K&N sponsored lawnmower racer Ken Jones.
I would guess that after mowing your lawn on a nice weekend afternoon you sit down on the couch with a nice tall drink of lemonade and watch motorsports events on television. Ever wonder if you could be a competitor in a motorsports contest? Well, you ride a lawnmower, don’t you? That’s right! If you can ride a lawnmower, then you can compete in lawnmower racing.
K&N sponsored lawnmower racer Ken Jones.
The sport has actually been around since 1973 when the British Lawnmower Racing Association was created. The British group was serious about it and even had a 12-hour lawnmower-racing event back in the day.
In 1992 the executives of Gold Eagle Company, makers of STA-BIL, a fuel stabilizer product that is used in lawnmowers, heard about the British endeavor and thought it would be a good idea to create the United States Lawnmower Racing Association (USLMRA).
With tongue in cheek, the association was introduced in an announcement on April Fools’ day in 1992. Gold Eagle appointed its public relations and event and marketing manager Bruce Kaufman to be president of the organization.
“We said that if we are going to do this, than we are going to do it right,” explained Kaufman, who still serves as president of the organization. “So we decided to have the first ever national championship race for lawnmowers and we decided to be serious about it and create rules, offer insurance to venues who held events, and set up safety guidelines.”
So the USLMRA was founded as the sanctioning body for lawnmower racing in the United States. The association started with one race a year. The race received a lot of media coverage from such well-known companies as CNN, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and famed radio personality Paul Harvey. Recently, the guys from the famous YouTube Channel, Dude Perfect, came by and competed in their own race. The guys took on pun filled monikers like Mowhammad Ali, The Turfanator, Mr. Mowjangles, Ace of Blades, Weedy Gonzalez, the Lawn Ranger, Mowdacious, and Sodfather.
“We started getting calls from fairs, festivals, and venues who wanted to present a race,” said Kaufman, “and it grew from there.”
Since then races have been broadcasted on ESPN2, Fox Sports One, TNN, Speed Vision, and on local cable stations. Through the years the number of races a year has ballooned to a couple hundred, said Kaufman.
Regular people who happen to cut their lawns with a riding lawnmower were attracted to the concept. “It provided a sense of adventure and it was affordable,” said Kaufman.
Kaufman noted that people who used to compete in motorsports events like micro and sprint, motorcycle, ATV, auto, and other types of racing have come out of retirement to give it one more go, racing lawnmowers.
“They wanted to get back into motorsports, but they didn’t want to spend a lot of money. Lawnmower racing is the most affordable motorsport there is,” Kaufman noted.
Kaufman also claimed that younger people about 10 to 12 years old are attracted. “They are kids who never raced before. Now they’re racing with their dad and grandpa,” he said.
There are 10 different classes of racing in the USLMRA’s rules. According to Kaufman, the classes run the gambit from mild to wild. Competitors can race their stock lawnmower in the first few classes. The association allows the mowers to be modified and as a mower grows in sophistication it goes on to the next class right on up to the final class that has the most souped up mowers. Racers must prove to the association that they will be able to handle their mowers safely as they go into the next class. The association sets caps on how sophisticated modifications on a lawnmower can be. Moreover, they have very thorough technical inspections at every race to ensure the competitors race within the rules.
There are three categories of races –- State and National Series, which goes around the country and has the top racers; Mobile Chapters, which are races that are performed within a region of the country; and Affiliated Clubs, which are races presented at local or home tracks.
The association offers a turnkey program for venues that want to present an event. “Venues contact us and then we set up everything from the marketing and promotion to the race itself. The venue doesn’t get involved. All they do is present the race, explained Kaufman.
He pointed out that lawnmower races have been held in some of the most legendary tracks in the country including the Charlotte and Atlanta Motor Speedways. Races have taken place in speedway motor properties as well as state parks, added Kaufman.
K&N Engineering has been a sponsor of the USLMRA for about 10 years. In fact, K&N sponsored a racer named Ken Jones before it sponsored the association.
“When we started K&N was sponsoring Ken Jones out of Braceville, Illinois. In fact, they still are to this day. So about 10 years ago we asked K&N to sponsor the association. We have a great relationship with them and they hang K&N banners at all our races,” said Kaufman.
Kaufman noted that he is “mow-tivated” about next year’s events. “In 2017 we will be celebrating our 25th anniversary and we have a lot of special plans, one of which involves the British Lawnmower Racing Association,” he said.
“In the long term I think the future looks bright as long as we keep things safe and affordable,” he concluded.