Gondik Law Speedway, Proctor Speedway Throw Joint Banquet for 2018’s Best
by Nick Gima
Superior, WI, February 9 — Nearly 200 drivers, crew members and track personnel filled the Great Lakes Ballroom at the Barker’s Island Inn in Superior on Saturday evening, February 9, to enjoy a wonderful buffet meal and honor the top-finishing drivers in the final points standings of the 2018 stock car racing season at the Gondik Law Speedway in Superior and the nearby Proctor (MN) Speedway. The staffs of each race facility once again joined forces to offer their congratulations and thanks to the many race teams that patronize both Twin Ports tracks.
Both Lakehead Racing Association president Mike Donohue and Gondik Law Speedway representative Crash Carlson offered sincere thanks to the racers as well as each track’s staff of workers and their respective Boards of Directors. Emcee NickGima then presented the drivers to receive their commemorative banners, emblazoned with colorful photos of their race cars and specifying their accomplishments in 2018 at each track, starting with those racing in the six regular weekly classes at Proctor.
Veteran and fan-favorite Tim McMann of Duluth, MN, used bookend feature wins – in the May 13 season opener and the August 19 season finale – to earn another WISSOTA Late Model track championship. The popular driver scored two other top-five and two top-ten feature finishes to edge out Aaron Lillo for the title.
Lillo, of Proctor, parlayed a sweep of heat race and feature action on June 24 to earn runner-up honors in the division, while Chris Lillo of Duluth finished third in Late Model points and was named that division’s Rookie of the Year. Hermantown, MN’s Darrell Nelson, who finished either first, second or third six times at Proctor in 2018, finished fourth in final points and was honored as Sportsman of the Year in the class, while Terry Lillo, the patriarch of that racing family from Duluth, completed the top five.
Neil Balduc, the ninth-year racer from Bessemer, MI, grabbed a feature win, tallied two heat wins, and won the WISSOTA Modified points title at Proctor. It was his first championship at the Minnesota track, and for his commitment to supporting the facility he was also honored as the division’s Sportsman of the Year.
Former champ Deven Van House of Silver Bay, MN, finished second, while third went to Duluth’s Jody Bellefeuille, who had a pair of feature wins at Proctor in ‘18. Deerwood, MN’s Danny Vang and Donnie Lofdahl of Duluth completed the top five. Superior’s Cody Carlson was named the track’s top “big Mod” rookie.
Proctor’s Kevin Burdick, who once again had a huge season in the WISSOTA Super Stocks, finished first in points – one of four tracks that he earned championships at in 2018. At Proctor, he collected four feature wins and a track-best five heat wins in successfully defending his track title.
Superior’s Scott Lawrence, who earned two feature wins, finished second, while third-place Duluth’s Brian Carl was also honored as the division’s Sportsman of the Year for his support of the track both as a driver and as a sponsor. Ronnie Malecki of Superior and Rookie of the Year Jon Hammitt of Cloquet, MN, rounded out Proctor’s top five in Super Stock points.
Superior’s Dan Kingsley capped a very strong season with his second straight WISSOTA Midwest Modified crown at Proctor, thanks in large part to seven top-five feature finishes. Kingsley, who recently announced that he will be racing Modifieds in 2019, held the slimmest winning margin at the track – just 10 points.
Brandon Copp of Brule grabbed two feature wins to finish just behind Kingsley, and he was named the class’s Sportsman of the Year for his quiet, respectful demeanor and use of social media to promote local racing. Van House was awarded his second top-five trophy of the night, while Duluth’s Craig Lofdahl took the fourth-place banner home and Hermantown’s Andrew Inman did likewise for fifth. Superior’s Jack Rivord was named the division’s Rookie of the Year.
Reigning three-time national WISSOTA Pure Stock champion Michael Blevins of Hibbing, MN, successfully defended his title at Proctor in 2018, with the help of five feature and five heat wins. Blevins also won points titles at Grand Rapids, MN, and Hibbing, and he was also named Sportsman of the Year at Proctor for his integrity and support of the track.
Veteran racer Al Rapp of Saginaw, MN, finished second in Pure Stock points due in part to his seven top-five feature finishes in the nine shows that he ran at Proctor, while Hermantown’s Carter Nelson landed a career-best third. Fourth went to Andrew Hanson of Iron River, WI, and fifth was Duluth’s Aaron Bernick. Markia Smith of St Joseph, MN, was named the track’s Rookie of the Year for her seventh-in-points effort last summer.
Third-year driver Hunter McDougall of Duluth earned his first career track championship in Proctor’s WISSOTA Hornets division. McDougall swept his heat and feature races on May 20 and finished tenth in the national standings for the division.
Paul Ripley of Duluth had two runner-up feature efforts and finished second in track points, while Derek Ament of Barnum, MN, had two feature wins and took third. Fourth was Cloquet’s Allen House, and Rookie of the Year Patrick Passeri of Duluth was fifth.
