Monday, Dec 22, 2014

Mower power to ya'

BY JIM TAYLOR
Special to Highlands Today

Published:

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AVON PARK - If you didn't get enough racing action and hot dogs at the Avon Park Octoberfest last Saturday, then the Avon Park Mower-Plex was the place to be later that night.

With five heat races, five feature races, and a hay ride for the kids around the track, there was plenty of excitement and fun to be held by all for an evening of competitive mower racing.

"I think the turnout is what I expected," said Avon Park Mower-Plex President Sean Kennedy. "We passed out a lot of flyers and all, it seems to be getting bigger every time. We had 28 racers in all, and we had a couple of racers that could not make it because they were involved with downtown activities or they were away, but we had a couple of new members tonight also."

There are five racing classes in the North American Society of Grass Racers and Sod Slingers (NASGRASS) with the first being the International Mower of Weeds (IMOW). The class is highly regulated and showcases driver ability.

In the IMOW heat race, Frankie Lane took first place as Richie Pippin and Justin Cagle came in second and third, respectively. In the feature race, Lane again took first place, while Cagle edged Pippin for second.

The next highest class is based on speed, which is designated as the Grand Prix (GP) Racer. This class has the same engine specifications as IMOW, but it has an open gear rotation so mowers can achieve faster speeds.

In the heat race, Pat Sullivan crossed the finish line first, followed by Wes Pyburn and Sean Kennedy. In the feature race, Pyburn took first place honors while Sullivan came in second. Kennedy came in third but was disqualified because his RPM's were over the limit, allowing Matt Earp to place instead.

In the Grand Prix (GP) Twin class, the mower features twin cylinder engines and an open gear ratio.

Pippin earned the checkered flag in the heat race as Jeremy Miller and Sam Miller placed second and third. In the feature race, Jeremy got the honor of carrying the checkered flag as he beat out Pippin, who finished second, while Craig Geary placed third.

The Open Single Class mowers have a single cylinder flathead, or overhead engines, with major modifications.

Kennedy swept both the heat and the featured races. In the heat race, newcomer Becky Kuhfeldt finished second and Robert Wardwell rounded out the top three. Wardwell would later finish second in the feature race and David Curtis came in third.

The Open Twin class features mowers that have twin cylinder engines with major modification and it is the top classification in NASGRASS racing.

Pyburn finished first in both the heat and feature races and Cagle finished in second place in both races.

"This is a great crowd. The Avon Park area is very supportive," Kennedy said. "Participation has dropped over the past few years, whether it has to do with the economy or whatever, but it has picked back up again this year. There is a lot more excitement because there is a lot more people involved."

Kennedy added that for those who are interested in competitive mower racing, it's not too late to get involved with this season.

"New racers are behind in terms of the points standings because they were not present for all the races," Kennedy said. "But at the same time, they are more or less rookies that are getting seat time. They get the experience this year and go at it next year. If they get in early enough, it is still possible to finish in the top five in points with some first or second place finishes - even some wins. I'm excited about what is going on."

Kennedy also noted that NASGRASS is a welcoming family atmosphere.

"We do things for the kids during the intermission," he said. "It takes up a little time, but we want to make sure that this is family oriented. That is what we want."

The next scheduled race at the Avon Park Mowerplex is set for Nov. 9, which will be the third race of the season.

For more information about competitive mower racing, go to www,mowerplex.com, or visit the Facebook pages for NASGRASS and the Avon Park Mower-Plex.

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