Lawn mower racing is taken seriously in Texas. The Lone Star Mower Racing Association (lsmra.com) has a full board, including a president and vice president, a treasurer, a secretary and a media director. It maintains a website updating visitors on past events and upcoming races, as well as drivers' positions and performances. In a state of 25 million people, the Lone Star Mower Racing Association boasts a fiercely loyal membership of darn near 30 people. At time of publishing, an upstart organization, the Texas Panhandle Lawn Mower Racing Association, has been attempting to muscle in on this lucrative sports entertainment empire.
The History of Racing Lawn Mowers
The ever-escalating costs of buying and maintaining a tradition race car or dragster, along with the set-up costs for dedicated premises, tools, equipment and engineering staff, led a group of ne'er-do-wells from West Sussex, England, to invent the sport of lawn mower racing in 1973. Eighty competitors took part in their inaugural event, and this "everyman's sport" was an instant success. The addictive adrenaline rush born of piloting these brutally powerful machines around challenging courses -- sometimes at upward of 20 miles per hour -- soon communicated across the Atlantic, and in 1992, the United States Lawn Mower Racing Association (letsmow.com) was born. In 2009, the USLMRA announced it was creating a Lawnmower Racing Hall of Fame, thereby legitimizing the sport with city folk, too.
Race schedules normally match the grass-growing season, starting out in spring and lasting until the end of June each year. The pressure on teams and drivers is harrowing on race-day mornings, hectic with mower and driver registration, technical conferences and drivers' meetings, at which no beer is allowed. Race schedules typically begin with the first sprint at around 10:30 a.m., and double-header race days -- with a second series of events -- usually kick off the evening's entertainment at approximately 6:00 p.m. Mower inspections, to determine that machines are both safe and compliant with the Association's stringent regulations, take place before each race.
The Mike Cupps Topsy Turvy Award
Each year, all Texan racers become automatically eligible for the Mike Cupps Topsy Turvy Award. This prestigious honor is given to the racer who achieves the greatest number of upside-down experiences during the season. The LSMRA website is fastidious in posting images of all aspirant awardees at their finest, just as soon as their ongoing physical and psychological health has been confirmed.
The Backyard Build-Off
The LSMRA has produced its own series of instructional videos. One concentrates on building the thoroughbred chassis of a racing lawn mower, detailing the niceties of steering system upgrades and how to lower a lawn mower to realize a more aerodynamic profile. The other details how to release the awesome power of the Briggs and Stratton 12-horse-power lawn mower engine. Both instructional necessities are available on DVD or VHS tape.
Mower Men Music
The lawn mower racing community is blessed with at least two CDs of music dedicated to its very special attractions. The Mower Men are a somewhat enigmatic band, comprised of one member who -- according to rumor -- operates a roadside boiled peanut stand in rural Georgia and another privileged to serve the elite of the Commonwealth of Kentucky by opening the doors of the government building for them. Both, again according to rumor, make their best lawn-mower-racing-oriented music when flushed with cheap beer and cheese that is sprayed from an aerosol can. Their versatility and musicianship can become part of every mower racing enthusiast's collection at CD Baby (cdbaby.com).
Lesser Lawn Mower Racing Associations
All things in Texas are, of course, bigger and better than elsewhere. That said, other lawn mower racing associations do exist. The LSMRA is joined in its enthusiasm for this tragically underappreciated sport by the American Racing Mower Association, the Australian Ride On Lawn Mower Racing Association, the British Lawn Mower Racing Association and the National Drag Racing Lawn Mower Association. More than 60 state and local lawn mower racing associations exist around the United States.
In March 2009, at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, the Speed TV (speedtv.com) television show "Pinks All Out" filmed an episode that featured interviews with officials of the LSMRA and filmed the nine race mowers at its booth. Later that day lawn mower drag races took place; this historic occasion marked the first time lawnmowers had even been on the Motorplex track -- more used to 200+ mph drag racers -- and the first time lawn mower racing was featured on the TV show.
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