Ashland, WI, January 21 (by Nick Gima) — A crowd of well over 200 gathered at the Bad River Lodge, Casino & Convention Center in nearby Odanah to socialize, enjoy a great buffet meal, and celebrate the 2011 stock car racing season as the ABC Raceway put the final touches on its 47th season Saturday night.
Track president Kurt Beeksma kicked off the awards portion of the program by welcoming the crowd on hand and thanking the many people involved with the track’s efforts, including the loyal volunteer work staff, the many season-long sponsors, those businesses and individuals who were so generous in their help and donations, and the many drivers and their crews and families who participated during the past season. He also paid recognition to the Raceway’s Board of Directors for their dedication to the track’s success. Then track announcer Nick Gima presented the top ten finishers in the final regular-season points standings in each of the five regular weekly racing divisions, who received trophies.
In addition, points fund monies were handed out to all qualifying competitors from the recently completed season, and the champions each received a beautiful commemorative jacket.
Steve Stuart of Ashland held off challenges from Al Uotinen, Bill Byholm and Steve Lavasseur to earn his first points title in the WISSOTA modifieds in 2011. In his second season in the “big mods,” he raced to his first-ever feature win in the division on June 11 and from there held on to win the championship by seven points. He also shared the division lead with four heat wins and five top-five feature finishes.
Stuart became the first Ashland native ever to win the track’s modified crown. He also won the six-cylinder crown in 2006 and claimed ABC’s first two WISSOTA Midwest modified championships after the division was added full-time in 2008 and ‘09. Stuart presented Raceway championship jackets to his parents, Ray and Terrie, in appreciation for their support.
Byholm, of Glidden, finished only seven points back of Stuart to earn runner-up honors in the modifieds, while Uotinen, the four-time track champ from Superior, landed only nine points off the title pace. Lavasseur, from River Falls, came within 16 of Stuart in fourth.
Five-time ABC Raceway champ Jeff Spacek of Phillips rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth in the final standings included Rick Rivord of Superior, Kevin Eder of Ashland, Wayne Stricker of Highbridge, Scott Hudack of Ashland, and Kent Baxter of Elk Mound.
Scott Lawrence of Superior added to his historic dominance of the ABC Raceway’s WISSOTA super stock division by chalking up his eighth straight crown in that class and eleventh championship overall in Ashland. Lawrence was pressured for the title this past summer by Cory Casari and Dave Flynn but used a division-leading five heat wins and seven top-five feature finishes to extend his track records for consecutive and total overall titles.
Lawrence collected two more feature victories on the season, bringing his ABC total to 48, which is sixth-best on the track’s all-time win list. He also collected an additional $500 as a result of the “bounty” put up by the Raceway for any driver who could top him in the final standings.
Lawrence dedicated his championship to the late George Rhoe, who passed away this past September and, in representing Intercomp Scales, was a significant sponsor and supporter of Lawrence’s racing efforts.
Casari, of Montreal, trailed Lawrence by just 14 in the final points tally and finished a career-best second in the super stocks, after a season that saw him win his first-ever feature in the class on June 25. Flynn, of Superior, tied for the track’s lead in feature wins with three and at one time took over the points lead from Lawrence mid-season, but he settled for the third-place trophy. Former three-time champ Brian Mikkonen of Iron River and 1993 champ Randy Spacek of Phillips completed the top five.
Nick Oreskovich of Mason led the second five in the supers, followed by Ken Truscott of Greenland, MI; Ron Hmielewski of Marengo, and rookies Cody Carlson of Superior and Shawn Rivord of South Range.
George Dalbeck of Ironwood, MI, enjoyed a dream season in the WISSOTA Midwest modified division as he collected three feature wins here during the regular season and his first-ever track championship. He was dominant at Ashland, taking first or second in each of the first five features and adding second-place finishes in five A-mains on the season, and he was competitive at every other track he competed at, including winning two features at Superior.
Dalbeck capped off his incredible 2011 season with a strong winning run at this past fall’s Red Clay Classic, becoming the first ABC Raceway regular to win the prestigious event since Darrell Carlson of Superior won the modified feature in 2003.
Ashland’s Rob Weber trailed Dalbeck in the final Mid-mod standings by 21 despite leading the division with five heat wins. Travis Nye, also of Ashland, claimed third in the rundown, ahead of fellow Ashland campaigners Ryan Adamzak and Rick Przybylski.
In the second five in the Mid-mods were former three-time track super stock champ Duane Dunbar of Marenisco, MI; Ironwood, MI’s Steve Anderson and Neil Balduc, Bill Muhlig of Bessemer, MI; and Ashland’s Chad Adamzak.
Patrick Beeksma of Ironwood, MI, collected his third ABC Raceway six-cylinder championship jacket, adding to titles earned in 2001 and ‘08. Beeksma started and finished the season with feature wins and either led or stayed within striking distance of the points lead throughout the summer, despite a season filled with challenges to his racing program. Beeksma’s two feature wins bring his career total in Ashland to 20, which is now second-best all-time among six-cylinder drivers.
Defending division champ Greg Jaeger of Mellen ended up 14 points back of Beeksma for second in the sixes, while Ironwood, MI’s Don Muzzy used his first-ever feature win as a boost to a career-best third-place finish. Scott Ovaska of Marengo and Ashland’s Neil Adamzak filled out the top five in points.
Tyler Hudack and Shawn McFadden, Jr, both of Ashland; Dale Coddington of Hayward, Tyler Luger of Iron River, and Ashland’s Tad Bretting made up sixth through tenth in the sixes.
The 2011 ABC Raceway pure stock points championship was presented to Tim Carbon of Highbridge, who also shared the title in 2009. Carbon edged Ken Tody, Jr, by a mere three points for the honor, thanks to a lone heat win and feature wins on June 4 and June 25 in what was otherwise a quiet campaign. Carbon was one of four drivers in the pure stocks who won two features each, accounting for eight of the nine A-mains won in the division in 2011.
Tody, of Ashland, was one of those with two feature wins, including a dramatic Pure Excitement 25 victory, to finish second in the final pure stock standings. Chad Carlson of Superior, who won the division title in 2010, held down third, while Ashland’s Tiffany Hudack and Jeff Christman of Superior rounded out the final top five.
Finishing sixth in the pure stocks was Jonathan Vanusek of Mellen, while Ashland’s Matt Deragon was seventh, the team effort of Jim Eliason and Paul Tutor of Ashland claimed eighth, and Superior drivers Steve Udeen and DJ Keeler ended up ninth and tenth, respectively.
The top rookies in each division were presented trophies for their efforts, including Eder (mods), Cody Carlson (supers), Muhlig (Mid-mods), Matt Pelto of Ashland (sixes), and Vanusek (pure stocks).
Named as the track’s Most Improved Driver was Bill Anderson of Wakefield, MI (sixes), while receiving the Sportsman of the Year award was Baxter.
In special presentations made by Beeksma, Mary Bowers and Eric Erickson each received the ABC Raceway Award of Excellence for their many years of dedicated service to the track, while the President’s Award was given to long-time track volunteer Gordy Gilbertson, who has acted in many capacities at the track.
Prior to the awards ceremonies drawings were held for the many great door prizes donated for the event, and afterwards musical entertainment was provided by “BB King.”
The 48th season of stock car racing action at the three-eighth-mile red-clay oval is scheduled to begin in mid-May. 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.