Ashland, WI– The 39th annual Red Clay Classic was held under absolutely perfect weather conditions at the ABC Raceway on Friday and Saturday, and Jake Redetzke of Eau Claire was absolutely dominant in winning his third WISSOTA Late Model feature at the northern Wisconsin track’s traditional season-ending special.
The three other A-feature winners on the weekend, however, were first-time Classic champions – Jesse Glenz of Cadott; Kevin Burdick of Proctor, MN; and Mike Truscott of Chippewa Falls. Well over 3,000 race fans filled the grandstands and pit area for the AmsOil Dirt Track Series event, presented by FastLane Motorsports & Custom Powdercoating and Tim’s Automotive Machine and supported by Lake Shore Cafe. A total of 177 competitors ran through 19 qualifying races on Friday and eight semi-features on Saturday to set the fields for Saturday night’s four championship features, as brilliant blue skies and temperatures near 80 greeted the crowds each day. Redetzke started the 50-lap Late Model headliner from the inside on the second row and followed outside front-row starter John Kaanta around polesitter Eric Pember into second. Brandon Jensen, making his first RCC start in a Late Model, slipped up to third quickly with Terry Lillo in tow as Pember was shuffled back.
Redetzke and Kaanta separated themselves from the field as the early laps clicked off quickly on the smooth, fast three-eighths-mile oval, and on lap 8 Redetzke made what turned out to be the winning move with an outside pass of Kaanta just prior to Trevor Wilson’s spin, which slowed the field for the first time. An Adam Hensel spin on the restart held things up for a moment, but Redetzke was able to pull to a 1.15-second lead over the next few circuits before Doug Blashe’s spin brought the field back to him on lap 13. Darrell Nelson, who had grabbed fifth just prior to the caution, worked outside on Lillo for fourth just after the green came back out. During the next 14 laps Redetzke again built up a lead of over a second and eventually caught the tail of the field as the race settled into a quick, comfortable pace. Deep in the pack, however, plenty of side-by-side and three-wide racing provided some tense moments, one of which resulted in a Todd Gehl spin on lap 27 to stop the action, and two laps later Zach Wohlers’ ride was looped. Redetzke again sped away after the restart and caught the backmarkers, but another yellow flag brought everyone around to his trunklid – this time for Wilson’s second spin on lap 38.
Nelson had gained another spot during the green-flag stretch and, restarting alongside Kaanta in third, tried to edge into second on the lap 38 restart. Kaanta used a strong low-side move to hold off the challenge before the next lap was scored, but this allowed Redetzke to scoot away. Defending RCC champ Nick Anvelink, who had started 15th, made a strong charge on the restart to pass as many as five cars in one lap, driving into fifth behind Jensen. Redetzke’s lead was 2.5 seconds when Jeff Massingill spun with five laps to go, but he had enought time to run to a 1.5-second advantage at the final stripe for his fourth career win at ABC and his first RCC win since going back-to-back in 2011-’12. Bolstered by a fast-lap bonus awarded by Northern Clearing, Inc, of Ashland, for his lap of 16.581 seconds, Redetzke took home a $4,150 winner’s check. Kaanta held off Nelson’s strong charges for second-place money, and Anvelink got by Jensen in the final laps for forth. Jeff Provinzino, who won his semi-feature to get in the show and started 21st, clawed his way to an impressive sixth-place run, ahead of Steve Laursen, Harry Hanson, Wohlers, and 20th-starting Mike Goodremote.
Glenz, who has had an incredible breakthrough season, started on the pole of the WISSOTA Modified feature, led every one of the 35 laps, and set the race’s fastest lap (17.399 seconds) to take home a first-place check of $3,150. A huge wreck that collected as many as nine cars marred the start, but over the first eight scored laps Glenz proved to be the man to beat, flying to a 2.9-second lead while ABC Raceway track champ Steve Stuart raced with Jay Richardson for second just ahead of a tight pack of cars. Mike Anderson’s car, slowed by a flat tire, brought out the first yellow flag of the race on lap 8, and Neil Balduc’s spin a lap after the restart kept things close, but from there the balance of the race ran off non-stop, giving Glenz the chance to run away and hide. On that lap 9 restart four-time RCC winner Joey Jensen worked the outside to take third from Richardson, and then he and Stuart began a side-by-side duel for second, allowing Glenz to quickly build a lead of over a second. Kelly Estey and Al Uotinen moved up to fourth and fifth as Richardson’s car fell back. On lap 19 Glenz held a 2.7-second lead, and two laps later he began weaving his way through slower traffic, which didn’t seem to hinder him. His advantage grew to nearly 3.8 seconds – nearly the length of a straightaway – before Stuart and Jensen even began their trek through the backmarkers.
Once he had some clear race track to work with Glenz put the game away, streaking to a final advantage of over 5.6 seconds for his first-ever feature win at ABC. Stuart eventually won the dogfight for second over Jensen, while Estey and the 12th-starting Uotinen completed the top five. Nelson and defending race champ Ashley Anderson took sixth and seventh, while eighth through tenth went to drivers who came from deep in the field – Jody Bellefeuille (started 22nd), Destin Lorimor (16th), and Rick Niemi (23rd). Burdick grabbed the lead early in the 30-lap WISSOTA Super Stock main event and held on for his first-ever feature win in Ashland, worth $2,150 after the bonus for posting the fastest lap of the run (18.017 seconds). Burdick, who started inside on row 2, worked past front-row starter Wayne Stricker into second behind former RCC winner Shane Kisling before defending race winner Curt Myers spun with one lap in the books.
