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These racers 'wait all summer for ice'

WANETA LAKE—Racing is popular in the area, but winter must be a quiet time of the year for racing enthusiasts, right?
This past weekend close to 15 cars raced on a frozen Waneta Lake. It was a Central New York Ice Racing Association event, held both Saturday and Sunday. Snow was plowed to create a race track just over a mile long.
Drivers came from Geneva, the Syracuse area, Ithaca, near Rochester, and even Watkins Glen. Just like any other race, the cars were numbered. However, some of the drivers used everyday cars but with special tires and numbers made out of tape or cut out construction paper stuck to the windows.
“It’s the least expensive wheel to wheel racing you can do,” said Bruce Coulombe, Watkins Glen resident. He added he’s been doing this for a couple of years.
“It’s something to do in the winter. I live in the city,” said Geneva resident Leo Fenner. “I wait all summer praying for ice.”
Fenner was joined by his co-driver, Cullen Noonen. Fenner said he’s been doing ice racing for six years, but doesn’t participate in any other form of racing.
Waneta Lake met the CNYIRA’s minimum ice thickness of 12 inches. Ice races are held all over central New York, including Oneida Lake at Maple Bay, Sylvan Beach, Bernhard’s Bay, Valentine’s Beach, Sandy Pond and Honeoye Lake. CNYIRA keeps track of the various lakes’ conditions on its Web site.
According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, safe ice is the number one consideration when going onto a frozen body of water. The DEC says people need to use caution even when on a frozen, nonmoving body of water with a verified ice thickness. Schuyler County Undersheriff Breck Spaulding said ice is never 100 percent safe.
“The Waneta Lake and the Waneta Inn might be called our best lake to visit. The people are great and the Inn works with us,” said CNYIRA President Tim O’Brien. “It might be called our ‘home’ lake, but we do try to spread the events across central New York so that everyone does not have to travel so far.”
There are even classes in ice racing. At Waneta Lake this past weekend there were three: prepared tire (Menard) class, street legal class, and open classes.
“It’s a good way to improve your driving skills,” said Ray Hopkins of Spencerport who has been ice racing for 15 years.
He said you need a good lake, which Waneta Lake is. Hopkins added a driver can add bolts or dry wall screws to tires to give them traction. Racers can even buy special tires for ice racing. Racers can go up to 70 miles per hour on the Waneta Lake course.
“You don’t need a pit crew,” said Ithaca’s Casey Creamer. He reiterated it improves winter and rainy driving skills.
Ed Tucker from Cato said the only downside was it required him to get up too early, for a weekend. The race on Saturday got started before 10:30 a.m., but the course needed to be plowed before that. Most of the racers were there early prepping the cars.
Despite the earliness required, Tucker added, “I think it’s the most fun.”



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