Jesse Glenz of Fall Creek used a last-lap pass to score his second dramatic WISSOTA Late Model big-money feature win in as many weekends to cap off the 44th annual Red Clay Classic at the ABC Raceway on Saturday night.
Glenz took home $5,100 in winnings and contingencies from the over $100,000 purse paid out over the two-day program, which was presented by FastLane Motorsports & Custom Powdercoating of Ashland and Tim’s Automotive Machine of Bloomer in front of full-house crowds for Friday’s heat race action and Saturday’s final qualifying rounds and main events.
Also winning big on Saturday were Dave Cain of Corcoran, Minn., in the WISSOTA Modifieds, Curt Myers of Cameron in the WISSOTA Super Stocks, and Kevin Adams of Cameron in the WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds.
Glenz had pulled off a last-lap pass for the win the weekend before, at the Punky Manor Challenge of Champions in Menomonie, but did significant damage to his car after the event by sliding into and on top of the Red Cedar Speedway’s concrete Turn 1 wall after taking the checkers. He nearly did the same after crossing the finish line on Saturday, spinning and backing into ABC’s Turn 1 guardrail, but this time did minimal damage and, in fact, actually spun a couple of ceremonial “donuts” on the front straight, to the delight of the crowd on hand.
Following the sharp Ford F150 Raptor pace truck provided by Ashland Ford-Chrysler Center to the green flag, Glenz started outside on the front row for the 50-lap headline event, but the early stories of the race were polestarter Deven VanHouse, who came into the weekend third in national WISSOTA points in his rookie season in the division, and the equally-impressive Derek Vesel. The lead pair ran nose-to-tail for much of the first dozen laps while pulling to a 1.1-second advantage over Glenz, Chad Mahder and 2013 RCC champ Nick Anvelink.
Glenz and company closed the gap as the leaders caught up to slower traffic, and when Vesel bobbled while attempting a pass for the lead on lap 12 Glenz slipped by for second. Vesel got the position back a lap later, and then he worked an inside move to capture the lead on lap 18, with Glenz following suit to second one tour later.
VanHouse worked his way past both to take the lead away again as the frontrunners struggled to get by backmarker Denny Cutsforth, who was nearly as fast and running a safe, solid lower line. Glenz and Vesel swapped second place with each lap while the field closed in, and at one point the first- through seventh-place cars were in tight bumper-to-bumper formation. But a caution flag on lap 23 took the leaders out of traffic, and Glenz grabbed second place immediately upon the restart.
Another yellow flag was thrown before the next lap was completed, and then Vesel slipped past VanHouse as the race reached its midpoint and cruised to a lead of over two seconds over the next eight laps. A Steve Laursen spin on lap 33 brought the field back together, with AJ Diemel now sitting third ahead of Mahder and VanHouse. Glenz kept the pressure on Vesel over the final laps, taking looks to the inside on occasion to set up the winning pass.
Coming out of turn 4 to take the white flag Glenz nosed to the inside one last time, and after running door-to-door with Vesel through turns 1 and 2 Glenz cleared him for the lead entering the back straight. Glenz held on for his second career Red Clay Classic feature win (the other coming in 2014 in the Modifieds) by .681 seconds over Diemel, who edged Vesel coming out of the final turn. Mahder claimed fourth ahead of five-time RCC LM champ Jimmy Mars, while Dan Ebert, Anvelink, Pat Doar, Travis Budisalovich and Aaron Lillo completed the top ten.
Like Glenz, Cain started the 35-lap Modified A-main on the outside of the front row, alongside polesitter Cody Wolkowski. But Cain didn’t wait nearly as long to establish himself as the man to beat, grabbing the lead from Wolkowski coming off of the second turn of the race and pacing the field for every lap.
Caution flags came early and often in the run, as Steve Hallquist’s loop on lap 2, defending RCC Mod champ Kelly Estey’s spin into the turn 1 rail on the ensuing restart, a Shane Kisling spin on lap 3, and a multi-car tangle a couple of circuits after that slowed the early pace. But each time Cain fended off challenges from Wolkowski, Tanner Byholm, Clayton Wagamon and Sam Fankhauser.
Wagamon moved into second on lap 7 and began chipping into the leader’s 1.8-second advantage, and a stoppage on lap 10 put Wagamon on Cain’s back bumper for the restart, with Ebert now up to third after starting ninth. Ebert became Cain’s top threat by taking second on the restart, but Cain pulled to a nearly full-second lead within five short laps. Ebert trimmed the difference back down to just over half a second before Jody Bellefeuille’s spin on lap 23 tightened things up, and on that redo Wolkowski took everyone by surprise by beating Ebert and Wagamon out of turn 2 to take second.
