Sprint cars can typically be found racing on dirt and, occasionally, on asphalt.
However, in New England during the winter months, they can also be found on ice.
The Sprint Cars On Ice series is run by New Hampshire native Nick Berry, who also founded Sprint Cars Of New England.
“I grew up in a racing family,” Berry said. “I had a great Aunt that raced in the 50’s on my dad’s side as well as growing up helping my Uncle Tunk and following his career as a child. He raced throughout New Hampshire and Vermont. He started his career on the ice. He did some northeast modifieds as well at first, but then we got into sprint cars.”
It was at the age of 15 that Berry started SCoNE, which has now been around for 20 years.
“I started SCoNE when I was 15, now I’m 35,” Berry said. “Once we got that going we wanted to try the sprint car stuff on ice. Before we put the sprints on the ice they had old coupes, street stocks, big-block type modified racing. We thought it would be cool to have the sprint cars on ice. At first the sprint cars raced together with the modifieds until we built the car count up enough for the sprint cars to have their own deal.”
When you think of sprint car racing, you think of central Pennsylvania, Ohio and California, not New England, which is mostly known for their pavement tracks.
Then something changed.
“Here in New England we are not known for sprint cars, but the car counts for sprint cars went up on dirt,” Berry said. “Some guys couldn’t afford to run a whole season on dirt and saw our cars on ice and thought of it as another opportunity to race. It’s only a month and a half or two months long so it’s a short season. It just took off from there.”
In addition to running the series, Berry also races in it. The series is gaining traction at a rapid rate. However, as the promoter of the series, it can be a tricky situation being in the race as well.
“I haven’t heard any complaints as far as being the promoter,” Berry said. “Even when I race on dirt nobody says anything about being a competitor in your own series. There might be some jealousy out there because I do run in the front a lot but I am not doing anything cheating or illegal. We have been very successful at this and it’s all I do, eat, sleep, breathe sprint car racing.”
When it comes to racing a sprint car on ice versus dirt, there are some differences. However the chassis tubing and body all stay the same.
“We run a windshield with a wiper per the rules here in New England rather than a rock screen,” he said while sitting next to his ice sprint car. “That may change in 2022. All the suspension is the same to what we run on dirt. We do, however, run street tires with Woody’s Snowmobile Studs in the tires for traction.
“A lot of our guys will run the same hubs and brakes as what you see on a Saturday night. I run a transmission in this car so it does have a starter, unlike a dirt car, and also we change the fuel tank to hold less fuel while running regular race gas. If we ran alcohol-based fuel we feared it would gel up due to the freezing temperatures.”
Prior to the 2020 season, Berry and his family suffered a massive loss when his grandfather was killed in an automobile accident in November.
Since then they have started a race team called John Berry Legacy Racing in his honor where his uncle, his son Kadyn and Berry all run under the same roof just as he would have wanted.
“My grandfather was a big part of all of our racing,” he said. “That’s why I built my car the way I did this year, literally around him. He is really why I keep doing ice racing. He told me a week prior to his accident that it was his favorite type of racing and I am buckling down and putting 110 percent into ice racing.
“Uncle Tunk and I both built tribute cars to grandpa to race on the ice this winter and we will keep carrying on it on our cars for years to come, even on the dirt.”
Berry is planning to expand ice racing in 2022 to include a Great Lakes region in Michigan, where they just tested and tuned on March 6 on Houghton Lake for the Chamber of Commerce.
“I had a couple guys out in the Midwest get ahold of me and would tell me this is really cool,” Berry said. “Let’s face it, out there they have a better sprint car population along with better weather and ponds. They have great potential to grow it and have it become a big deal.”
Berry is not alone in the expansion, as he has help from local racers willing to do the groundwork to be under the Sprint Cars on Ice banner and make it as good, if not better than the New England division.
“I partnered up with a guy named Barry Marlow,” Berry said. “He owns a lot of sprint car series out there on dirt. He owns series from lighting sprints, non-wing and full size winged sprint cars. We came together and he’s gonna run under my Sprint Car on Ice banner. The Great Lakes Midwest region of my series has a lot of potential to be larger than our New England region.
“Barry has over 200 guys registered on dirt in the area in the summer and they’re are already up to 15 cars signed up for the ice. I think they could surpass the New England region in a year or two if I’m being honest.”
With ambition, a goal and some cooperation from Mother Nature herself, Sprint Cars on Ice seems to be headed in the right direction.