Do you own a riding mower even though your lawn is approximately
the size of an Amish quilt? Do you wax your mower in front of the
neighbors? Have you stopped hiding Penthouse under your socks in
favor of Power Lawn Equipment?
If your answer is yes, don't despair. We have a group of folks
for you. They race riding lawn mowers. Yes, they do. Sober.
They meet on soccer fields and baseball diamonds across this
country and put on helmets and racing suits and stand in a line
as at LeMans, wait for the gun and then run to their mowers,
crank them up and take off, sometimes downward of 8 mph. It's the
only motor race in the world in which you can watch competitors
drive by, go get a corn dog and a Schlitz, and be back in time
for the next lap.
A man known as Dubba G in Duncanville, Texas, happened upon this
spectacle on The Nashville Network one night and screamed,
"Honey, get in here! I've found my people!"
October 8, 2000
What a people they are: gearheads, Walter Mittys and fast women
Martha Stewart wouldn't like, towing mowers from California to
New York, racing machines called the Turfinator and the Lawn
Ranger and the Yankee Clipper, all for little trophies with
riding mowers on top--and exactly no cash. "It's all a redneck
could want," says Dubba G (a.k.a., Garrett Gray), one of the
sport's grassroots leaders. "You drive 1,200 miles so you can
drive your lawn mower in circles, get bugs in your teeth and have
cold, adult beverages afterward."
And guess what? You can do it too! All you need to be on the
cutting edge is the $5 entry fee, a riding mower you've yanked
the blades off, proof you haven't monkeyed with the engine
and--voila!--you're Mowrio Andretti. You'll race in the stock
class, but watch out for 2000 stock points champion Mary Lou
Boris of Clarksville, Md., who'll come to the track in heels,
change into her racing boots and blow your doors off--if you had
These people are into it, as I discovered when I went to the
STA-BIL National Lawn Mower Racing Series race at the Lenawee
County Fair in Adrian, Mich. I saw Sue Davis and her Briggs &
Stratton easily whip five other stock riders, including a man
with a limp named Egore, who growled, "I betcha she's messin'
with her governor," which is the first time that sentence has
been uttered outside of Arkansas.
Of course, if you want to jimmy the carburetor and mess with the
gear ratio, you can try the IMOW (International Mower of Weeds)
class. The drivers in this competition go 18 to 20 mph and live
by the saying, "IMOW; therefore, I am." The IMOW points champion
is also a woman, Janet Witt of Pensacola, Fla., who crashed and
flipped at Adrian, pushed the machine off her, jumped back on and
finished third. Personally, I wouldn't engage these women in any
form of lawn rage.
It just gets faster from there, all the way up to the Factory
Experimental class, in which racers can do 65 mph and cut the
average lawn in 3.8 seconds. They'll try anything once. One
Factory Experimental racer got caught fueling around with a can
of nitrous oxide. There are also drag races, with top speeds of
80 mph. You haven't lived until you've seen a riding mower burn
The Jeff Garden of this sport is Bobby Cleveland, a Snapper
design engineer from Locust Grove, Ga., who has won four straight
B Prepared class titles, does wheelies in the town's Christmas
parade and has hit 85 mph. Bobby says it was "scary as hell!"
Then again, next year, Bobby's going for 100.
And they talk just like stock car drivers too. Yeah, I was
runnin' sweet till I cut a sprinkler head in Turn 3. Then the
grass bag got full, and I had to change in the pits. Hittin' the
damn lawn gnome didn't help, neither.
A few improvements and this thing will be bigger than NASCAR.
1) Mike the drivers. Wouldn't it be great to hear lawn mower
trash talk? You want some mow, sucka?
2) Race with the blades on and take it to the ultimate venue: the
South Lawn of the White House. (Bill it, the Longest Yard.)
3) New title for the national championship: the Rider Cup.
Only one possible problem: The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute,
the voice of the riding mower industry, is calling for an all-out
ban of lawn mower racing. Cool. There's nothing chicks dig more
than outlaws on Toros.
"You drive your lawn mower in circles, get bugs in your teeth
and have cold, adult beverages afterward."