Auto racing: Allouez Bay racing event postponed to Feb. 19
NASCAR on Ice, an ice racing event featuring NASCAR drivers and retired cars, was postponed a second time on Wednesday due to ice conditions.
SUPERIOR — Every once in a while you see things that cause you to shake your head in bewilderment, the type of things you can’t even make up, defying both logic and common sense and seem to happen in America more places than most.
Barry Sinex, one of the driving forces behind the NASCAR on Ice racing event originally scheduled on Sunday, Feb. 5, on Superior’s Allouez Bay, was asked, “Who comes up with a hare-brained idea like this?”
“Well, I tend to come up with a lot of hare-brained ideas,” Sinex said, laughing.
Hare-brained? Yes. Fun? Absolutely.
For last year’s inaugural event, Sinex, through his connections as a sponsor, got a handful of NASCAR drivers to come up and do some ice racing, using cars that regularly race on the bay as part of the Lake Superior Ice Racing Association. The event was originally scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 21, but was postponed two weeks due to a lack of ice thickness, then postponed again to Feb. 19, again due to ice conditions. Racers are scheduled to use their regular weekly racing cars for the event on Feb. 18.
This year, Sinex has taken a giant leap forward by purchasing six retired NASCAR Cup Series cars for the event. He doesn’t plan to keep them all. He sold one of the cars to NASCAR Towing and leased another to Get Hooked Towing. Sinex said all the cars are available for purchase as long as the buyers have the intention of entering them into the NASCAR on Ice race each year (for more information, go to nascaronice.com or call Sinex at (218) 349-4424).
“This is something that has never been done before, so I can’t tell you every little detail about how everything is going to happen because nobody has ever put NASCAR Cup cars on ice before,” said Sinex, owner of Sinex Transport, a Superior-based owner-operator trucking company. “It’s a very big experiment. We know what the ice-racing cars do, but we don’t know what the NASCAR Cup cars are going to do.”
Sinex said current Cup cars cost between $450,000 to $500,000.
These cars, which Sinex said cost between $12,000 to $28,000 apiece, are from the late 1990s through 2014 and were all designed for racing at the highest levels of NASCAR. Every year there were tweaks to the design of the cars, so while they all look similar, they are not exactly the same.
Sinex identified one of the cars being the backup car for Rusty Wallace at St. Louis in 2006.
“All the cars were built by NASCAR race shops such as Chip Ganassi Racing and Rick Hendrick,” Sinex said. “They all have serial numbers that identify who built them. However, the history behind each one is difficult because many cars are made by each race shop and they may have been taken apart and built back up for another year.”
To get them ice-racing ready, Sinex said his crew put different tires on them. They’re the same size of NASCAR tires but have treads on them. They also made minor modifications to the inside, to keep the windshields from fogging up, and they replaced the shocks because NASCAR shocks would have destroyed the cars. Allouez Bay in February is no Talladega.
“We have no expectations. We don’t know,” Sinex said a few weeks ago before a testing session. “We have an idea. They’ll go around. We already did that. They go around and they go around quite fast and they have a good grip on the snow and they handle the bumps really well. They’re awesome. But we don’t really know until we get all six of them out there, how they’re going to go and how the snow is going to hold up. There’s a lot of things we’re looking at, so it is a work in progress and next year we’ll have a lot more information.
“It’s a ball. And the thing is … it doesn’t matter … we don’t have to have this perfected. It’s more fun not being perfected. Those guys had so much fun last year.”
Among the drivers with NASCAR ties expected to compete this year are David Starr, Josh Biliki, Josh Reaume and Jennifer Jo Cobb.
Starr took part in last year’s event and said it was an eye opener. The ice-racing regulars kind of mopped up on the pros. Starr said it reminded him of the grassroots level that forms racing’s roots.
“It was interesting,” Starr said of the experience. “A couple ice racers downplayed it, what they did, and I stopped them. I said, ‘Hey man, what you do, and how you all do it, is incredible. It reminds me of when I was racing on dirt tracks. Just because we’re NASCAR race car drivers, you don’t downplay any level or type of racing, because I started at the bottom and was blessed and fortunate that I made it to the top, but every aspect of racing, no matter if it was the very bottom, it was absolutely incredible and awesome and I loved every minute of it.”
This isn’t NASCAR legends Dick Trickle and Alan Kulwicki we’re talking about here, Wisconsin natives who presumably knew a thing or two about driving on ice. Most of the NASCAR on Ice drivers have hailed from warm climes.
The NASCAR drivers got lucky last year, too. They were freezing but they didn't realize sunny skies and temps in the low 20s made that the Twin Ports’ best day of the week. It was the first time Starr had ever seen a frozen lake.
“I’ve never been that cold in my life. I don’t remember but the temperature was just cold,” Starr said, cracking a hearty Texas laugh.
Starr fondly recalled trying to pass a woman but couldn’t. She was hard as that Allouez ice. He looked in astonishment coming up on an old Dodge pickup truck, with a rear-mounted engine, as the left-front tire came three feet off the ice while the rest of the vehicle dug its way around the curves.
“I’m trying to pass but I can’t believe what I’m seeing,” Starr recalled. “The men and women that race on the ice up your way, they’re very skillful and talented. There is a skill, there is a big skill to it, and trying to learn it last year for the first time, and trying to compete with those people was a big challenge — for all of us (he laughed again). It’ll be a challenge but it’ll be a fun challenge. Hopefully our race will be entertaining.”
If last year was any indication, it’ll be all of that and then some.
“It was amazing,” Starr said. “The best part was the people, the fans, the racers that race on that ice, the association that was part of it, the people were so passionate. It was cool to see a group of people who really love something and are so passionate about it. It was definitely one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.”
This story was edited at 11:18 a.m. on Feb. 1 to reflect that the event has been postponed a second time due to ice conditions and at 4:42 p.m. to correct the rescheduled date, which was incorrectly provided. It was originally posted at 10:22 a.m. on Jan. 31.