Jamie Iverson has won dozens of late model feature and several track titles at Norway (Michigan) Speedway’s third-mile, paved oval.
These days, Jamie serves as crew chief for son Robby Iverson in his pavement late model racing efforts. Jamie also wheels a dirt sportmod regularly at Upper Peninsula International Raceway at the U.P. state fairgrounds in Escanaba, Michigan.
On Aug. 2, Iverson will return to Norway to compete in the Pavement Pounder race. It’s a novelty event of sorts in that the dirt modifieds from the Escanaba track will spar with the dirt trackers on the other side of the border who battle on the clay bullrings in northern and northeastern Wisconsin. The catch is the teams must basically run their dirt track rules on the cars, including the dirt tires which serve as an “equalizer” of sorts.
With all of Iverson’s laps he’s had around the Norway oval — one would think he’d have the upper hand on the competition. Think again.
“I haven’t run weekly at Norway in anything since the late 2000s,” Iverson said. “So as far as having any kind of edge on those guys, I really don’t think so. We just run that sportmod at Escanaba and have some fun. We don’t even know what kind of chassis it is. We just go out and have fun.”
Iverson’s a “hired gun” per se in the sportmod.
“Mike Cousineau bought the car from some guy in Minnesota race ready for $4,500,” Iverson said. “He asked me to drive it at Escanaba. Everybody egged me on and said I couldn’t do it — that running dirt is a lot harder than the asphalt. So I decided to take that challenge.”
Iverson and Cousineau are a true odd couple in the pit area with Cousineau’s background as a drag racer and Iverson being a pavement racer.
When Iverson’s No. 70 dirt car rolls onto the track at Norway, another driver he squares off with regularly on the dirt — Mike Richer of Bark River — will be taking part in the Pavement Pounder show.
The Iverson-Richer rivalry goes back several decades between the tracks at Norway and Escanaba.
“Mike and I get along fine, but I’m not sure about the fans in the stands,” Iverson joked. “The rivalry between us gets whipped up with the fans more so. They’ll probably make some noise at Norway, I’m sure.”
It won’t be Richer’s first rodeo at Norway either, as he raced a pavement late model there in the past.
“I’d think having raced there before will have some advantages on how to get a feel for how those dirt cars handle on the tar,” Richer said. “It’s just a really big learning curve as we’re always trying to find ways to go faster.”
Other Michigan drivers who’ve committed to this event include Loretto, Michigan’s Chris Lassila; Menominee, Michigan’s Matt Valliquette; and Norway’s own John Ostermann. The former late model racer has been taking advantage of a club rule which allows sportmods to compete with the track’s stock class weekly. Ostermann has been running the sportmod the past four nights.
On the Wisconsin side of things, some of the drivers who’ve committed to running the Pavement Pounder include a pair of Eagle River drivers in Frank Gasperini and Jason Zdroik. Others include Oneida’s R.W. Aschenbrenner, Algoma’s Randy Theys and Oconto’s Russ Franks. Franks has competed in past Pavement Pounder races with his dirt car at WIR in Kaukauna the past two seasons.
“If there is any advantage I’d have, it would be just knowing the differences in setups and braking over dirt,” Franks said. “The track configuration is much different between Norway and WIR. There are UPIR drivers from the Escanaba area who’ve turned laps at Norway. I’ll just be putting my WIR setup in the car and cross my fingers. It’s really anyone’s race to win in my opinion.”