I thought I’d seen everything when I watched a jaw-droppingly boring all-terrain vehicle race at the Monster Truck show last month. But I hadn’t reckoned with … lawn mower racing.
Did you know that the U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association is “the nation’s oldest and largest national lawn mower racing sanctioning body”? Yep, it goes all the way back to 1992, so it’s venerable indeed. The “sport” itself is not much older, having been created in a pub circa 1973 by some British louts with too much time on their hands.
A company that makes lawn mower oil brought it over here and established a race series — the STA-BIL Series includes 21 annual events! There are 50 local chapters, and 140 sanctioned races in 37 states.
I was introduced to lawn mower racing through an email from Bruce "Mr. Mow It All" Kaufman, president of the U.S. association. He announced the April Fools' Day kickoff of the race series in Maryland and debuted a new strategic partner — GnomeFrenzy.com. As the name implies, they make garden gnomes. Did I mention that the official slogan is, "We turn a weekend chore into a competitive sport"? Everyone's invited, the mow the merrier.
Groucho Marx said, “I thought my razor was dull until I heard your speech.” He’d obviously never been to a lawn mower race. Although some see parallels to the humble beginnings of NASCAR, there’s an inherently limiting factor — it’s played out on lawn mowers! Fairly stock rider types, with the mowing blade removed. Parallels might better be drawn to the Shrine Circus and their miniature Mustangs.
You may have seen lawn mower racing featured on the TV sitcoms "Home Improvement," "Yes, Dear" and "King of the Hill" because it’s a great sight gag. In fact, you don’t have to even see it. Just the name is funny.
I haven’t been to a lawn mower race, alas, so I can’t say without fear of contradiction that it’s boring to watch. But thanks to the miracle of YouTube, I was able to watch a pretty good video. It showed me that competitors are waved to their machines in Le Mans-type racing starts with checkered flags and cries of “Ready, Set, Mow!” And that some go-faster modifications are allowed. But in the end, they’re still lawn mowers:
The British form appears to be muddier, along the lines of an English hillclimb. But maybe it’s just that it’s always raining over there, turning the World Championship course into a mud pit:
There’s probably a local lawn mower racing chapter near you, and you can check here. I was sorry to see that my local team, the Mowrauders, is defunct, or at least its website is. But I’ll get around to seeing a race one of these days. I’m sure I’ll have a good time, but I’ll make sure to bring the No-Doz just in case.
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