Lawn mower racing at its finest was showcased at the STA-BIL Snow Bird Nationals at the Avon Park Mower-Plex in Florida held on March 8-9. In fact, the event attracted so many spectators they eventually had to close the gate because they ran out of room in the stands.
“It was amazing to see so many people show up,” said Wes Pyburn, president of the local lawn mower racing club, NASGRASS. “Our normal races average about 200-300 spectators, but for this national race we had about 700-800 people in the stands. It was huge!”
For over a decade, the Mower-Plex in Avon Park – a track built specially for lawn mower racing – has been hosting races. For the STA-BIL Snow Bird Nationals, more than 85 racers traveled to Avon Park from about 10 states mostly in the Northeast, Southeast and Midwest to be part of the excitement.
“I give a lot of credit to all the snowbirds who traveled through snow storms and bad weather to get here for the race,” says Wes. To thank the participating racers for coming, NASGRASS provided a free barbeque on Friday and plenty of family entertainment throughout the weekend including a kid-sized train made out of lawn mowers, hayrides on a tractor during intermission and, of course, the main events – races for all classes of mowers from the junior class to the factory experimental mowers racing up to about 60 mph. The average racing speed was about 34 mph.
The Care & Feeding of the Track
One of the attributes of Avon Park is the excellent condition of its 750-foot track, which Wes prepares with simple equipment – a pickup truck and water trailer. What’s his secret? “Lots of hard work and experience,” says Wes. “Every track has its own personality, and you need to know your track – how to work the dirt, how much water it needs – it just takes practice.”
Wes’ care and feeding of the track has paid off. The Mower-Plex is considered one of the premier lawn mower racetracks in the U.S. And during the event, many racers commented on this “faster,” “smoother” “first-class” track.
To keep the Mower-Plex in good shape, ticket money from the races goes towards racetrack improvements, such as new clay and fencing for this 20-acre facility, which is mostly maintained by volunteers. Ironically, the organization does pay a guy to cut the grass at the track. He’s the only one around who has a mower that really cuts grass.
Near the end of the second day of the nationals, Wes and his team started to relax because everything was going smoothly without a hitch. The races went well, the track was great and everyone was having a good time. That’s when a snag in the operation happened. They ran out of toilet paper in the portable toilets at the track.
Fortunately, because lawn mower racers always help each other out, all the people with campers contributed their supply of toilet paper and the shortage was resolved. Just a small glitch in what otherwise was a huge success.