Redetzke, Jensen Dominant in Red Clay Classic Repeats Bellefeuille, Halopka are first-time RCC winnerswissota
Ashland, WI, — Jake Redetzke of Eau Claire and Joey Jensen of Forest Lake, MN, used dominant performances to repeat as Red Clay Classic feature winners Saturday night at the ABC Raceway.
Also during the 37th annual running of the Northland’s traditional stock car racing season finale, Mike Bellefeuille of Duluth, MN, held on through a couple of late restarts to claim his first-ever feature win in Ashland, and Medford’s Shane
Halopka outran his competition for his first RCC win.
The Raceway enhanced the over-$70,000 offering to the AmsOil Dirt Track Series drivers in attendance with a Champions’s Challenge bonus, offering an extra $500 to any of the four feature winners who had been either a past RCC or WISSOTA national champion, or if they had won a WISSOTA track points championship, invitational title or series title during the 2012 racing season.
Summer-like temperatures greeted the capacity crowd to the Chequamegon Bay area for 19 qualifying heats on Friday and most of Saturday’s seven B-mains and four features. But by the time the WISSOTA late models rolled onto the track for the
headline event on Saturday night, a dense fog had rolled over and blanketed the Raceway, eventually making visibility too difficult for the drivers and forcing the race to be cut from its original 50 laps to just 35. Regardless of the distance, it’s doubtful that anyone in the field had anything to challenge Redetzke. The defending race champ beat pole starter John Kaanta into and out of the first set of turns for the initial lead, and after Nick Anvelink’s spun ride stopped the action with one lap recorded, Redetzke eventually drew away from the field, building up a 1.8-second lead by the end of lap 8.
Just after that lap 1 restart Justin Fegers took a look to the inside to challenge Kaanta for the second spot, but the 2006 Classic champ fended off the threat and built up a slight cushion over Fegers over the next few laps. Behind them Todd Gehl battled with Adam Hensel for fourth. By lap 12 Redetzke had already caught Terry Lillo at the tail end of the field, offering Kaanta a chance to close his huge 2.8-second deficit to the leader. Although Redetzke expertly weaved through the backmarkers, Kaanta nearly cut a full second off the difference until he, too, began to contend with the slower traffic. Then, just as Fegers followed Kaanta into the congestion, Zach Wohlers’ spin in turn 4 on lap 18 reset the field and gave the leaders a clear track for the restart. Steve Laursen’s looped ride forced another try at the restart, but once back underway Redetzke opened up a full-second advantage on Kaanta within a lap. Meanwhile a fierce battle was raging for sixth place that included a couple of surprise participants, as Laursen and Brent Larson were being challenged by 12th-starting Jeff Provinzino and Darrell Nelson, who had clawed his way through two-thirds of the 24-car field after starting 23rd. By lap 25 Nelson had overtaken the others and threatened to crack the top five.
On lap 29 Redetzke was again catching up to the back of the field, but this time Kaanta chewed up the two-second difference quickly, and he was within mere car-lengths of the leader when Joey Ogston spun right in front of Redetzke in turn 2. The reprieve gave Redetzke another chance to run away from Kaanta and the others, while it also allowed the charging Nelson to overtake Gehl for fifth. Fegers then slipped up the track on the next lap, giving Hensel the inside line to slip through for third. On lap 35, with visibility almost nil, 19th-running Rick Hanestad slowed coming off
of turn 4 and coasted into the infield grass. The ensuing caution flag slowed the field, and the leaders were then stopped on the front straight as officials conferred with them to determine whether it was safe to continue under the
conditions. It was mutually agreed to end the race at that point, giving Redetzke his second straight RCC title and third ABC Raceway feature win overall. Kaanta, Hensel, Fegers and Nelson completed the top five, while Gehl led Larson,
Provinzino, Laursen and Harry Hanson in the second five. Redetzke turned the fastest lap in the race with a tour around the three-eighths-mile red-clay oval of 15.855 seconds, setting a new ABC Raceway record for non-sprint cars. Combined with the Champions’ Challenge and fast-lap bonuses, his pay check of $4,650 is the largest ever awarded to any racer in track history.
