Ashland, WI, — On a gorgeous early July evening in northern Wisconsin, the younger fans in attendance at the ABC Raceway got to visit with their favorite drivers, race their bikes on the red-clay oval, and watch as visiting drivers Kevin Burdick and David Simpson captured feature wins Saturday night.
The Kids’ Night festivities, presented by Chicago Iron & Supplies and Little Caesar’s Pizza, both of Ashland, included a giveaway of nearly three dozen bikes, plus plenty of other treats for the younger fans. Eighty-three racers registered for action on a smooth, fast and very racy track on a night in which temperatures started in the low 80s and never dipped much below the mid-70s after nightfall.
Burdick, who hails from Proctor, MN, does not frequent the Ashland track other than for special events, such as the annual Red Clay Classic invitational – which he won back in 2014. But he has been a stout contender during each visit, and Saturday was no exception. Starting the WISSOTA Super Stock feature from the outside of the second row, Burdick made quick work of those starting in front of him and drove off to a dominant win.
Polestarter Scott Lawrence and front-row mate Matt Deragon swapped the lead a couple times during the initial moments of the 20-lap event before Lawrence claimed the point and drew away. Burdick stole second from Deragon within three quick laps, and three laps later he was challenging Lawrence for the lead, finally taking over with an inside pass on lap 7.
As the run continued without a single yellow flag, Burdick used the track’s middle groove to pull away to an advantage of over a second-and-a-half by mid-race. Nick Oreskovich chipped through heavy traffic early on before getting by Deragon for third prior to the mid-point, bringing with him Shane Kisling to fourth and Terran Spacek to fifth.
Burdick was lapping backmarkers with eight laps remaining and still pulling away from Lawrence. Oreskovich caught and challenged the 14-time track champion with less than five circuits left, but he could not set up a pass for second spot. Burdick crossed the finish line 4.4 seconds – about a straightaway – ahead of Lawrence and Oreskovich, while Kisling came home a solid fourth, well ahead of Spacek.
Simpson, a second-generation driver from Thunder Bay, ON, has been close to a feature win several times at other tracks over the past season or so, but the ABC Raceway has not been kind to him – until Saturday. A strong showing over the first half of the 20-lap WISSOTA Midwest Modified A-main, followed by patience on restarts throughout the second half, produced the first feature win of his career here.
Simpson started on the pole but battled tooth-and-nail early with fellow front-row starter Wayne Stricker – just as they did in their heat race, which Stricker eventually won. It took six laps for Simpson to get the better of Stricker, making an inside pass stick for the lead before Tanner Hicks and Clay Passuello could join the up-front tussle.
Simpson was closing on the slower Jake Kruzan just a lap after halfway when Kruzan turned sideways directly in front of him in turn 3. Simpson spun his car to avoid contact, but Stricker’s car got caught up in the mess. Hicks missed the melee, but Passuello did not; his car caught the brunt of the impact with Kruzan and his impressive run was over.
A series of yellow-flag stoppages followed before the field could complete lap 12, during which Hicks finally got by Stricker for second. Then, on a lap 13 restart, Stricker tried to pull alongside Simpson in a challenge for the lead, with Brandon Copp in tow to take third from Hicks. But two laps later Copp, who had been shuffled back to fifth, broke loose and collected ten of the 24 cars in the field in a massive wreck.
Simpson, who managed to fend off every threat on each of the second-half restarts, sped away over the final five uninterrupted laps for the landmark win. Dan Kingsley, who started the event 13th, dodged every wreck and picked his way to fourth for the final restart, then made a daring inside pass of both Hicks and Stricker on that restart to wind up a surprising second, 1.6 seconds back. Hicks held off a charging Tyler Vernon for third, while Stricker settled for fifth.
The WISSOTA Modified feature ran off in 20 non-stop laps, with Ashland’s Steve Stuart taking to the top shelf and flying around the three-eighths-mile oval for his second win of the season here. The effort was also the 33rd checkered flag of his career at his home track, moving him to 13th on the all-time feature win list here.
Stuart, who runs one of the WISSOTA-approved “crate” motors, told the crowd in Victory Lane after the run that he ran the upper groove of the track to keep the car’s momentum up, as the motor doesn’t pull as strong coming off the low side of the turns. That strategy served him very well, as he started on the outside of row 3, drove immediately to the top lane and stayed there for every lap.
Polestarter Neil Balduc edged ahead of Paul Niznik over the first couple of laps, but Niznik fought back with a strong inside move and took over the lead on lap 3. The lead pair put some distance on Pat Cook, who held third over visiting Brandon Jensen until Stuart snuck by on the high side on lap 6.
The five-time track champ’s momentum also took him around Balduc within the same lap, and within another tour of the oval Stuart was around and by Niznik and pulling away. Kevin Eder also made some headway at this juncture of the run, slipping past Cook for fourth and bringing Jensen along to fifth.
