Homer Alaska - Sports

Story last updated at 3:38 PM on Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Homer Racing Association heats up Beluga Lake ice

By Angelina Skowronski
For the Homer News


Photo By Angelina Skowronski

Modified cars make their way around turn 3, avoiding ruts in the track.

A Homer institution lives strong every Sunday on Beluga Lake with sheet metal, roll cages and snow tires that make your Firestones look like sissies. The Homer Racing Association has been ice racing on Beluga Lake since 1956 and is one of Homer's oldest organizations.

HRA has gone through the ebb and flow of membership enrollments. Today the club has 42 active members who participate in everything from racing and pitman crew to announcing and organizing.

"We do these races with our families; kids, parents, grandmas and all. And we do this for fun. If you're not having fun then go home," HRA President Phil Celtic said.

Celtic has been with HRA since 1990. He ice raced in Colorado before moving to Homer, but says the Colorado races were always against the clock.

"After the first time I raced in Homer against other drivers, I was hooked," said Celtic.

The term "hooked" is used freely among the HRA members to describe their healthy addiction to the sport.

Dean Ravin, a member since 1998, has passed the ice racing torch down to his kids. Ravin and his son Dan now share a modified car at the track.

"We used to take [Dan] out to the lake with a full tank of gas and leave him out there when he was seven or eight years old," said Ravin. "The rest of the family would do our errands and shopping in town, and come back later to pick up one happy little boy."

Joe Ravin, 12 and a sixth-grader at West Homer Elementary, describes his attachment to the sport as "addicting."

"Last weekend was my first race and I learned how to drive with a clutch right before the race. It's definitely more fun than video games," said Ravin.

A rowdy bunch, the group gives equal, if not more, banter toward Bob Reinhardt, longest standing current member since 1971. Reinhardt, a history archive of the club's names and dates talks about the days sharing the lake with ski planes and when women were limited.

"In the seventies, women could only participate in powderpuff [women only] races and could not vote at meetings," said Reinhardt. "A lot has changed since then."

The club continues to run at the same standards as their forefathers, using traditional parliamentary procedure, yet Reinhardt's word holds true, much has changed. Women have received the right to vote and race in any division, and kids over the age of 10 (and as long as they can see over the steering wheel) are able to race in the kids division.

Today, the track sees nine stock cars and seven modified cars with more cars hidden in the pushki of people's backyards. Stock cars are factory cars with iron bumpers on the perimeter to protect them and the driver. Modified cars are at the discretion of the engineer and builder where "anything goes" in the design.

Once an ice racing car, always an ice racing car, and these well-used relics are passed down between experienced and novice drivers. Dean Ravin passed down his stock car to Marina Brooks when she was 13 years old.

"Dean said he would give me the car, but my dad had to buy the tires. My dad wasn't into ice racing at the time, but he is now," said Brooks, who now races in the powderpuff and main points divisions with Ravin's original car.

Ravin rolls out a set of snow tires and sets them on the floor.

"I remember the day Blizzaks came on the ice. Alaska State Troopers had been using them for a while and Mike Gagle went to Costco and put them on the coffin car," said Celtic. The coffin car is a black modified car that has passed through the hands of a number of racers.

"He lapped everyone. He took a grinder to the side wall of the tire to erase the name so that no one else could get it," said Celtic. "It didn't take long for us to learn what they were."

Stories like these told by each dedicated HRA member mimic the technology development of the automobile industry.

HRA will run ice races as long as the ice is good on Beluga. When the ice melts and the floatplanes return to the lake, the cars get towed back to their summer resting places to await the next freeze.

As for the members, bragging rights are the ultimate prizes for the season.

A personalized jacket is issued for the first place holder in each division. Nothing brags better than a jacket with one's name and the title "champion."

Pitman Stock

1st Marina Brooks 210

2nd Phil Celtic 192

3rd Ryan Catron 101

Stock Powderpuff

1st Marina Brooks 237

2nd Faith Schade 174

3rd Bobbie Ness 98

Pitman Modified

1st Dean Ravin 204

2nd Phil Celtic 189

3rd Mike Brooks 167

Powderpuff Modified

1st Marina Brooks 209

2nd Sarah Appelhanz 148

3rd Staci Murphy 140

Kids Stock

1st Sammie Moonin 42

2nd Joe Ravin 27

3rd Hunter Morris 25

4th Teddy Handley 24

5th Nathaniel Kinneeveauk 10