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Checkers or wreckers: HOF’er returns to speedway

NORWAY — Another exciting, over-the-top and entertaining Stateline Challenge is in the books, with the event being held last Friday at Norway Speedway.

I’ve been saying since the beginning of the year that people have been driving a lot harder than normal and last Friday was no different. The 100-lap feature event had WWE overtones in it that made for some Lambeau Field like reactions from our fans, but there were definitely some face-palming episodes for the track officials.

We had NASCAR champion Johnny Sauter here last week and, unbelievably, we are going to have another NASCAR champion this week.

However, our guest will not be driving a car. He won his championships by building and engineering cars for the top NASCAR team by the name of Jimmie Johnson.

You have to go back a long way and, unfortunately, I am able to do that but Norway Speedway Hall of Famer Greg Ives was once a few points shy of winning the Coca-Cola Championship at Norway Speedway in the early 2000s.

Ives is from Bark River and was raised by Roger and Barbara. Roger is one of the most intelligent, respectful and kindest persons I have met in all my years of racing. He has taught me things about the sport many years ago that I still value to this day.

Greg Ives’ brother, Steve, has also been one of the top racers in Upper Michigan for many, many years and definitely was an inspiration to Greg’s racing success.

Ives graduated from Michigan Tech University and almost immediately moved down south with his engineering degree to begin his NASCAR career as a crew chief and chassis engineer. At the time, it wasn’t common that someone from the Upper Midwest could move down south and make stock car racing a career.

But through perseverance and dedication, Ives rose to the top in a very short period of time. I remember seeing glimpses of him on TV and everyone talking about it in amazement. Now, it’s not uncommon to see him on television or read about him in any NASCAR publication.

Alex Bowman, who Ives recently worked with, returned the favor by doing a paint scheme on his Xfinity race car that replicated Greg’s Norway Late Model and donned the familiar Ives Racing No. 31. Knowing Ives as a teenager, you could just tell he was going to be successful in whatever he did, especially with the support of his family.

I knew he was going to be successful, but not four-time NASCAR championship successful, as this is unheard of in the industry. But there is no one more deserving than Ives and his family.

This Friday night Ives is going to give back to the sport which gave him his amazing career. He will be at Norway Speedway for the Auto Value Super Stock Round No. 1 Racing Series. He will be in the grandstands for an autograph session with his son, Parker, and the Top 6 Auto Value Super Stock competitors Joey Pontbriand of Norway, Tony Wender of Norway, Dean Bellmore of Hermansville, Andy Gerwig of Iron Mountain, Lukas Peterson of Marinette, Wisconsin, and Destiny Bullard of Marquette.

We will also get a glimpse of Ives’ son, Parker, taking some laps in a go-kart, as we are already realizing where his career is going, if you follow him on social media.

This week the Auto Value Super Stock Series returns with Round No. 1. It’s been going on since it was the Aurora Liquors Challenge series in the late 1990s. It’s always attracted the biggest, and best names in the sport in both divisions.

In the Coca-Cola Late Model division Chad Butz will be returning in his No. 8 car owned by Mike Butz Racing, which seems to be untouchable at this point. I’m sure there will also be more Wisconsin racers attending depending on what happens Thursday night at Wisconsin International Raceway.

For information on the latest entries for Friday night, go to our Facebook page.

See you at the track!

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