(LAPORTE, Minn.) — Think Mad Max meets The Revenant to get an idea of what the sport of ice car racing entails.
Stock cars slipping and sliding at high speeds across frozen lakes may sound like your worst nightmare, but racing clubs are popping up everywhere from New Hampshire to Colorado to New York.
ABC News’ chief business and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis traveled back to her home state of Minnesota to get a firsthand look at what some call “NASCAR on ice,” where the only thing harsher than the wind is the competition.
The small town of Laporte, Minnesota, population 111, is home to the Garfield Lake Ice Racers. Every weekend in the winter (weather permitting), the thrill-seeking ice racers make their way out to a frozen lake. The Sunday activity brings the community together, and for just a $20 entry fee, racers can potentially earn bragging rights for the rest of the year.
The club is dominated by men but there is one woman who has proved to be a fierce competitor: 27-year-old Colette Huston.
Known as Letty, she is among the top five contenders this season and happens to be the only female racer.
“It’s total girl power, you just feel like so pumped up,” she said. Her competition hits close to home — her husband Ryan, 29, also races.
“We kind of consider ourselves a team,” Letty said. “When we’re in the cars out there, we’re in the cars cheering for each other, you know of course, I’d love to beat him but sometimes that just doesn’t happen.”
Both Ryan and Letty have had their share of successes on the track, and, ahead the last race of the season, they are ranked first and fifth respectively.
“It actually makes me pretty proud that she’s the only woman that does it,” Ryan said, “It’s pretty cool, it kind of gives me bragging rights.”
On race day, the cars and the ice are inspected to ensure safety. Industrial drills are used to make sure the ice is thick enough — for the Garfield Lake Ice Racers, that means at least 15 inches. Each car must be equipped with a fire extinguisher, seat belts and riders under age 12 are required to wear helmets.
But let’s not forget the tires — they resemble a larger version of a studded dog collar and everyone makes their own.
“There’s anywhere between, 200 and 300 screws that we put in … everyone has their own little secrets and tips about how they make their tires and what they do,” Ryan said.
While the competition among the drivers is intense, the biggest challenge this winter has proven to be the ice — or rather lack thereof. Minnesota has had one of its warmest winters to date and that means a slushy track. Ultimately, it’s the elements that come out on top on race day, but Ryan and Letty are not discouraged.
“We’re healthy, no one’s hurt, nothing’s damaged,” Letty said. “We’re having a good time with family and friends and so next year we’ll be back.”
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