Taking it to the ice

GLADSTONE – Jordan Ives of Gladstone has aspirations of one day being a NASCAR driver, and he has the bloodlines and talent to make that goal more than just a dream.

This summer he’ll be hitting a variety of racing circuits at the Upper Peninsula International Raceway (UPIR), Norway Speedway and Midwest Tour, but during the winter months, he’s shown he can dominate the ice racing circuit as well.

Ives, a 15-year old racing prodigy, races his 600 CC studded microsprint, the same vehicle he drives in the UPIR, in the Great Lakes Ice Racing Club during the weekends in January through March. Club president and one of the original founders, Jim Stankowicz estimated at least 180 drivers competed in the circuit this season. Ives bested them all.

“They’re pretty exciting,” Ives said of racing on the Escanaba River. “If you mess up , you have to correct it just to catch back up, but everything goes away when you’re out there, all the problems from the week before.”

For Ives, ice racing is fun. It’s something to do to satisfy his racing itch until the summer months, but being a competitor through and through, he still aims to win.

Heading into the final race of the season he was in a virtual tie with his cousin Jeff Ives in the overall points standings.

“Me, my cousin and my little cousin all run. All together I have about five or six family members who race,” Ives said. “In the last race, I just had to finish ahead of Jeff to win the championship.”

Ives placed second, Jeff placed third, and that was enough.

Jordan said with the studded tires, his microsprint handles well on the ice.

“WIth the studs, it’s like driving on dirt, or even better than dirt,” he said. “It’s amazing how well the studs grip on the ice.”

Ives has been ice racing since the age of five and has raced at the UPIR since he was 11. He’s a frequent contender in both leagues. Ives says his 600 CC microsprint offers some advantages as opposed to racing a stock car.

“Microsprints are a bit easier to handle because they’re smaller,” he said. “Our car is around 500 horsepower and the microsprint, I’m not even sure, but it’s a 600 CC motor. It’s a little built up.

“It’s different, just from driving skills. MIcrosprints are a bit easier, You don’t have to let up (around the corners). You can pitch it in, where as cars you have to time it, when to let off the brake.”

Ives has an opportunity now to get a head start on his NASCAR ambitions. He’s entered in a contest to win a $50,000 sponsorship from Champion Spark Plugs. The contest entailed Ives sending in a video showing his passion for racing. Fans can then vote on the winner.

Ives made it past the first round of voting and is one of 15 in the country who will win the sponsorship. His video can be viewed and voted on at www.alwaysachampion.com. Voting ends Sunday night and Ives is hoping for a final push.

“We’re hoping everyone is still voting for us,” he said, adding he plans to put the money toward a car in the series he races in.

Stankowicz said the Great Lakes Ice Racing Club recently completed its 25th season. The Club meets on weekends during the winter to race on a quarter-mile track on the Escanaba River. Due to the cold early winter, Stankowicz said the racing was exceptional this year.

“Absolutely,” he said. “We had a great year. Our first race was actually a little too cold with it being 25 below, but by the end of the year, everyone was used to it. They knew what to wear.

“We had about three feet of ice, we could barely get through with the auger.”

During the season, Stankowicz said upwards of 350 additional spectator vehicles can be found on the ice. Spectators are simply asked for a $5 donation, of which the proceeds are split with the local boy scouts.

“We also had a fundraiser this year where we raised money for the Delta County Cancer Alliance for a local family that was afflicted,” said Stankowicz. “We raised money for Toys for Tots and the food bank. We donated 400 pounds of food, a couple dozen jackets and couple boxes of toys.”

The Great Lakes Ice Racing season wrapped up last week, but will return for its 26th season next year.

This season, GLIR competed against clubs from Central and Southern Wisconsin.

“We have a great tradition here,” said Stankowicz. “We have an invitational race at the end of the season, and an annual night race where we have large purses. A lot of people show up for that. This year we had drivers from Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Canada.

“The level of competition is huge. Every position is fought for at these big events.”