Hayfields and Racecars - Fun in the 50s
By Jane (Lajcak) Asbach
In the 1950s, a summer Sunday on the family farm was quiet time. Sometimes you heard a car drive by, or a muffled tractor on a neighbor's field - or even cowbells in a pasture nearby. Not much was happening. But that all changed once some restless young guys decided it would and could be fun to test each other's cars for speed and endurance!
Soon, on a field south of Highway 2 and across from the Ino Store and Bar, a small oval racetrack appeared. Three, maybe four cars were roaring around. This was 1955 and most of the cars were 1934 Ford Coupes. The Benedict Brothers from Washburn and Virgil Brevak from Barksdale are names remembered.
The next summer (1956), they decided to move their fun to a larger field west of Moquah on the corner of Servinsky Road and Highway G. Now they were up to seven cars. Jerry Servinsky remembers this well, since his uncle Jerry Lunda and his wife Lillian (Misun) owned the field. They even sold hot dogs to the cheering spectators. Folks remember one driver losing control and roaring off into nearby trees, and swerving around to come back and finish the race dragging part of a tree! I remember going one Sunday with my dad and brothers. We took along a large box of puppies to give away to kids in the crowd. It worked! They all found new homes. A driver's helmet was passed around the crowd to pay their winnings, and beer was available, of course! The Carbon family from Highbridge were popular racers, and some still race today. But soon the local authorities decided this show was too dangerous and told them they must move elsewhere.
Moving on to 1957 - a racing club was newly organized in Ashland, calling itself the Chequamegon Racing Association. Frank and Verna (Mainguth) Brevak offered land for sale south of Ashland near Beaser Avenue. They also helped the club build an oval racetrack, small concession stand, outhouses and some bleachers. Two other key helpers were Joe Jocewicz, a local car dealer, and Andy Anderson, the owner of Andy's Tap - a popular beer bar west of the Experiment Station on Highway 2. Racing took place there for the next three summers until the club disbanded in 1960 ... the racetrack stood empty.
In 1965, yet another eager group of young people wanted somewhere to race. Once again, a club was was formed - this time it was called the Ashland-Bayfield County Racing Association. With much help from family, friends, and the Northern State Bank's trust with a $2,500 loan, racing started once again on Sunday afternoons. In 1971, lights were installed and Saturday night races began.
Fast-forward fifty years and today that same racetrack has grown and prospered into the well-run, modern and popular ABC Raceway. Many of the original families are still involved, four generations later. Recently recognized by the State of Wisconsin for fifty years of community service, over seventy volunteers still run the track every weekend, and all the earnings go to the operation of the track and the drivers.
From the hardscrabble early years to today's computerized world, this dream came true. Weekly Saturday night shows all summer long draw in over one hundred and twenty cars in five classes of racing. Drivers bring racecars from Minnesota, Michigan, southern Wisconsin, and even Canada. The largest event of every season is the Red Clay Classic - the grand finale. Over two days of racing in 2014, 177 cars raced in 4 classes. Payout to drivers was over $72,OOO! Over three thousand people came on Saturday alone, with over two hundred motorhomes from all over the Midwest camping on the grounds all weekend.
What an accomplishment - thanks to the dreams of those original race fans on the hayfields of Ino and Moquah.