Another great crowd was on hand to enjoy a fast-paced stock car racing program and celebrate two first-time feature winners at the ABC Raceway on Saturday night.
Presented by the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce, the 77-entry show was sped up considerably by the fact that the final 67 of the scheduled 94 feature laps - including the last four full A-mains - clicked off without a single caution flag, a testament to some fine driving by the competitors and another outstanding job by the track prep crew.
The first of those to benefit from the excellent track conditions was Marcus Dunbar of Marenisco, Mich. The son of long-time veteran and former ABC champion Duane Dunbar, Marcus gained control early in the 20-lap WISSOTA Midwest Modified headliner and survived a couple of mid-race cautions to cruise to his first career feature win at the historic three-eighths-mile red-clay oval.
Jimmy Latvala sped around rookie polestarter Jesse Polson to set the pace early, and although Latvala was under attack by Ross Fuhrman, Dunbar, Justin Weinberger and others often over the first few laps, he was saved by several yellow-flag stoppages for a variety of spins and crashes, and he was still scored as the leader when the green flag came out again to restart lap 3.
That was when Dunbar, working the outer line, worked his way around Latvala and began to run away from the field. Over a relatively long green-flag run Dunbar extended his lead to almost three-and-a-half seconds, until a four-car mess on lap 9 slowed the pace.
On that restart Steve Altman, whose car was involved in the previous incident, ground to a stop against the front-stretch wall before another circuit was scored. But from there Dunbar was not to be denied, pulling away over the final ten laps to a full-second advantage on Jack Rivord, who had worked his way around Latvala for second on the final restart. Eleventh-starting visitor Justin Jones and opening-night winner Tyler Vernon completed the top five.
The other first-time feature winner on this night was AJ House, who has been a tough customer both here and at Superior over the first few weeks of the season. The fourth-year racer made the long haul from Cloquet, Minn., finally pay off with a main-event win in the entry-level WISSOTA Hornets.
The non-stop 12-lap run began with the field scrambling to avoid polestarter Mitch Kieber, whose car slowed dramatically after he led most of the first lap. Caleb Decker took advantage of Kieber’s misfortune, with Hunter McDougall right in his wake, but a lap later House had worked his way under McDougall for second, and over laps 4 and 5 House battled with Decker before taking over at the point.
Over the balance of the run House steadily built up a four-car-length advantage before scoring his landmark win, with Decker holding second throughout. McDougall finished just ahead of DeJay Jarecki and Derek Ament in the battle for third.
Cole Spacek of Phillips last landed in ABC’s Victory Lane in 2016 at the wheel of a Midwest Mod; on Saturday he scored his first-ever win in a “big” WISSOTA Modified at the Ashland track.
In the first of the four straight non-stop feature races, Spacek started on the pole, with Al Uotinen to his outside and Cole’s dad Jeff Spacek directly behind him, accounting for a full dozen ABC track championships between the pair. But the younger Spacek was completely up to the challenge, checking out to a huge 1.87-second lead on Uotinen within a mere three laps.
Eighth-starting visitor Mike Anderson got around Uotinen on lap 4 and attempted to reel in the leader, but Spacek maintained his advantage throughout the 20-lap go, while Alex Van Natta also slipped past Uotinen during the first half of the race for third. Spacek had tracked down the tail end of the field by the time he took the white flag, and he was still about a second-and-a-half ahead of Anderson at the checkered. Van Natta was comfortably ahead of Pat Cook for third, with Neil Balduc just behind in fifth.
Shawn McFadden Jr. of Ashland also started on the pole and led every lap of his feature, but his victory in the 20-lap WISSOTA Super Stock A-main was a little more dramatic at the final stripe. McFadden won the early battle with fellow front-row starter Scott Lawrence, and when Cory Casari came up to challenge Lawrence, it allowed McFadden to pull away briefly.
Don Muzzy’s lap 4 spin drew the field back to McFadden’s rear bumper, and Lawrence’s shot at the lead was cut short by Kevin Salin’s spin on lap 5.
The lap 7 caution flag for debris would be the last yellow of the night, and McFadden pushed his lead out to 2.2 seconds over the next five laps. But the early yellows also kept eighth-starting Dave Flynn close to the front, and on lap 12 Flynn slipped low past Lawrence for second. Over the final eight laps Flynn trimmed all but a half-second off of McFadden’s huge cushion, flying around the upper lines of the track while McFadden protected the bottom.
“When I saw the 29 in second on the scoreboard, I figured if he was gonna beat me I was gonna make him go around the outside,” McFadden said during his first visit to ABC’s Victory Lane in nearly two full years.
Terran Spacek edged a late-charging Andrew Mackey at the line for third, while Casari clawed his way by Lawrence for fifth.
Trego’s Randy Graham topped two of the night’s caution-free features on this night - in the WISSOTA Pure Stocks and ABC Six-Cylinders, where he is the defending track champion in both divisions. In the ten-lap Pure Stock run Graham worked hard over the first three laps to displace rookie polestarter Tanner Gehl for pacesetter honors, and then he really didn’t draw away from Gehl until the closing laps.
As the lead pair ran off, Tyler Kachinske took third away from first-nighter Brandon Hummelmeier. Graham was not much more than about five car-lengths up on Gehl at the checkered flag, with Kachinske quite a distance back. Hummelmeier took the checkers fourth, but his car didn’t meet the minimum post-race weight requirement, allowing two other first-night runners - rookies RJ Holly and David Pederson - to claim fourth and fifth.