But Cain had too much for the field on this night, pushing his lead to a second-and-a-half within a few laps. Ebert returned the favor on Wolkowski on lap 27, with Wagamon in tow to third, while Cain extended his margin to 2.166 seconds.
A two-car spin with five laps to go allowed Wagamon to swipe second from Ebert a lap after the green flag came back out, and another restart with four to go gave two-time RCC Mod champ Darrell Nelson a chance to take third with a three-wide pass. Over the closing laps Cain didn’t extend his lead as much as before, but he was still .65 seconds ahead of Wagamon at the final stripe, with Ebert retaking third from the 19th-starting Nelson late in the run.
North Dakota visitor Tyler Peterson came home fifth, while the second five consisted of 21st-starting Jeremy Nelson, Wolkowski, Fankhauser, Andy Jones and Glenz, who was in Michael Truscott’s Mod for the weekend.
Myers and Adams repeated what they had done at Menomonie from the weekend before, each winning his respective feature back-to-back. Myers got his win in the 30-lap Super Stock main by flexing his car’s muscle early and then maintaining his advantage despite frequent caution stops.
After a first-turn melee that collected nearly half of the 24-car field, with WISSOTA national championship points leader Kevin Burdick penalized to the back of the field as the cause, outside front-row starter Scott Lawrence set the early pace, ahead of polestarter Tony Faulkner, third-row-starting Myers, Tristan LaBarge and Patrick Beeksma. Myers showed his car’s strength right away by taking to the top groove of the track and sprinting past Faulkner on lap 4, then charging along the outside rail again on lap 6 to sweep around Lawrence for the lead.
Don Muzzy’s spin with eight laps recorded slowed the proceedings, and two laps later the pace was slowed again by a two-car get-together. Faulkner was gathered up in a four-car mess involving a couple of other top-ten runners on that restart, but after that the field settled into a smooth, steady pace over the next dozen laps that gave Myers a chance to establish a three-second lead.
During that run several drivers made valuable gains through the field, including LaBarge, who had displaced Lawrence for second; Dave Flynn, who worked the low lane to make his way to third on lap 12; and Nick Traynor, who had moved into fourth a lap later. On lap 18 Traynor slipped around Flynn and began pressuring LaBarge for a few circuits before Tucker Quinn’s back-straight spin on lap 22 brought out another yellow flag.
Myers once again got away, while Willie Johnsen Jr. joined in on the battle for third with Traynor and Flynn. Just after Andrew Mackey’s spin on lap 25, Traynor moved around LaBarge for second, and after another slowdown for debris on lap 26, a four-car tangle brought about a three-lap sprint to the finish that Myers easily paced on his way to a 1.3-second margin of victory and a $3,225 paycheck.
“I hate yellows,” Myers said during his third RCC visit to Victory Lane and 25th of his career at ABC. “I feel like a sitting duck out there. I was having a heart attack with every caution.”
Traynor fell one spot short of the win but, with the various contigencies offered, actually took home more cash than Myers - a track record for Supers of $3,700. Flynn, LaBarge and Johnsen followed in close formation to complete the top five, while 21st-starting rookie Kyle Copp, 23rd-starting Eric Olson, Andy Grymala, Cory Casari and Shawn McFadden Jr. came home sixth through tenth.
Adams has over 520 career feature wins to his credit, but until Saturday night he had only one at ABC, and despite his best efforts the Red Clay Classic was the one big event that had always eluded him. But his pole-position start and a long green-flag run in the 25-lap Midwest Mod A-feature gave him a chance to make a little personal history.
Adams bolted to the point immediately on the start and maintained a solid lead ahead of defending RCC Mid-Mod champ Tony Bahr, who for most of the event was Adams’ main threat. Bahr, however, had his hands full throughout much of the run, as Mack Estey provided a strong early challenge before handing that baton off to two-time RCC winner Shane Halopka.
Estey, who shared the front row with Adams at the start, worked the higher lane of the wide, slick red-clay oval while Bahr stuck to the lower groove. Halopka had moved by 2011 Classic winner George Dalbeck into fourth by lap 4 and stuck with Bahr and Estey as Adams pulled away, and Jesse Aho also climbed past Dalbeck into the top five as lap 10 was scored.
Bahr gained some ground over Halopka as the race reached halfway, while Adams’ advantage had grown to a second-and-a-half. But as the leader closed on slower traffic on lap 17, Bahr was able to trim the difference down to less than half a second, before a caution flag came out for a spin and gave Adams an open track once again.