Like Redetzke, Jensen started from the outside of the front row of the WISSOTA modifieds’ A-feature, and he, too, was uncatchable. But Jensen had to get the lead away from polesitter Scott Miller first, and that took a couple more laps than in Redetzke’s effort. At the start of the 35-lap, 11-minute non-stop run, Miller held off Jensen as long as he could before the defending race winner’s outside line allowed for a pass for the lead on lap 2. Behind them, Steve Lavasseur was working overtime to keep Brandon Jensen and Curt Myers at bay, but after two more laps the younger Jensen
brother slipped around Lavasseur for third and began reeling in Miller. Joey Jensen had extended his lead on Miller to a second and a quarter by the time seven laps had been scored, and he added another half-second to that advantage by the time his brother had caught Miller on lap 11. Further back Myers challenged Lavasseur with a look to the inside.
The leader began to forge his path through slower traffic on lap 17, holding a 2.5-second edge on the battle for second. Two laps later Brandon Jensen worked the outside line and got by Miller for the runner-up spot, while fourth-place Myers was comfortably ahead of a developing dog-fight for fifth between Lavasseur, Jeff Spacek and Steve Stuart. Despite the heavy traffic, Brandon Jensen could not gain any ground on his big brother until Joey encountered trouble getting by a determined Jake Hartung with four laps to go. Brandon shortened the gap to less than a second-and-a-half, but then he, too, got caught up behind a battle for position deep in the field, and Joey cruised to his second straight Classic win, his third in a mod and his fourth overall. Miller claimed an RCC career-best third-place finish at a distance ahead
of Myers, who also had some ground on fifth-place Lavasseur. Spacek, the 2012 ABC Raceway points champ, took home sixth, followed by ’07 RCC winner Jody Bellefeuille, Stuart, Jesse Glenz and Jerry Weigel. Joey Jensen also set the fastest lap of the race (18.079 seconds) and collected the Champions’s Challenge bonus, giving him an ABC Raceway record for mods with his $3,650 payday.
The WISSOTA super stock feature was a test of Mike Bellefeuille’s determination as well as his patience, as a handful of early restarts put him in position to take the lead, and then several late cautions gave him reason to worry. Bellefeuille, the only one of the four feature winners on this night not to start on the front row, had to work his way from the outside on row 4 but used the high groove to his advantage. After a redo of the original start, polesitter Wayne Harris beat Nick Oreskovich in the drag race into turn 1 and paced the early stages. The region’s hottest super stocker as of late, Ben Hillman, worked inside on Oreskovich and stole second away just before the yellow lights came on for a two-car spin involving former RCC winners Myers and Eric Olson, with Myers’ car unable to continue. Defending race champ Shane Kisling struggled early, spinning and collecting Andy Grymala in turn 3 to force another caution slowdown, and after charging around the high side to challenge for third on the restart Kisling’s car was again uncooperative, spinning in turn 2 to slow the pace again. After that the racers – especially Bellefeuille – took advantage of an eight-lap green-flag run. Bellefeuille, who had worked his way to fourth before the second Kisling spin, dropped to the bottom groove and wrestled third away from Oreskovich, bringing Dave Flynn and a hard-charging Kevin Eder – driving an older car owned by Oreskovich – to fourth and fifth. As Oreskovich drove high around Dave Flynn for fourth, Bellefeuille switched lanes and worked the outside groove to race with and eventually capture second from Hillman on lap 5, and he repeated the move one lap later with a pass of Harris for the lead.
