BY JIM TAYLOR
Special to Highlands Today
AVON PARK - The North American Society of Grass Racers and Sod Slingers (NASGRASS) has returned to the Avon Park Mowerplex after a decade hiatus. The organization held its first race of the 2014 season on Sept. 7.
"It was a huge success" Vice President of the Mowerplex facility Wes Pyburn said. "It is the most racers and largest crowd we have had in years."
There are five classes in lawn mower racing. The first classification is the IMOW (International Mower of Weeds). In this class, mowers have an identical setup with a single cylinder engine at 3650 RPMs and an 8 to 1 gear ration. As it stated on NASGRASS's website, this class is highly regulated in order to showcase driver ability.
Richie Pippin placed first with 150 points, Frankie Lane came in second with 135, and Justin Cagle earned 120 points for a third place finish. Buddy Pippin, Howard Clark, Nelson Hare, Brooke Kennedy and Michael Graves rounded at the IMOW standings, respectively.
In the Grand Prix Racer classification, mowers have the same engine specifications as the IMOW class, but have an open gear ratio. Sean Kennedy took first place with 140 points, while Wes Pyburn and Pat Sullivan tied for second with 120.
Finishing out the rest of the field in order of points, was Matt Earp, Scott Brewer, Sheron Curtis, Howard Clark, Jeremy Miller, Daniel Thorton and Less Couch.
The GP Twin classification has a twin cylinder engine and an open gear ratio. Jeremy Miller, Sam Miller and Charles Butcher earned 150, 135 and 120 points, respectively, to capture first, second, and third place.
Brooke Kennedy, Craig Geary and Richie Pippin finished fourth through sixth, respectively, to round out the remaining field.
The Open Single classifies mowers which have single cylinder flathead or overhead valve engines on a prepared chassis with major modifications. In the classification, Kennedy again took top honors with 150 points.
Pierce Benton and Bruce Runyon placed second and third while David Curtis, Bob Wardwell and Donald Leveringston finished fourth through sixth.
The Open Twin classification is the top division in NASGRASS. These mowers run on a twin cylinder engine with major modification. Only three racers participated, as Pyburn roared across the finish line to a first place finish. He was followed by Justin Cagle and Frankie Lane.
Coinciding with the first race of the season was "Family Fun Night," was nearly in jeopardy as rain storms hit the area throughout the day. Though the first race featured red flags and postponed the action for nearly an hour, the weather cleared and the track was dry enough to continue racing.
There was some stoppage due to light rain and slick driving conditions, but it allowed for the spotlight to focus on the kids in the crowd, who pushed mowers and rode electric four-wheelers in a race of their own. All of the youngsters received trophies.
The highlight for them was a train which loaded kids, and some adults, on a trip around the track. Each youngster was given a conductor's hat, resulting in a lot of smiles during the delay.
Pyburn mentioned that he's gotten several inquiries about the sport and questions on how to get involved, as well as how to teak the mowers since the day of the race.
"We hope to attract more racers and fans." Pyburn said. "I'm pleased with the turnout and interest we've gotten."
The next scheduled race at the Avon Park Mowerplex is set for Oct. 12 at 6 p.m.
There will also be a race on Oct. 19 at the Highlands County Shriner Club at 12:30 p.m.
Mowers and drivers were also be at the Sebring Thunder Car Show at the Sebring Circle over the weekend.