IIRA Ice Racing

Posted at: 01/14/2013 7:53 PM
Updated at: 01/16/2013 10:50 PM
By: Laura Kennedy

It's been more than a decade since cars raced each other on Big Lake's frozen surface. But last weekend, ice racing was back in Cloquet.

For Cody Reinhofer, ice racing is a source of stress release.

"We do construction so not much of a life in the summer," Reinhofer said. "When winter time comes, it's a good hobby, a good pastime. Keeps my mind off work."

Mark Utecht has been doing this for 20 years, and the sport has changed considerably since he began.

"Back then people had more disposable incomes. The fields were bigger," Utecht said. "This is kind of an all time low when it comes to car counts. But the cars are getting better, a lot more high powered, specialized equipment."

One thing that hasn't changed is the financial commitment.

"If you can sit in it, on it, it's expensive," Utecht said.

International Ice Racing Association president Renee Anderson tells us these cars are specifically designed to navigate the twists and turns of an ice course.

"We are actually purpose built ice race cars. So we will take sports cars and we will put a roll cage in it," Anderson said. "And we run with custom built studded tires as well. Speeds can get pretty high but we have a lot of control then as well."

Weather is a major factor in this sport. With an ever changing track surface, strategy and skill are critical.

"A lot of it's the drifting and then of course now with the weather we had yesterday and with the banks, if you go off, you're taking tires or suspension parts out so it's like hitting a concrete wall basically now," Reinhofer said.

"You really have to rely on your abilities to deal with whatever comes up," Utecht said. "And that's really the crux of ice racing."

Ice racing is a sport perfect for outdoor enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies.

"This makes my winter go so fast," Anderson said. "It's just a fun group of people. We really are family, and then the speed is fun too."