A long time coming - Latvala returns to ABC victory lane

ASHLAND -- former track points champion Jimmy Latvala of Solon Springs slipped past impressive youngster Travis Nye and sped away to the WISSOTA Midwest Modified feature win Saturday night as part of an eventful Kids' Meet the Drivers Night progr...

ASHLAND -- former track points champion Jimmy Latvala of Solon Springs slipped past impressive youngster Travis Nye and sped away to the WISSOTA Midwest Modified feature win Saturday night as part of an eventful Kids' Meet the Drivers Night program at the ABC Raceway.

Prior to the AMSOIL Dirt Track Series show, drivers of the 108 racing entries parked on the front straightaway of the red clay oval were visited by over 500 young fans collecting autographs, photos and other souvenirs for more than 20 minutes.

Latvala, the 1995 WISSOTA Street Stock champ at Ashland, took a few seasons off to spend time with his family before returning to the racing wars a couple of summers back. Since then he has become one of the strongest Mid-mod drivers in the area, and his feature win at Proctor last summer was his first in over 10 years.

On Saturday he won for the first time on the Ashland track since August of 1996, and he did so in impressive fashion. Starting outside on row two, Latvala followed Nye around polestarter Shawn Rivord (Superior) to the front and stayed in Nye's tire tracks, despite several early yellow-flag slowdowns for a variety of spins. But it was on lap six when Latvala made his move, sweeping around Nye coming out of turn two and pulling away.

The final nine laps were interrupted only twice, and in between those caution stops Duane Dunbar worked by Nye for second. Dunbar posed several challenges to Latvala over the final laps but could not overtake the eventual winner. Steve Stuart also made his way past Nye for third, and Mickey Nosser turned in a solid fifth-place effort.


Glidden's Bill Byholm held off a determined effort by Jeff Spacek to capture top honors in the 20-lap WISSOTA Modified A-main. The two started side by side in the fast-paced event, and with a fast, sticky surface to play on Spacek thrilled the crowd by pulling the left-front tire off the ground with every blip of the throttle as he charged alongside Byholm on nearly every lap.

But time and time again Byholm would get the best of Spacek, either beating the defending track champ to the corners or, twice, being saved by timely caution flags - once for a Rick Rivord spin on lap three and then for a John Frydrych stop on lap 14.

As the two pulled away to decide the win for themselves, Steve Lavasseur maintained an impressive third-place run throughout the go, while Kent Baxter did all he could to hold off Al Uotinen for fourth.

Near the end of the run Spacek ran out of steam, and Byholm edged away to a half-second margin of victory - his first win here this year.

Joe Oliver's long-overdue visit to victory lane came tonight as well, as the Superior hot shoe captured a speedy WISSOTA Super Stock main event. Oliver started alongside polesitter Ken Truscott, but when Truscott couldn't make the corner in turn 4 on the opening lap, Oliver had Scott Lawrence to contend with for the restart.

But it didn't matter on this night who was alongside Oliver, as he pulled away by flying along the smooth outer line of the three-eighth-mile oval and quickly built a near-straightaway advantage. Even the race's only other stoppage - on lap five for a three-car get-together - didn't giver Lawrence and the rest of the field much of a chance to take the win away from Oliver, who again scooted to a healthy lead before Lawrence showed signs of gaining on the leader in the closing laps.

Oliver's winning margin was the better part of a half-dozen car-lengths, while Brian Mikkonen was an even greater distance back in third. Kevin Eder and Eric Olson completed the top five.

The WISSOTA Street Stock feature was not without a little drama, including that which came after the race was over. Rookie Kyle Weber, in his third night of his career, led from the pole for the first lap before, on a restart, he bobbled coming to take the green flag, causing the field to scatter around him and resulting in a spin in turn 1.


This handed the lead over to Steve Anderson, who had first-nighter Jeff Klopstein on his trunklid. Butch Kummer and Larry Haderly quickly overtook Klopstein and were about to converge on Anderson when Cory Casari and John Kallas tangled down the front straight.

On the restart Haderly dropped from contention after he was sent to the back of the field for an encounter with Greg Kuklinski. This left Anderson to fend off Kuklinski and Dennis Groom for the final eight of the 12 scheduled laps. As the lead threesome sped away to decide the outcome Anderson held his own, but Kuklinski's determined effort was successful on lap nine with an outside move.

Kuklinski pulled away over the final laps to claim the win - or so everyone thought. After his interview in victory lane, Kuklinski forgot to stop by the tech inspection area, resulting in an automatic disqualification from the race. Anderson, of Ironwood, MI, was awarded the win, with the rest of the field moving up, putting Groom, Klopstein, a recovered Haderly and Bruce Kalmon in the top five.

