Ashland, WI, May 27 — There’s something about the ABC Raceway that Bill Balog seems to like. For the fourth-ever visit to the award-winning northern Wisconsin red-clay oval by the Interstate Racing Association, twenty of the regional touring series’ 900-horsepower winged sprints traveled from five states to compete. And in his fourth-ever visit to the track as part of that tour, Balog, of Hartland, claimed victory at the end of a fast-paced feature that included a wild finish.
Also capturing wins during the PolyDome Dirt Track Series program presented by the NAPA Auto Parts stores of Ashland and Washburn were Nick Oreskovich of Mason in the WISSOTA Super Stocks, Paul Suzik of Ironwood, MI, in the WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds, and Tiffany Hudack of Ashland in the Six-Cylinders. All three are first-time feature winners here this season, and ironically all three happen to be defending track champions in their respective classes at ABC. A sizable crowd enjoyed the 85-car show on a comfortably cool late-May evening, with nearly all staying to the end to watch the exciting A-feature for the powerful travelers. After a sloppy first attempt at a start to the 30-lapper, South Dakota’s Justin Henderson shot to the lead from the pole and immediately slipped to the upper groove of the smooth, fast track just ahead of outside front-row starter Kris Spitz. Craig Dollansky, who started directly behind Henderson, moved under Spitz to take second shortly thereafter, bringing two-time IRA champ Scott Nietzel along to third.
Henderson, seeing the Ashland oval for the first time in his career, had a little trouble getting his timing down early, and it cost him – he tagged the turn 3 guardrail hard and rolled his sprinter on lap 2, ending a promising night. Dollansky’s ride grazed Henderson’s during the incident, and although Dollansky restarted at the front of the line, his car became an aerodynamic handful with a badly bent-up roof wing, and he faded through the field under green. Nietzel was first to get past Dollansky, with an inside move just after the restart, and he set sail away from the field by running the high groove. Jeremy Schultz stole second when Dollansky’s car bobbled on lap 3, and two circuits later Kyle Marten slipped past for third. After four more laps, Todd King and Balog had moved up to fourth and fifth.
Scott Thiel, the series’ points leader coming into the weekend, looped his ride on the back straight to end a top-ten run on lap 11, eliminating Nietzel’s straightaway-length lead. From there the event ran off non-stop, and Balog, who originally started eighth, began his climb to the front by using the high road to get around King at the drop of the next green. A lap later he used the same move to sweep past Marten for third, and when Nietzel stumbled ever so slightly on lap 13 Schultz and Balog swarmed in, making for a thrilling three-car battle for the lead. Schultz grabbed the spot for just a moment on lap 15, but during the next circuit Nietzel took it back, with Balog within feet of both. Then, on lap 18, Balog used a daring thread-the-needle move between both Schultz and Nietzel that nearly earned him the point, but Schultz recovered and roared back by.
Balog spent the next nine laps shadowing Schultz through heavy lapped traffic, showing the nose of his car every so often to keep the leader on edge. Finally, with three laps remaining, in a gap in the slower traffic, Balog dropped inside on Schultz and took over the top spot. Although Balog never really pulled away, Schultz had nothing left to challenge for the win. As Balog was taking the checkers, Schultz looped his car in the final corner while contending with a couple of backmarkers, allowing King to wheel by for second with Nietzel in tow. IRA officials were still sorting out the final finishing order at the time of this writing, but Schultz was scored in third ahead of Neitzel and Kyle Marten in the unofficial rundown, while Steve Meyer, 13th-starting Russel Borland, 16th-starting Blake Nimee, Spitz, and Mike Kertscher completed the second five.
Balog explained his move to the front in Victory Lane by saying, “I started to set up where the rubber was (on the track). Then, once I burned off some fuel, I was able to pick and choose where to go.” During time trials prior to the start of racing action, Thiel set a new ABC Raceway single-lap record with a time of 12.373 seconds, equating to 109.109 mph. Thirteen of the 20 IRA drivers topped 100 mph in average lap speed around the three-eighths-mile track during qualifying.
The 20-lap Super Stock feature went green for the first 14 laps, as front-row starters Dave Flynn and Terran Spacek raced door-to-door to start things off. Once Flynn established his hold on the lead two laps in, Oreskovich – who started inside on the second row – worked an outside line to get by Spacek, then stayed there to catch and eventually pass Flynn for the lead on lap 6. Randy Spacek also reaped the benefits of the higher line and swept around his son Terran for fourth on lap 6, and then repeated the move to take third from Shawn McFadden Jr at mid-race.
