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Mower Power to 'Em
Rick Reilly
October 09, 2000
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"?
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October 09, 2000

Mower Power To 'em

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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!"

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—voil�!—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 doors.

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 rubber.

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.

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