Aho moved around Halopka for fourth on the restart and stayed behind Adams, Bahr and Estey until lap 20, when another spin drew another yellow flag. Halopka got a great run with the green flag and took two positions for third, and over the final laps Bahr tried a number of times to get Adams to stumble, but the former national champ held tough for his landmark win by a mere two-tenths of a second.
“I used up my right-rear (tire) over the first 20 laps,” an excited Adams told the crowd from Victory Lane afterwards. “I heard Tony coming.”
Marcus Dunbar came from a 14th-place start to grab fourth in the late stages just ahead of Estey, while the second five consisted of 13th-starting Tyler Vernon, Aho, Brandon Copp, Mark Kangas and Brandon Jensen.
Northern Clearing Inc. of Ashland awarded $125 bonuses for the fastest-timed laps in each feature to Anvelink (Late Models; 16.952 seconds, 79.637 mph average), Cain (Mods; 17.257, 78.229), Myers (Supers; 17.726, 76.159), and Bahr (Mid-Mods; 18.130, 74.462).
Clint Larson Trucking of Duluth, Minn., paid out $125 “hard-charger” bonuses to Jeff Massingill (Late Models, 23rd to 11th), Darrell Nelson (Mods, 19th to 4th), Olson (Supers, 23rd to 7th), and Kangas (Mid-Mods, 20th to 9th) for advancing the furthest from their original scheduled starting position in each feature.
GA Dalbeck Trucking of Wakefield, Mich., awarded $150 bonuses to Ebert (Late Models), Peterson (Mods), Copp (Supers) and Derek Haas (Mid-Mods) as the top-finishing rookies in each feature.
Traynor was awarded an additional $500, complements of WeberWorks Construction, for his runner-up effort in the Super Stock feature.
Lakes Gas Company of Stone Lake provided a case of racing motor oil to each feature winner and posted bonuses to drivers who finished in randomly selected positions in each feature. In the Late Models Van House (12th) and George Ledin (17th) each earned extra cash, while Tanner Byholm (14th) and Tyler Luger (20th) collected the Mod main bonuses.
Tucker Quinn (15th) and Terran Spacek (21st) were paid the Lakes Gas bonuses after the Super Stock feature, and the Midwest Mod cash went to Jimmy Latvala (13th) and Mike Widmann (16th).
Glenz, Cain, Myers and Adams each received $100 “Kleen Sweep” bonuses from Kleen Air Heating & Cooling of Washburn for winning both their qualifying heat races and their respective features.
Dirt Race Central, which provided the event’s pay-per-view webcast, presented a $300 “long-haul” bonus to Modified driver Joey Price of Great Falls, Mont., who traveled 1,058 miles to purchase 2019 ABC Raceway Mod points champ Steve Stuart’s race car and compete in his first Red Clay Classic.
Champ Pans of Eau Claire and SSR Race Cars of Spring Valley paired up to once again provide commemorative t-shirts to each of Friday’s heat winners.
The Neighborly Bar of Ashland hosted its annual pre-Classic “bridal shower” on the Thursday night prior to the race weekend to raise money for its “Bridesmaid’s Challenge,” and in the process collected $4,000 from fans, racers and local businesses to be split among the second-place finishers in each of Saturday’s features. Diemel, Wagamon, Traynor and Bahr each gladly donned formal gowns and held bouquets donated by Superior Floral of Ashland during their post-race interviews and photos in Victory Lane for their share of the bounty.
McCoy Construction & Forestry of Ashland delivered a new John Deere grader to the Raceway for the weekend, which worked exceptionally well for track prep. The facility was beautifully decorated in the spirit of the Fall season with pumpkins, mums and other plants provided by Ashland florist Country Blossom.
The 191 entries for this year’s Classic included 29 Late Models, 56 Modifieds, 44 Super Stocks, and 62 Mid-Mods from six states and two Canadian provinces. The field included an impressive 31 rookie drivers who were either first-time-ever competitors to the northern Wisconsin oval or drivers racing in their respective divisions at the Classic for the first time.
Light overnight showers provided a challenge for the Raceway’s track preparation crew on Friday, but a quick grade and re-pack of the red-clay surface after hot laps and a brisk evening produced a sticky, lightning-fast race surface on Friday, while Saturday’s sunshine, cool temperatures and light breeze made for a smooth, wide, multi-groove oval.
The Ashland-Bayfield County Racing Association expresses its sincere appreciation to the many individuals, organizations and businesses who donated time, materials and resources that made this year’s Red Clay Classic another huge success. The ABC Raceway’s annual awards banquet will be held in January 2019, with information available soon on the track website, www.abcraceway.com.