By John Lauritsen

GARRISON, Minn. (WCCO) — It’s one of those things that can only happen in the land of 10,000 frozen lakes. People may think race car drivers take the winter off, but not so fast. In this week’s Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen takes us ice racing on Borden Lake in Garrison.

“If it’s 20 below, we’re out here. It’ll be 40 above and we’ll be out here,” said Chad Erlandson.

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When you see a group of people on a Minnesota lake in February, you naturally assume they’re ice fishing, But for six weeks in the winter, Borden Lake transforms into a frozen oasis for race car drivers.

“It’s cold, it’s fun. It’s something crazy and different. Whenever I tell someone about it … they can’t comprehend that it’s on a lake,” said Hailey Erlandson, Chad’s daughter.

It all began 25 years ago when Chad Erlandson and his buddies realized they missed dirt track racing. So to get through the quiet of winter, they decided to get loud.

“A bunch of us got together and started racing with another group in a little swamp,” Chad Erlandson said. “Since then it’s just been kinda going and going and going.”

They eventually graduated to Borden Lake in Garrison. Now they have eight different classes of cars. There are those with studs in them, and those without. Trucks and side-by-sides also get a chance to take home the checkered flag.

“It’s throttle control and it’s have patience and try to go as fast as you can without sliding out,” Chad Erlandson said. “You have to have a car that starts and runs and is dependable out in the cold.”

When the temperature plummets and the wind picks up, it’s also nice to have a pit crew you know. Hailey Erlandson helps him get ready.

“I love it. I love being with friends and family out here,” she said.

Randy Borg used to race. Now he helps his son do it.

“It’s hard to watch and be rooting for him and all that. It’s more nerve-racking than anything else, I think,” Borg said.

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(credit: CBS)

Then there are the Koering sisters — Jennifer and Shantel are twins from Fort Ripley, Minnesota. Their father helped start the organization. But they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“This one is an ’01 Mazda Protégé. I got it out of the back behind a trailer house,” Jennifer Koering said. “It’s a gamble every time you go around the track.”

The ice changes by the hour, which impacts performance. Speeds can reach 80 miles an hour. Of course when you go that fast, things don’t always end well. There is the occasional fender bender.

To be good at this you have to drive a lightweight car, and that means making adjustments to make your vehicle as light as possible. Modifications include tearing out the dashboard, the backseats and the back windshield — things that would otherwise protect from the cold.

“We tough it out for all the cold,” Jennifer Koering said.

The good thing is if you do spin out, there’s a nice, soft snowbank waiting for you. And a tow truck is always nearby, ready to help.

“We used to race with the dads, and now the kids, the fathers, sons, daughters are out there racing with them and everything else is out there racing with them now, too,” Chad Erlandson said.

Four-cylinder, front-wheel drives are the cars of choice for this; that includes Hondas, Dodge Neons and Chevy Cavaliers.

They use a point system to keep track of the standings, and plows are used frequently to keep the track clear.

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If you are interested in watching, races happen every Sunday and it’s free. The track is near JJ’s Bird’s Nest in Garrison.

John Lauritsen