The next 13 laps featured several thrilling battles for position among the top ten runners, including Kisling fending off Burdick for the lead and Eric Olson fighting his way by Rich Bishop and track champ Scott Lawrence to fourth behind Stricker. On lap 4 Olson got by Stricker, and at the same time Burdick began his move for the lead, although it took two laps to complete the race-winning pass. Burdick took advantage of the open track ahead of him and ran off to a 1.6-second lead over the new battle for second between the high-side-running Kisling and Olson hugging the low groove, which continued for several laps. Burdick’s lead grew to nearly four full seconds as he had backmarkers in his sights, but a spun Wayne Harris slowed the pace. Prior to the restart Kisling’s car would not refire and required a push-start, and Olson took advantage by stealing second, bringing Stricker along to third as Kisling fell out of the top five. Brian Mikkonen threatened to take third on lap 19, but Lawrence had a similar plan and displaced Stricker a lap later and then overtook Mikkonen on lap 21. The shuffling came to a stop on lap 23 for a Dave Flynn spinout, and things got hairy after that when, on the restart, the cars of Lawrence, Mikkonen and Ken Truscott became stacked together after hard contact, with another half-dozen cars collected in the aftermath. It took some time to clean up the mess, and although Lawrence could continue he was no longer a factor, while Mikkonen’s night was done.
Burdick ran off to a one-second lead with four laps to go, while Kisling’s car came back to life and threatened to take second from Olson’s. With two laps left Stricker, Steve Thomas and Shawn McFadden got together to force a green-white-checkered finish, but Burdick again sped away for his landmark win. Olson held second with Kisling in tow, while 21st-starting Mike Anderson took advantage of the carnage ahead of him to earn fourth-place money, ahead of Stricker. Finishing sixth through tenth were Bishop, Jeff Spacek (driving his brother Randy’s car), Nick Oreskovich, Flynn and McFadden, who started last on the 24-car grid. Truscott capped off a very memorable season at ABC in the only way that was fitting. After earning his first career track championship here and in the midst of a battle for a national championship, he battled with two other Red Clay Classic champs through three green-white-checkered finishes for his first-ever event win.
The drama started before the green flag ever dropped in the 25-lap WISSOTA Midwest Modified finale, as right after driver introductions pole-starter Cole Spacek’s car would not start, and it was pushed from the track. Two-time defending event champ Shane Halopka assumed the pole and immediately paced the field at the green ahead of Travis Anderson. but after just one lap front-row starter Mickey Nosser got caught up with Nick Koehler and others to bring out the first caution. Koehler bobbled on the restart, allowing Jeff Klopstein to claim third ahead of Tyler Luger and the fast-moving Jeremie Hedrich, who started 12th. Halopka ran off to a 1.7-second lead on Anderson, but everyone caught up with the leader after a multi-car incident on the front straight stopped the race on lap 6.
After Luger’s car spun on the restart, Klopstein threatened to take second from Anderson, while Hedrich made contact with Skeeter Estey’s car while battling for fourth and faded back. Halopka was up by over two seconds by lap 8, and when Anderson and Klopstein slipped up in a corner Estey, the 2010 RCC winner, took over second.
Nathan Thums spun deep in the field to slow things up on lap 14, and on the restart Truscott – who had started the race inside on row 7 – was shown in fifth. Anderson slowed when the race went under green, giving Truscott fourth, and on lap 16 he took third from Klopstein. Estey hustled inside to edge past Halopka for the lead on lap 21, and Truscott worked around the high side to take second.
Truscott continued to run the higher line to gain a slight edge on Estey with two laps remaining, but Klopstein, Grant Southworth and Mack Estey, running fourth, fifth and sixth, got together to bring out the yellow flag. On the restart Truscott again edged ahead of Skeeter Estey, but Stuart slowed with damage, forcing a second green-white-checkered attempt. Again Truscott gained a thin lead, and again the pass was negated by a caution, this time for Dave Shackleton’s spin.
Finally Truscott got by Estey as the leaders came to the white flag, and this time it held up for the $1,000 win – his sixth of the year here and division-leading 13th of his career at ABC. Halopka settled for third plus earned the fast-lap bonus with a 17.501-second circuit, while Klopstein and the 17th-starting Southworth completed the top five. Paul Niznik came from 15th to finish sixth, followed by Koehler, 23rd-starter Mark Kangas, Kerry Halopka and Hedrich.
Mod racer Kevin Eder of Ashland collected $1,200 from drivers and fans and challenged each of the second-place finishers in the features to wear a formal gown during their post-race interviews in Victory Lane as part of a “bridesmaid’s challenge.” While the younger Stuart, Olson and Estey participated in the spirit of the challenge and shared the cash, the veteran Kaanta took a more dignified approach and passed on the offer.
Late Model racer Rich Thomas of Aberdeen, SD, was awarded a $500 “long-haul” bonus for making the 450-plus-mile trip to compete at the ABC Raceway for the first time. The veteran driver qualified for the feature with a fifth-place run in his heat, and he finished the feature in 18th. The four feature races included out-of-car introductions of the drivers, four-wide salutes to the huge crowds and fireworks exploding in Victory Lane over the top three finishers.
The Ashland-Bayfield County Racing Association will hold it annual awards banquet in January 2015 to close out its 50th anniversary season. More information will be made available on the Raceway’s website, www.abcraceway.com.