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Aho, a dirt track king

For the Gazette/Skip Schulz Jesse Aho and wife Shelia pose with two of their three boys after a recent race.

One of the “ambassadors” of Houghton County is dirt track stock car racer, Jesse Aho. The Toivola resident has made his mark on dirt tracks throughout the Midwest for over 10 years. This includes an unprecedented five consecutive years that the former Ontonagon resident won the WISSOTA Midwest Modified Class championship at the challenging Eagle River, Wisconsin, Speedway.

“I was determined to win a Midwest Modified Championship in Eagle River,” said Aho. “We raced for many years against some of the area’s best to get to the top. We worked very hard in the garage on our car setups off the track and continued to expand our racing knowledge through relationships with fellow racers.”

Aho recently returned from a tour of tracks in the Midwest.

“We recently went on a four-day racing tour west of Upper Michigan,” said Aho. “We left Twin Lakes at 7 a.m. and raced in Ada, Minnesota on Thursday night. Friday, we drove up to Grand Forks, North Dakota. Saturday, (we went) over to Devils Lake, North Dakota.”

“The tour wrapped up on Sunday in Proctor, Minnesota. We raced every night against some of the top drivers in Midwest Modified national point standings. The competition was fantastic and we learned a lot by going to tracks we haven’t visited before.”

Aho has, and continues to race, at multiple tracks. This includes Eagle River, Menomonie, Rice Lake, Tomahawk, Three Lakes, and Ashland, Wisconsin, Greenland Michigan, Ada, Minnesota, Grand Forks and Devils Lake.

“River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks is the most challenging by far as it is banked very steep like Bristol and a 3/10 mile,” said Aho. “This track is a small ‘Bull Ring,’ demand’s very high speeds and gets congested quickly with 24-plus cars in the feature race at one time.”

Stock Car Racing is in Aho’s DNA.

“Racing has been in my family for years as my Dad raced when I was young,” said Aho. “My wife started racing before me. I was helping her out in the pits and decided this was a lot of fun. I was racing one year later.”

Aho’s wife, Shaina, got him into racing.

“She raced a 4-cylinder and street stock where she was very successful by winning multiple track championships,” he said. “We sold her car when we started to raise our three sons: Cooper, Carter and Blake.”

Aho started racing at Adventure Mountain Speedway 13 years ago. That first year he also raced at TNT Speedway in Three Lakes. Two years later he moved up from the 4-cylinder “Stingers” to one of the top classes in the WISSOTA nationally-sanctioned class of Midwest Modifieds.

Since moving up to the Midwest Modifieds, Aho has won a remarkable 60 features.

Before he turns the steering wheel over to his sons, he has the goal to win 100 features and the Red Clay Classic at ABC Raceway in Ashland.

What about retirement?

“I am not sure how long I will race,” he said. “As my wife and I raise three young boys, there is not a lot of time to dedicate to the racing program. My goal as an athlete throughout my life is to be competitive with the best. If I feel we are starting to lose our ability to be competitive, I will hand the steering wheel over to the kids.

“They like to come to the races to watch. It will be no time before they have a car of their own.”

With racing in the family, the future looks bright for Houghton County to have an Aho carry the torch as the racing ambassadors for the western U.P. Aho will be racing this Friday Night at Eagle River Speedway.

There is talk that a group of racing enthusiasts may bring dirt track stock car racing back to Adventure Mountain Speedway in Greenland. The Mountain Lions discontinued holding races at the track four years ago.

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