Drag Racers are a Hearty Breed in Wisconsin
At just about any dragstrip across the nation, if the weather called for sub-zero temperatures, like a low of -18 and a high of 26, that would pretty much guarantee there would be no racing action that day. Well, unless that track is made of pure Midwest ice and sits on frozen Lake Alexander in Northern Wisconsin. Welcome to the Merrill Ice Drags, also known as the fastest eighth-mile on ice! Brutal Badger State winters were the actual inspiration for the unique eighth-mile dragstrip, and Wisconsin’s hearty drivers did not want to give up their need for speed just because the frigid winter months were upon them.
The sub-zero race got its start over 50 years ago. This snow-white track has unique guard walls that are actually frozen snow banks, but feature a fully modern timing system, a two-story race control tower, and the now-obvious irony of a starting line “Christmas tree” that is stuck in the lane divider made of frozen snow. Competition includes more than 15 car and truck categories with an average of 50 racers competing for cash, prizes, and trophies. Drivers come from as far away as Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa to race.
One of the Merrill Ice Drags cofounders, Gary Schwartz, was hands-on at the event and told us how this event was started: “Well, it was four, five, six guys talking and each of us raced in the summertime and we had drag-racing experience. Why can’t we do it in the wintertime? What do we have to put the machines away for? From there it just turned into a conversation, and back in 1965 this group got together and formalized it.”
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