The Six-Cylinder affair was a drawn-out one, but it came to a wild conclusion for Warren Beede. The Iron River contingent put on a strong showing in earlier heat-race action, capturing two of the three qualifiers, and Beede and Tyler Luger again gave their fans something to cheer about in the 15-lap feature.

Tim Beeksma was a pleasant surprise out front in the early going, but he would have liked to have seen fewer caution flags, as each time he pulled away with the lead the yellow was thrown. Finally, after a lap 3 restart, Beeksma gave up the lead to Beede, and Pat Beeksma followed Beede into second. After one more time around Luger found himself in third and applied significant pressure to the battle for the lead.

Caution flags on nearly every other lap kept the field close, but Beede held off Pat Beeksma's persistent threats until, with three laps left, Beeksma's efforts paid off. From there Beeksma pulled away to what seemed to be a sure win until, as the white flag waived, his car slowed due to a flat tire, handing the lead and the win right back to Beede. Scott Ovaska, who battled just outside of the top five for most of the run, slipped through for runner-up money, just ahead of Luger's strong performance. Shawn McFadden, Jr, and Chuck Hawkinson competed a close-knit top five.

To cap off the show, Austin Blom of Saginaw, MN, came from a fourth-place restart on a green-white-checkered finish and came away with his second feature win in as many nights. Paul Milanowski led most of the ten-lapper and at times seemed to have things well in hand, pulling away by several car-lengths over the dogfight for second between a surprising Don Livingston and Tim Carbon. Milanowski was even able to keep the field at bay after the first of the race's two restarts - on lap four for a three-car scrum - but his car began to overheat and he lost positions just as the yellow lights went on again on lap 8 for a Matt Deragon-Ken Tody Jr spin.

Milanowski's car would not continue, and Livingston inherited the lead, with Carbon and Tim Carlson showing signs of challenging for the win. But it was Blom who shocked the frontrunners by sweeping around the high side of the track and overtaking the threesome ahead of him for an impressive win. Livingston held on for a strong second-place effort, barely ahead of Carlson, Carbon and Jeff Christman.


Several local businesses and race teams generously donated bikes, cash and other great prizes that were given away to the younger fans Saturday night. The track extends its appreciation to the race teams of John Frydrych, Bruce Kalmon, Eric Olson, Zach Pagels, Ron Hmielewski, Adam Traaholt and Kevin Eder, as well as to Little Caesar's Pizza, Coldwell Banker, New China Restaurant, Wendall's Pest Control and the Ashland Walmart for their generosity.

Bike winners included Kennedy Guski, Kallie Mikkonen, Stephanie Pestka, Cheyenne Belanger, Cody Lustig, Catlyn Dickrell, Molly Krueger, Jacob Nevala, Colin Claremboux, Emily Kovach, Easten Hamel, Scott Pumala, and Gracie Buckmaster. Ethan Whitebird was the winner of the $100 cash prize.

Next Saturday Baxter's Speed Shop of Dorchester and the Northern State Bank of Ashland will host the annual visit by the Minnesota-based Northern Vintage Stockcar Racers group, which brings restored vintage race cars to show and compete. Also on tap will be the first-ever "Preacher Feature," in which over ten area clergy persons will compete on the track for their favorite charities as well as local bragging rights. Fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable food donations to be presented to the charity of the clergy's choice.

Five of the track's regular divisions will be in action, as the modifieds have the night off. Hot laps are set for 6:15 p.m. and racing starts at 7 p.m. "Racenight" will air live on WBSZ, 93.3 FM, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. 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 raceday information call (715) 682-4990, or log on to the track's Web site, .


WISSOTA Modifieds

Feature: Bill Byholm, Glidden; Jeff Spacek, Phillips; Steve Lavasseur, River Falls; Kent Baxter, Elk Mound; Al Uotinen, Superior; Scott Hudack, Ashland; Jerry Hartman, Marenisco, MI; Duane Dale, Aurora, MN; Paul Niznik, Medford; Robby Bunkelman, Abbotsford; Kelly Checkalski, Poplar; Ross Lightner, Washburn; John Frydrych, Butternut; Dean Yrjanainen, Lake Nebagamon; Mark Baxter, Dorchester; Rick Rivord, Superior; Destin Lorimor, Superior.

Heat 1: Lavasseur; Bunkelman; Niznik; Uotinen; Hudack; Frydrych; Hartman; Rivord; Lorimor.


Heat 2: Byholm; Yrjanainen; Spacek; K Baxter; Checkalski; Lightner; M Baxter; Dale.