In the Sixes feature Graham had even more work to do, running in a tight pack with Dalton Truchon and Forrest Schultz behind polestarter Joshua Saunders before taking advantage of an opening on lap 2 to edge by Schultz into third. Within a lap he copied that inside pass to take second from Truchon.
It took a couple more tours before Graham worked by Saunders for the lead, but from there he led the final seven of the 12 scheduled laps for the win, with Saunders right on the champ’s trunklid until falling back to a one-second deficit at the finish. Schultz, Truchon and Jordan Pearce filled the top five.
Cole Spacek (Mods, 17.519 secs, 77.059 mph), McFadden (Supers, 17.871, 75.541), Dunbar (Mid-Mods, 17.447, 77.377), and Graham (Sixes, 19.080, 70.755) posted the fastest lap times in their respective features.
The ABC Raceway will host another six-divisions race program on Saturday, June 13. The pits will open at 4:30 p.m., the grandstands will open at 5, and hot laps will start at 6:15, with racing scheduled for 7 p.m. Throughout the week, Heartland Communications Group will air Raceway news and weather updates throughout the Chequamegon Bay area on its radio stations, as well as online via the station websites, and on its free Heartland Communications Group radio app.
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: Cole Spacek, Phillips; Mike Anderson, Jim Falls; Alex Van Natta, Minocqua; Pat Cook, Washburn; Neil Balduc, Bessemer, MI; Jeff Spacek, Phillips; Paul Niznik, Medford; Jeff Tardy, Hibbing, MN; Al Uotinen, Superior; Jake Hiatt, Mason.
11-15: Brandon Copp, Brule; Tyler Luger, Oxford; Paul Suzik, Ironwood, MI; Bill Byholm, Glidden; Shane Kisling, Butternut.
Heat 1: Anderson; Suzik; Balduc; Van Natta; Luger; Kisling; Byholm; Hiatt.
Heat 2: C Spacek; Cook; J Spacek; Uotinen; Niznik; Copp; Tardy.
WISSOTA SUPER STOCKS
Feature: 1-10: Shawn McFadden, Ashland; Dave Flynn, Superior; Terran Spacek, Phillips; Andrew Mackey, Duluth, MN; Cory Casari, Montreal; Scott Lawrence, Superior; Andy Grymala, Superior; Nick Oreskovich, Mason; Don Muzzy, Ironwood, MI; Patrick Beeksma, Ironwood, MI.
11-13: Kevin Salin, Iron, MN; Rita Anderson, South Range; Matt Deragon, Ashland.
Heat 1: Spacek; Grymala; Flynn; Deragon; Mackey; Beeksma; Dan Severson, Ironton, MN; Kyle Copp, Brule.
Heat 2: Oreskovich; Casari; McFadden; Lawrence; Muzzy; Salin; Anderson; Aaron Mashlan, Ashland.
WISSOTA MIDWEST MODIFIEDS
Feature: 1-10: Marcus Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Jack Rivord, Superior; Jimmy Latvala, Solon Springs; Justin Jones, Bemidji, MN; Tyler Vernon, Ashland; Ross Fuhrman, Ashland; Justin Weinberger, Butternut; Jesse Aho, Toivola, MI; Brady Uotinen, Superior; Ryan Barningham, Bayfield.
11-17: Jesse Polson, Superior; John Darwin, Iron River; Paul Ripley, Duluth, MN; Jesse Young, Stone Lake; John Kallas, Hurley; Steve Altman, Mercer; Kennedy Swan, Chippewa Falls.
Heat 1: Dunbar; Weinberger; Fuhrman; Darwin; Altman; Uotinen; Tanner Hicks, Ashland.
Heat 2: Rivord; Vernon; Latvala; Jones; Barningham.
Heat 3: Aho; Swan; Polson; Kallas; Ripley; Diamond Bressette, Spooner.
Feature: 1-7: Randy Graham, Trego; Joshua Saunders, Spooner; Forrest Schultz, Ashland; Dalton Truchon, Ashland; Jordan Pearce, Ashland; Dominic Hmielewski, Marengo; Mathew Rohlfing, Cable.
Heat: Graham; Schultz; Truchon; Pearce; Saunders; Hmielewski; Rohlfing.
WISSOTA PURE STOCKS
Feature: 1-5: Randy Graham Trego; Tanner Gehl, Solon Springs; Tyler Kachinske, Duluth, MN; RJ Holly, Marengo; David Pederson, Hermantown, MN.
Heat: Graham; Gehl; Brandon Hummelmeier, Maple; Holly; Pederson.
Feature: 1-10: AJ House, Cloquet, MN; Caleb Decker, Mahtowa, MN; Hunter McDougall, Duluth, MN; DeJay Jarecki, Ashland; Derek Ament, Barnum, MN; Nate Rose, Duluth, MN; Casey Fitzpatrick, Two Harbors, MN; Cully Butterfield, Trego; Kristy Marken, Duluth, MN; Isiah Oakgrove, Bessemer, MI.
11-14: Shawn Young, Stone Lake; Josh Rowe, Duluth, MN; Derek Dunbar, Iron River; Mitch Kieber, Ironwood, MI.
Heat 1: Jarecki; House; Decker; Rose; Butterfield; Fitzpatrick; Rowe.
Heat 2: Ament; McDougall; Kieber; Marken; Dunbar; Oakgrove.