By lap 12 Stuart had a lead of nearly two seconds, and with no caution flags to bring the field to his bumper, he extended his advantage to 3.185 seconds at the checkers. Balduc made a late charge to overtake Niznik for second, but Niznik held him off. Eder and Jensen followed to complete the top five.
The ABC Six-Cylinders set a good tone early in the feature-race portion of the program, running their 15-lap main event with but a single stoppage, and it certainly didn’t take long for Ashland’s Tiffany Hudack to charge to the front en route to her third feature win of the year.
Hudack, who started outside on the fourth row, found room enough to dive to the bottom groove of the track right at the drop of the green and drive below Josh Saunders for third place, behind polestarter Devin Dalbec and DeJay Jarecki. Within the next lap she worked the same line to drive past the lead pair, and from there she set the pace for the remainder of the run.
Bubba Anderson’s car looked to be strong enough to pose a threat early on, moving by Dalbec for second on lap 3, and a lap later Randy Graham copied Anderson’s move to take third, but by then Hudack was out front by 1.29 seconds – a tough margin to make up. However, a four-car tangle on lap 6 caused by Dalbec set Anderson and Graham directly on Hudack’s rear bumper for the race’s lone restart.
Hudack moved away quickly as Anderson and Graham duked it out for second, driving to a 1.38-second advantage with five laps left and continuing unopposed to her 15th career feature win here, tying her with her brother Tyler in that department. Graham eventually won the fight for second and finished comfortably ahead of Anderson, while Forrest Schultz held fourth ahead of Stuart.
After a frightening crash early in the WISSOTA Pure Stock A-main, Andrew Hanson of Iron River captured his third feature win of the season to conclude the evening’s program. Coming off the first turn after one lap, Cory Jorgensen got bounced around in heavy mid-pack traffic and his car broke loose; he then tagged the outside guardrail and slowed. Jeff Christman, battling with Brock Beilke for position deep in the field, had nowhere to go when he got to where Jorgensen’s car rested and slammed hard into the back of the stalled racer. Both cars sustained significant damage, but fortunately both drivers climbed from their cars under their own power.
From there the race clicked off to its conclusion, providing some of the most competitive action of the night. Graham had taken the top spot from front-row starters Darren Dudley and Don Livingston on the lap prior to the crash, and he stayed there after the restart ahead of Livingston and Hanson. When Livingston slipped trying to get around Hanson, he faded back, allowing visiting Brandon Hakala a chance to battle up front.
Graham, Hanson and Hakala raced in tight formation for the lead, while Livingston, Jeremy Cash and Kyle Copp did likewise some lengths back for fourth. With four laps remaining Hanson worked his way alongside Graham, and within two laps he cleared Graham for the lead. Off the final corner Graham used one last drive, but Hanson held on for a winning margin of just 12 one-hundredths of a second, with Hakala a few lengths back in third. Cash outran Livingston the rest of the way for fourth.
Fast-lap bonuses were awarded to Stuart in the Mods (17.360 seconds / 77.765 mph); Burdick in the Supers (17.994 / 75.025); Simpson in the Mid-Mods (17.837 / 75.685); and Graham in the Sixes (18.741 / 72.034). Graham also became the first-ever Northern Clearing Fast Lap bonus winner in the Pure Stocks, posting a lap in 19.965 seconds, good for a 67.618 mph average speed.
The 35 bicycles given away to lucky youngsters during the program were donated by All-Performance Dyno; AmericInn and Traaholt Racing; Brian Olby Logging; Dalbec Racing; Dave Anderson Jr Trucking; Don Muzzy Racing; Foot 46 Racing; GA Dalbeck Logging; Hiatt & Son Trucking; Kevin Eder Racing; Kwik-Trip; Luger Trucking; McFadden Racing; the Neighborly Bar and Green Monster Storage; Neil Balduc Racing; Nevala Racing; Oreskovich Racing; Pete Peterson; Prime Time Sign and Superior Floral & Gifts; Washburn Hardware; and the ABC Raceway. The Bay Area Car Club donated “goodie bags” that were given to many of the kids on hand.
Another long-standing ABC Raceway special event is slated for Saturday, July 14, when the Ashland-Bayfield County Sportsmen’s Club presents the 15th annual “Pure Excitement 25.” This event offers an initial enhanced purse for the WISSOTA Pure Stocks that is increased by fan and sponsor donations raised throughout the race program. Past events have produced winner’s checks of well over $1,000 and generated as much as $5,500 in total purse for the entry-level division.
WISSOTA Modifieds and Midwest Mods and ABC Six-Cylinders will also be on hand; Super Stocks will have that night off at Ashland.
Hot laps will begin at 6:15 pm, with racing scheduled to start at 7. Adult grandstand admission tickets are just $11, and children 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; fans can also listen by downloading the free HCG Radio app onto their smart phone, tablet or other mobile device.
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.