April 4, 2004--Posted at 5:00 P.M. CST
JONESBORO--It's that time of year again, the leaves bud out, the flowers bloom, and the grass begins to green up. For those of us with a yard that means it's time to crank up the old lawnmower. But for some in region 8, firing up the mower has nothing to do with cutting the grass.
Gentlemen, start your snappers?
"Everything is lawnmower parts. At least 99 percent lawnmower parts, just modified, moved around and tweaked a little bit," says lawn mower racer Kinely Gatewood.
That's right he said lawnmowers. But these mowers don't cut grass, they cut donuts. For the drivers it's about one thing.
"It's racing, it's racing. If you like racing, this here's a starting point.. This is poor man's racing," says Lance Harper.
These brethren of the blade recently held the inaugural points race of the Arkansas Lawnmower Racing Association, which is actually the Jonesboro Firefighters Local 3718.
Yes, these firemen and friends have turned a weekend chore into a competition. "Last spring I was cuttin grass with this. I just modified the engine just to get it to go fast," says Brett Winstead.
But just how fast, depends on what class you're in. "As a matter of fact this mower here, my team owner took this mower on the Atlanta Motor Speedway and ran it 83 miles an hour on this mower," said Gatewood.
They'll go, but they won't mow. The blades have been removed and the mower madmen use a hand throttle with a kill switch. They do have brakes but they don't use them. Winstead says, "The only reason we've got brakes is to get through inspection."
The theme for these turf rocket racers is fun. "You know to see a lawnmower go as fast as they're going and the power that they have, it's awesome. You know you can build cars to that fast, but a lawnmoer, people don't look at it that way," says David Smith. "It's awesome, it's like I'm a kid over again and it's a blast. I can't really explain it, but anyone that jumps on one of these they're going to be hooked."
The Jonesboro chapter is one of 30 local chapters across the country affiliated with the U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association and a national points race is headed for Jonesboro this June.
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