Sixth through tenth in the Hornets were also honored by the Speedway and included, in order, WISSOTA national champion Brittany Smith of St Joseph; Christian Ripley of Duluth; Rick Long Jr of Duluth; Wally Ament of Carlton, MN; and Duluth’s Tyler Kachinske. Long, who was recently elected to Proctor’s Board of Directors along with his crew chief, received the Sportsman of the Year honor.
Next came the presentations to the top five in each of the five weekly divisions of the Gondik Law Speedway.
Travis Budisalovich of Minneapolis, MN, won the WISSOTA Late Model points championship in the past three years at Superior. Also the track champ in 2016, Budisalovich scored three feature wins and added an invitational win in September at Menomonie to cap off am outstanding season.
Aaron Lillo was presented his second runner-up banner of the night, McMann also collected a third-place flag. Terry Lillo also added to his banner collection with fourth-place honors, while fifth was awarded to Hibbing’s Kyle Peterlin.
The track’s Late Model Sportsman of the Year honor went to John Toppozini of Thunder Bay, ON, for his dedication and commitment to the track despite the long haul, and the Rookie of the Year award was handed to Superior’s Dave Flynn, who strapped into Trevor Wilson’s racer and finished sixth in points.
Johnny Broking of Grand Rapids was named GLS’s WISSOTA Modified points champion for 2018. Broking, who finished eighth nationally, tallied three feature wins and three heat wins, and was also the track champion at Hibbing.
Popular veteran racer Al Uotinen of Superior claimed second in points, thanks in part to back-to-back runner-up finishes in mid-July, and Proctor champ Balduc was third, ahead of Bellefeuille and Vang, who was named the track’s Sportsman of the Year for his easy demeanor and commitment to family in the sport. Cody Carlson collected his fourth Rookie of the Year award of the season.
Burdick was again honored as the WISSOTA Super Stock champion at GLS, marking three straight track titles there. Burdick, who finished second in national points, also won this past summer’s FastLane Motorsports Northland Super Stock Series championship.
Superior’s DJ Keeler collected a career-best second-place banner, and Flynn used a FastLane Series feature win in Superior to earn third in points. Former track champ Nick Oreskovich of Mason was awarded fourth place, and multi-time champ Lawrence was fifth.
Sportsman of the Year honors went to Andy Grymala of Superior for his unassuming nature and faithful support of GLS, and Cloquet’s Annika Hammitt, who finished seventh in points, was named Rookie of the Year.
Back-to-back national WISSOTA Midwest Modified champion Skeeter Estey of Kelly Lake, MN, was also a repeat points titlist at Gondik Law Speedway. Estey’s phenomenal season included seven total feature wins at Superior, with a clean sweep of all three nights of the Speedway’s Northern Nationals, plus the WISSOTA 100 and Race of Champions feature wins.
Kingsley finished second at Superior, marking his second runner-up points finish of the season to go along with the Proctor title, and Copp took home another banner by landing third. Van House was the fourth-place finisher in Mid-Mod points at GLS, and Ryan Savoy of Foxboro claimed fifth to earn Rookie of the Year honors. Rivord was presented with the Sportsman of the Year banner for his “good neighbor” reputation among his fellow racers.
Second-year driver James Vendela of South Range collected his first-ever track title in Superior’s WISSOTA Pure Stock division, using a mid-season hot streak that included three feature wins at GLS over a 17-day stretch. Vendela also finished fourth in WISSOTA’s national standings.
Bernick finished ninth in national points and second at Gondik Law Speedway, while Shaina Rapp of Saginaw claimed a career-best third-place finish. Dylan Shelton of Wrenshall, MN, used a strong late-season run to land fourth, and the division’s Rookie of the Year was fifth-place finisher Darren Lowney of Superior. Duluth’s Jeremy Cash, who finished first in WISSOTA’s national Rookie of the year points, was given the Sportsman of the year award for his generosity to his fellow racers and his genuine enthusiasm for the sport.
Donohue called upon track crew members Duane Caywood and Roger Truscott to receive Proctor Speedway’s Overall Sportsman of the Year awards for their hard work and involvement at the track, and then he presented Rod Hietala with the track’s President’s Award for his outstanding dedication to the facility’s efforts. Crash Carlson presented Gondik Law Speedway’s prestigious Russ Laursen Award to Patty McCauley for her tireless efforts in assistance to the track.
After the awards presentation, many door prizes were handed out. A separate special raffle was held to raise funds for Nashwauk, MN, sprint driver Ken Hron, a former Modified competitor at both tracks, who was injured in a frightening flip during Proctor’s season finale night. Along with the proceeds from the raffle, the Lillo family donated its winnings from the 50/50 drawing also held during the evening, bringing the total amount presented to Hron to over $670.
Hron was emotionally appreciative of the generosity of those who contributed to the fundraiser and gave a special word of thanks to the safety and emergency crews at the track who helped rescue him after that awful incident.
Both tracks are currently finalizing plans for the upcoming racing season, which should be a busy and eventful one for both. For information regarding the 2019 racing schedule at the Gondik Law Speedway, log on to the track’s website, http://gondiklawspeedway.com/, while info on the upcoming season at Proctor Speedway can be found at https://proctorspeedway.com/.