AVON PARK - The night may have had a bit of a chill, but the action on the track was hotter and better than ever at the Avon Park Mower-Plex last Saturday night, as nearly 40 racers competed in another North American Society of Grass Racers and Sod Slingers event.
"The turnout was better than expected," said NASGRASS President Wes Pyburn. "It is great to race in front of these large crowds and we are continually growing as more drivers are entering and competing."
NASGRASS holds lawn mower races on the second Saturday of each month at the Avon Park Mower Plex, and now features 11 races that include five heat races, five feature races and a newly formed junior race for those that are 10-17 years old and want to satisfy their need for speed.
Sean Kennedy was the highlight of the heat races, placing second in the Grand Prix (GP) and Open Single heats. In the GP heat, Kennedy had the lead halfway through the race before being overtaken by Pat Sullivan.
In the Open Single, Kennedy had the lead, but spun out on turn four with two laps to go. Rebecca Kuhfeldt took the lead and was able to hold off a charging Kennedy for the heat win.
Kennedy said after the heat race that his throttle was stuck open, and it took everything he had to keep the mower on the track before spinning out.
In the Grand Prix Twin race, Sam Miller passed Richie Pippen with two laps left in the race for the heat victory.
During the intermission between the heat races and the start of the feature races, train rides were given to the kids around the track.
With the bar being set high in the heat races, it didn't take long for the feature races to surpass it, starting with the first race featuring the IMOW drivers.
At the center of attention was new comer Kerri Bryant, who was competing in her second race of the year.
Bryant finished fourth in the heat race and came out determined for a better finish in the feature. Though she got tremendous speed in the straight away and at the start of the turn, she often came out of the turns drifting wide, allowing the other drivers to pass her.
"I was fast," Bryant said. "But the mower pushed when coming out of the turns causing me to go wide. I nearly lost it four or five times."
She fought back as she battled her way into to fourth place and found herself challenging Pippin, a three-year veteran, for third place during the final laps to the point that tires and mowers rubbed up against each other.
Pippin held off Bryant to clinch third place and Bryant settled into fourth - not bad for just her second feature race. Lost in the excitement was Frankie Lane, who won both the heat and feature races fairly easy.
The GP class raced in the second feature race with Sullivan completing the sweep, capturing both the heat and feature races.
The third feature race combined the open single and the open twin classes. The open twin started a half lap behind the open single racers.
Though Pyburn was competing in the Open Twin and Kennedy in the Open Single, they became the main focus as Pyburn quickly made up the half lap difference to catch up to Kennedy, who was leading the Open Single.
The battle was on as Pyburn passed Kennedy after three laps. Kennedy quickly retook the lead by driving a high line and cutting sharply into the corner on turn three. Pyburn responded by regaining the overall lead again a lap later staying to the outside on turn four.
Though Kennedy came close, he was unable to match the speed of Pyburn's open-twin "Red Rocket."
Pyburn earned a first place finish in the Open Twin as Kennedy earned the win in the Open Single. Both did donuts in the middle of the infield to celebrate
In the Gran Prix Twin races, wily veteran Sam Miller, driving the Lightning McQueen mower, won both heat and feature races.
The last race of the night highlighted the junior speedsters. Jordan Campbell won the heat race and Jason Campbell won the feature race.
The next race scheduled at the Mower-Plex is set for Jan. 11 with a start time of 6 p.m.