As Bellefeuille pulled away to a second-and-a-half cushion, Harris found himself in a struggle to keep second, with Eder and Hillman on his trunk-lid. Eder stayed upstairs to work his way by Harris for second just a lap before the pace was
finally slowed on lap 11 for ABC track champ Scott Lawrence, whose hood folded up and covered his windshield, forcing him to stop on the track. In the “Delaware double-file” restart Eder opted for the outside of the second row, giving him a chance to come around the right shoulder of Bellefeuille for the restart, but the leader held firm, while Hillman slipped past Harris for third. Randy Spacek also took advantage of the situation by working past both Flynn and Oreskovich for fifth on lap 13. As the race stayed under green for a 14-lap stretch, Bellefeuille spent the first eight of those laps building up a 1.7-second lead, while Hillman fought his way back into second with an inside pass on lap 16. Then, with ten laps to go, Hillman began to cut into that margin, clipping off a tenth of a second a lap or so until he trailed by 1.1 seconds on lap 25, when the caution lights came on for a get-together involving Oreskovich and 20th-starting Rich Bishop, who were battling for sixth.
Hillman took a peek to the inside on the restart, but Bellefeuille fought him off. Hillman had another chance a lap later, after the race was stopped for another incident, this time involving Oreskovich and Olson. But from there Bellefeuille drove a stout car away to a one-second margin of victory. Eder snuck past Hillman a lap after the restart to cross under the checkers in second, while Spacek, who got by Harris with two laps left, came home fourth with Olson in tow. A post-race technical inspection of Eder’s and Spacek’s cars found both to be illegal, giving second back to Hillman at the pay window and awarding 14th-starting Olson third place. Harris claimed fourth, and 19th-starting Wayne Stricker, the former modified star who was driving Chuck Hawkinson’s super for his first race night this season, took fifth. Sixth through tenth went to Mike Keller, Flynn, 22nd-starting Cory Casari, Ken Truscott and Lawrence. Bellefeuille also set the fast lap in the run with a circuit of 18.635 seconds and collected a total first-place check with the bonus of $1,650.
Halopka led every lap of the WISSOTA Midwest modified A-main, set the fastest lap in the race (18.549 seconds), and earned the Champions’ Challenge bonus for his points title and recent invitational win at Menomonie, earning himself a Mid-mod track-record $1,250 payday and becoming the third different driver to win a Red Clay Classic title in the three years the division has been included in the show. Halopka, as did Redetzke and Joey Jensen, started on the outside of the front row and beat the polesitter – in this case, Mike Truscott – to the initial lead. The 25-lap race was fast-paced, taking only 13 minutes and slowed by only two cautions, as Halopka and Truscott built up some cushion on the battle for third between Kerry Halopka, defending race champ George Dalbeck and Duane Dunbar. With nine laps in Shane Halopka had stretched his advantage to three-quarters of a second before Stan Rychlock spun in turn 4, stopping the action. Halopka pulled away again with the next green flag, while brother Kerry gained the better of Truscott for second. Ninth-starting Ryan Viltz used an outside move to get by Truscott for third on lap 10, and two laps later Viltz used a similar move to get around Kerry Halopka for second, a full second-and-a-half back of the leader. Viltz, who came from a ways back to chase down Shane Halopka the weekend before in Menomonie only to finish second there, began to chip away at Halopka’s lead again, whittling it down to a half-second with three laps to go. Behind them at a distance Truscott had made a pass by Kerry Halopka for third, but that pass was nullified by debris in turn 1, setting up a three-lap sprint to the checkers. In the scramble on the restart, rookie Paul Suzik surprised everyone by slipping past Truscott and Kerry Halopka into third place, and he maintained the spot as Shane Halopka stayed out in front of Viltz for the second week in a row and earned his fifth career ABC Raceway win and first since the summer of 2008. Taylor Leuthner and 20th-starting Matt Anderson also both slipped past Truscott to complete the top five, while Kerry Halopka, 2012 ABC points champ Travis Nye, Nathan Thums and Travis Friske filled out the top ten.
The total car count of 170 racers exactly matched that of last year’s event, with this year’s number made up of 30 late models, 47 modifieds, 45 super stocks and 48 Mid-mods. Northern Clearing Inc of Ashland awarded the $150 bonuses for the fastest timed laps in each of the respective features. The ABC Raceway’s annual Awards Banquet will be held in January; fans and drivers are encouraged to watch the track’s website, , for more information. The ABC Raceway is located 3-1/2 miles south of Ashland on State Highway 13 and one mile west on Butterworth Road.
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