13. Matt Jacobson’s spin briefly delayed the restart, but after that Aho’s car came to life, sprinting away from the field by a surprising 1.855 seconds ahead of Vendela.
Dunbar overtook Smith in the closing laps for third, and Suzik maintained fifth.
After the race, Aho dedicated his win to his father, who is facing a serious surgical procedure in the near future.
Only three cars started the WISSOTA Pure Stock feature, but Jorgensen, who was lined up behind Aaron Bernick and defending track champ RJ Holly to start, worked his way past both for his 11th career feature win here.
The first half of the race was very entertaining, with all three cars racing within feet of each other, each running a different line, and no one giving up the fight. However, on lap 5 of the eight scheduled, a brief bobble by Holly caused Bernick to check up, and that gave Jorgensen the break he needed to pull away.
Jorgensen took the checkers 1.905 seconds ahead of Holly, who edged Bernick for second.
Groom led every one of the 12 laps in the ABC Six-Cylinder feature after starting from the pole, but it was as hard-earned as Aho’s Mid-Mod win earlier. Groom came out of the first corner with Dalton Truchon on his back bumper, and Truchon gave Groom all the pressure he could possibly want throughout the run.
After Mathew Rohlfing’s spin on lap 2, Groom spent the rest of the run fending off Truchon, while a charging Jake Nevala got by Austin Olby for fourth and came up to challenge Jakob Bond for third, just behind the lead duo. The dogfight for the lead stayed intense until Groom and Truchon separated from the rest over the final few laps, and Groom held on by a .660-second margin for his seventh career win at ABC. Bond pulled away late away to take third as Nevala held off Shane Basina for fourth.
Groom, like Stuart, dedicated his win on this night to the memory of Adamzak and Muhlig in Victory Lane.
House, who won the Raceway’s Lightning Storm Graphics WISSOTA Hornet points title in 2020, returned to ABC’s Victory Lane for the first time since that title season with a runaway win after the division’s non-stop 10-lap feature.
House edged ahead of Holly from the pole as the top five runners stayed in tight formation. But once AJ’s cousin Kyle House swept around Holly to take over second, the field began to flair out and settled into what would eventually be its finishing order, although defending track champ DeJay Jarecki did have to battle with an ill-running car and a stubborn Brandon Hummelmeier for fourth throughout much of the run.
The win for AJ House was the sixth of his career at Ashland, by almost a straightaway on cousin Kyle. Holly, Jarecki and Hummelmeier completed a well-spaced top five.
The Bad River Lodge, Casino & Convention Center of Odanah will present the third leg of a four-race, four-night trek around the Northland for the Advantage RV Mod Tour when it stops at the ABC Raceway on Saturday, June 11. The show will feature many of the very best Modified racers in all of WISSOTA after lead-in stops in Grand Rapids, MN, on Thursday and Superior on Friday.
The Raceway’s other five divisions will also be in action. The Mod Tour will conclude this particular stretch of its schedule on Sunday, June 12, in Proctor, MN.
The grandstand gates and pits will open at 5 pm on Saturday, followed by hot laps at 6:15 and the first green flag of the night scheduled for 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: Jack Rivord, Superior; Al Uotinen, Superior; Brandon Copp, Brule; Jake Hiatt, Mason; Pat Cook, Washburn; Tyler Luger, Oxford; Cole Spacek, Phillips; Alex Van Natta, Minocqua; Rick Rivord, Superior; Bill Byholm, Glidden.
11-12: Mike Klippenstein, Proctor, MN; Hunter Anderson, Phillips.
Heat 1: Cook; Uotinen; Copp; Hiatt; Anderson; Klippenstein.
Heat 2: Luger; R Rivord; Van Natta; J Rivord; Spacek; Byholm.
WISSOTA Super Stocks
Feature: 1-10: Steve Stuart, Ashland; Nick Oreskovich, Mason; Andrew Mackey, Duluth, MN; Kyle Copp, Brule; Matt Deragon, Ashland; Shawn McFadden, Ashland; Cory Casari, Montreal; Randy Graham, Trego; Patrick Beeksma, Ironwood, MI; Don Livingston, Washburn.
11-14: Rita Anderson, South Range; Dylan Leu, Medford; Myron Basina, Bayfield; Aaron Mashlan, Ashland.
Heat 1: Stuart; Oreskovich; Deragon; Casari; McFadden; Leu; Mashlan.
Heat 2: Copp; Mackey; Graham; Beeksma; Anderson; Livinston; Basina.
WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds
Feature: 1-10: Jesse Aho, Twin Lakes, MI; James Vendela, South Range; Marcus Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Jake Smith, St Joseph, MN; Paul Suzik, Ironwood, MI; Dalton Mains, Foxboro; Tanner Gehl, Solon Springs; Tanner Hicks, Ashland; Jimmy Latvala, Solon Springs; Duane Dunbar, Marenisco, MI.
11-18: Ross Fuhrman, Ashland; Neil Dees, Hurley; Matt Jacobson, Bessemer, MI; Mitch Kieber, Ironwood, MI; Diamond Bressette, Spooner; Ryan Barningham, Bayfield; Sean O’Brien, Manitowish Waters; Warren Bartelt, Medford.
Heat 1: Gehl; D Dunbar; Mains; M Dunbar; Bartelt.
Heat 2: Smith; Latvala; Aho; Fuhrman; Kieber; Dees.
Heat 3: Suzik; Hicks; Vendela; Barningham; O’Brien; Jacobson.
WISSOTA Pure Stocks
Feature: 1-3: Cory Jorgensen, Duluth, MN; RJ Holly, Marengo; Aaron Bernick, Duluth, MN.
Heat: Jorgensen; Bernick; Holly; Steve Pohl, Manitowish Waters.
Feature: 1-10: Dennis Groom, Ashland; Dalton Truchon, Ashland; Jakob Bond, Mason; Jake Nevala, Ashland; Shane Basina, Bayfield; Austin Olby, Marengo; Mathew Rohlfing, Cable; Bubba Anderson, Trego; Trenton Bond, Mason; Jacob Johnson, Cable.
11: Julian Root, Ashland.
Heat 1: J Bond; Anderson; Basina; Johnson; Nevala; Root.
Heat 2: Groom; Truchon; Rohlfing; Olby; T Bond.
Feature: 1-6: AJ House, Cloquet, MN; Kyle House, Wrenshall, MN; DeJay Jarecki, Ashland; RJ Holly, Marengo; Brandon Hummelmeier, Ashland; Derek Dunbar, Iron River.
Heat: AJ House; K House; Jarecki; Holly; Hummelmeier; Dunbar.