At 13, Ryan Wroolie of Brainerd, even before he attends driver's education classes in three years, has become somewhat of an expert driving on ice.
For the last 10 weeks, the 5-foot-1-inch stout Wroolie has been racing a Ford Escort and a Chevrolet Nova at North Star Iceway, a small pond several miles south of Brainerd. He nabbed two fourth-place finishes in heat races and an eighth-place in a feature of the front-wheel drive, hard rubber class.
The Washington Middle School seventh-grader started racing go-carts when he was only 5. Since then, he said he has always wanted to race cars.
He has driven a Jeep, a Bobcat and even a Ford Ranger pickup.
He said he gained interest in racing because his father Kelly is a racer at the North Central Speedway dirt track.
Ryan's ice racing experience started with a simple question.
The side of Ryan's car not only has the names of his pit crew on it but also a few marks where other drivers have hit him during races. He said the "Flyin' Ryan" nickname came from his father when Ryan was go-cart racing.
Kelly Wroolie said he asked the iceway's owner, Greg Tomberlin, if Ryan could race.
Kelly Wroolie said he was told if Ryan could drive he could race as long as a waiver was signed.
"He can drive so here we are," Kelly Wroolie said. "I ride with him and he hasn't killed me yet. It's fun. Where can you bring a 13-year-old kid and run into someone and not call your insurance company?"
Ryan, who calls ice racing "a rush," didn't rush into racing on ice. Kelly said he practiced driving on ice at their home on their circle driveway.
"After a few laps I was comfortable," he said.
But once other racers were thrown into the picture he said be became intimidated. That intimidation seemed to be missing last week at the ice racing finale when he was racing two wide into and out of the corners.
Ryan and his father Kelly discussed his first heat race. Kelly said he is comfortable with Ryan racing at this young age.
In fact he sounded like a seasoned veteran when asked what it was like racing into the corners.
"I just back off (the accelerator), then I get on it and than I back off again," he said.
Kelly Wroolie said this type of racing will help Ryan reach his goal of racing a NCS Pure Stocker and, eventually, a much faster Wissota Street Stocker, at North Central Speedway.
"It will get him comfortable to be around the cars that he is with," he said. "It will teach him how to drive on a black slick track. He'll learn throttle control."
Kelly has raced in or will race in both classes.
Kelly added that he is comfortable with Ryan racing.
"He can play on the ice and I can play on the dirt," he said.
Overall, Ryan said what he enjoyed most about ice racing this season was competing against his cousin, Matt Japp, and leading some of the heat races.
As far as Ryan's future in ice racing, Kelly Wroolie said the pair have a car that could be raced in the front-wheel drive studs class.
But Ryan Wroolie might not be behind the wheel.
"I may drive it," Kelly Wroolie said.
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