He Used to Cut the Grass
U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association bent on growing, not mowing.
Written by Filed under Sports
Normally, when an individual buys a lawn mower the motivation is strictly utilitarian. But for the small and growing group of motor sports enthusiasts that make up the U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association (USLMRA), how well a lawn mower cuts grass is irrelevant. Using aliases such as Sodzilla, Lawn Ranger, Yankee Clipper and Mr. Mow It All, these men and women are gathering at festivals, fairs and tracks around the country to race their mowers, sometimes achieving speeds that would warrant a ticket on the Interstate. Giving new meaning to the term “grassroots sport,” the following is an inside look at the weed-like growth of lawn mower racing.
On a picture-perfect Saturday in July upwards of 50 racers descended on the Greene County Fair in Catskill, New York, to participate in the STA-BIL Hudson Valley Regional—one of 15 officially sanctioned USLMRA events being held this year. Most of the competitors arrived in pickup trucks, towing shiny mowers on flatbeds or in trailers. As race time approached, drivers and mechanics tinkered with their machines, making final adjustments before venturing out on the grass track.
According to Kendall Stanley, local race director of the Catskill event, the participants typically gravitate towards lawn mower racing because it’s a lot less expensive than team motor sports. “Everybody would love to be driving the #24 in NASCAR [Jeff Gordon] but this is something that literally everybody can do. You can take the machine that you mowed with yesterday and go race it,” he says.
In order to make the sport accessible the USLMRA conducts races in six different classes, allowing everything from garden-variety mowers to experimental hot-rods that cover ground like a speeding car. The association’s overriding requirement is that the mower must originally have been designed and sold commercially to mow residential lawns. “No matter what you do to the machine you should be able to look at it and recognize it as a lawn mower,” says Stanley.