Ready, Set, Mow: Lawn Mower Racing Becoming A Buckeye Tradition

Published: Thursday, May 5, 2016 - 4:10pm
Updated: Thursday, May 5, 2016 - 4:15pm
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(Photo by Annika Cline - KJZZ)
David Calvert welds the front bumper of one of his racing mowers, "Mow-tivator 2."
(Photo by Annika Cline - KJZZ)
David Calvert and a friend built a li-mow-sine out of two lawn mowers and a barbecue attached at the front.

Saturday is the Buckeye Demolition Derby, and between the smashing and crashing of cars is the half-time feature — lawn mower racing. If you’re thinking, wait, mowers? That can’t be as thrilling as wrecked cars — not so fast.

“This one’s been clocked at over 80 miles an hour,” said Marty Fauss, sitting on his lawn mower and revving the engine.

Like a lot of the racers in the Arizona Lawn Mower Racing Association, Fauss grew up mowing lawns — at a snail’s pace. 

“I was growing up on a farm and we had five acres of grass to mow every week,” Fauss said. “Maybe five miles an hour at the best.”

But with some tinkering, you can get a lot more power out of these machines.

“We are reinforcing the steering on this one,” said David Calvert, president of the association. “From past crashes we had some bent linkages.”

He was fixing up a green and black mower at his gas station and auto repair shop in Buckeye on Wednesday. 

“This is a proven race winner,” he said.

Calvert used to be a demolition derby driver himself, but left the world of trashing cars to do what the mower racers call “kicking grass.” Yeah, the puns write themselves in mower racing, but that doesn’t mean the sport is just a gag. 

“I’ve wrecked this one,” said racer Donald Stone. "It weighs about 300 pounds. The steering wheel landed in my gut.”

“I was the one that ran into him,” Calvert said. “He clipped the wall in front of me and it sent him sideways. But then he rolled over the finish line. So I pushed him across first, and I got second.”

It definitely sounds like one of those “don’t try this at home” warnings you see on TV — except that both Calvert and Stone did see this on TV, and that’s why they decided to try it. Stone said he saw it on "Duck Dynasty" and picked up his mower the same afternoon.  

“It’s taken off because of the media coverage we’ve had and the ease and affordability to get in,” said Bruce Kaufman, founder and president of the U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association, based in Illinois. “The mow, the merrier!” 

But it’s still a pretty niche sport, with about 800 members nationally. Calvert says his club hovers at about 20 members. One thing that is growing is Calvert’s hometown: Buckeye. 

“You know when I grew up the town was only 3,000 people, but now we’re 50,000 plus. So we’re trying to hang to some of that old-time feel,” Calvert said.

For Calvert and the other racers, the lawn mower has always been an icon of rural life; these just blow your hair back a bit more.

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