WISSOTA Super Stocks

Feature: Joe Oliver, Superior; Scott Lawrence, Superior; Brian Mikkonen, Iron River; Kevin Eder, Ashland; Eric Olson, Ladysmith; Trevor Wilson, Superior; Nick Oreskovich, Mason; Art Hyde, Washburn; Randy Spacek, Phillips; Mike Bellefeuille, Duluth, MN; Andy Grymala, Superior; Roy Pumala, Mason; Dave Elliott, Minocqua; Tad Schoonover, Eagle River; Ron Hmielewski, Marengo; Greg Kuklinski, Ironwood, MI; Dave Flynn, Superior; Ken Truscott, Greenland, MI; Charlie Anderson, Ironwood, MI; Don Koivisto, Saxon.

Heat 1: Oreskovich; Wilson; Olson; Lawrence; Grymala; Schoonover; Hyde; Kuklinski; Hmielewski; Koivisto.

Heat 2: Oliver; Truscott; Eder; Mikkonen; Flynn; Bellefeuille; Pumala; Elliott; Spacek; Anderson.

WISSOTA Street Stocks

Feature: Steve Anderson, Ironwood, MI; Dennis Groom, Ashland; Jeff Klopstein, Baraga, MI; Larry Haderly, Marengo; Bruce Kalmon, Ashland; Kyle Weber, Drummond; Shaina Aho, Toivola, MI; Cory Casari, Hurley; Butch Kummer, Medford;

John Kallas, Hurley.


Heat 1: Haderly; Kallas; Anderson; Weber; Kalmon.

Heat 2: Kummer; Greg Kuklinski, Ironwood, MI; Aho; Klopstein.

WISSOTA Midwest modifieds

Feature: Jimmy Latvala, Solon Springs; Duane Dunbar, Marenisco, MI; Steve Stuart, Ashland; Travis Nye, Ashland; Mickey Nosser, Phillips; Taylor Leuthner, Foxboro; Rick Przybylski, Ashland; Rob Weber, Ashland; Jesse Ogston, Duluth, MN; Lance Solem, Duluth, MN; Mike Truscott, Chippewa Falls; Mike Brennan, Ashland; Roland Gordon, Bayfield; Chris Bretting, Ashland; Jesse Aho, Twin Lakes, MI; Dan Sellung, Mason; George Dalbeck, Wakefield, MI; Shawn Rivord, Superior; Glenn Dammer, Duluth, MN; Travis Swanson, Ashland; Pat Cook, Washburn; Tim Lillo, Duluth, MN; Joe Ecklund, Springbrook; Roger Walker, Phillips.

Heat 1: Cook; Lillo; Rivord; Brennan; Aho; Ogston; Walker; Eckland.

Heat 2: Swanson; Nye; Dunbar; Dammer; Gordon; Solem; Truscott; Weber.

Heat 3: Latvala; Stuart; Leuthner; Nosser; Dalbeck; Przybylski; Bretting; Sellung.



Feature: Warren Beede, Iron River; Scott Ovaska, Marengo; Tyler Luger, Iron River; Shawn McFadden, Jr, Ashland; Chuck Hawkinson, Mellen; Tim Beeksma, Ashland; Colin Polacek, Phillips; Ken Tyykila, Iron River; Dale Coddington, Hayward; Neil Adamczak, Ashland; Justin Bretall, Grand View; Greg Jaeger, Mellen; Pat Beeksma, Ironwood, MI; Adam Traaholt, Ashland; Don Muzzy, Ironwood, MI; Jonathon Popp, Iron River; Bryan Anderson, Mason; Zach Pagels, Marengo; Bobby Durand, Mason; Aaron Mashlan, Ashland; DeJay Mihalek, Ashland; Forrest Schultz, Ashland; Ron Lillie, Wakefield, MI.

Heat 1: Luger; McFadden; Coddington; Jaeger; Muzzy; Anderson; Schultz.

Heat 2: Beede; P Beeksma; T Beeksma; Tyykila; Popp; Durand; Mashlan; Polacek.

Heat 3: Ovaska; Hawkinson; Pagels; Traaholt; Adamczak; Bretall; Mihalek.

Pure Stocks

Feature: Austin Blom, Saginaw, MN; Don Livingston, Bayfield; Tim Carlson, Superior; Tim Carbon, Highbridge; Jeff Christman, Superior; Nathan Dees, Ironwood, MI; Matt Deragon, Ashland; Jim Cooper, Superior; Tim Ayers, Foxboro; Dustin Gay, Ashland; Ken Tody, Jr, Ashland; Paul Milanowski, Ashland; Joe Wolfe, Montreal.

Heat 1: Christman; Blom; Carbon; Livingston; Ayers; Gay; Dees.

Heat 2: Carlson; Tody; Deragon; Cooper.

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