Oreskovich’s lead had increased to over 1.6 seconds by lap 14 when Aaron Mashlan spun to stop the race for the first time, and on the restart Flynn took a look to the inside in a challenge for the lead. Oreskovich prevailed, but as he came out of turn 4 expecting to see the white flag five laps later, he instead saw the yellow – again, for a Mashlan spin. In a wild green-white-checkered sprint to the finish, McFadden made a quick move to the inside on Flynn on the restart – too quick, as it later turned out. Randy Spacek also put the pressure on Flynn by sweeping high around him to take third, and on the final lap Spacek tried to complete a run on McFadden but fell just short, as Oreskovich held on for his 14th career ABC Raceway feature win. McFadden’s too-soon move on Flynn was deemed an illegal “jump” on the restart, and upon learning of this he bypassed the post-race inspection area, earning him a disqualification and giving Spacek runner-up honors.
Flynn, Terran Spacek and Shane Kisling filled in the top five.
The Mid-Mods struggled to get through their 20-lap main event, but early on the race for the lead was a thriller. Tanner Hicks battled with pole-starter Brandon Copp for the first few laps and through a couple of yellow-flag slowdowns, both for grinding multi-car messes that took out several strong runners. The cautions kept the field close, and Canadian youngster David Simpson, Ryan Adamzak and Suzik all became part of the lead scramble.
The second caution came about after a lap 2 restart, when Adamzak used a strong dive to the inside to try to displace Copp for second; the move bumped Copp into a spin in front of most of the field and sent Adamzak to the back. After that restart Suzik worked inside on both Hicks and Copp to take the lead, and Copp overdrove into the next corner and spun again, this time taking out three other racers.
Wayne Stricker moved up to threaten Hicks for second once the green flag came back out, and he got the spot just before Chris Bretting ran over debris from another car and stopped on the back chute. Two laps later, as Suzik was beginning to extend his advantage on Stricker, rookie McLean Andrews spun and collected Ryan Barningham to slow the pace.
From there Suzik led the field through 14 uninterrupted laps, eventually pulling to a 1.38-second advantage over Stricker for his fourth career feature win here. Hicks held off a determined Simpson for third, and Tyler Vernon took advantage of the long green-flag run to climb from his 15th-place starting spot to fifth.
Hudack overcame some opening-night gremlins and hustled her car to the win in the 15-lap headliner for the Sixes. Opening-night feature winner Bubba Anderson’s car tagged one of the infield marker tires hard during opening lap of the race, knocking him from contention and allowing Hudack to restart second behind pole-starter Dalton Truchon.
Under green she drove to the bottom and beat Truchon through the first turns, and with DeJay Jarecki working the outside line Truchon was displaced to third. Within the next lap a large handful of cars were caught up in a melee in turn 4, and on that restart Hudack and Jarecki pulled away to battle for the win.
Scott Ovaska worked his way past Truchon to third just prior to another marker tire being bumped onto the racing surface. In the green-white-checkered finish that followed, Ovaska passed Jarecki and tried but couldn’t quite pull off a similar move on Hudack, who held on for her ninth career win here by just over a quarter-second. Jarecki came home third just ahead of Tyler Vernon and Truchon.
Fast-lap bonuses were awarded to Oreskovich (Supers, 17.399 seconds), Suzik (Mid-Mods, 17.386 seconds), and Vernon (Sixes, 18.562 seconds).
On Saturday, June 3, Little Caesar’s Pizza will present one of the most popular nights on the ABC Raceway schedule, with its “Meet the Drivers” Night. Fans will be welcomed onto the front-straightaway of the venerable red-clay oval to meet their favorite drivers, collect photos and autographs, and even pick up a treat or two. Hot laps are at 6:15, followed by the meet-and-greet session. Green-flag racing set for a bit after 7 pm.
Adult grandstand admission tickets are $11, and fans ages 12 and under are admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult. “Z-93 Race Night” will air live on WBSZ, 93.3 FM, and stream online at www.wbszfm.com, from 4:30-6 pm with at-the-track news and weather updates.
The ABC Raceway is located 3-1/2 miles south of Ashland on State Highway 13 and one mile west on Butterworth Road. For more information log onto the track’s website, www.abcraceway.com. or on race days call (715) 682-4990.