The Lawn Rangers

 

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A Longhorn captures the sport of lawn mower racing in all its gritty glory.

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Above: Jay Kelly, 71, shows off his custom mower built by his nephew. Racers can spend up to $6,000 on customization. Mowers must meet weight and height restrictions in order to compete.

Photographer Jennifer Boomer, BS ’02, has always been drawn to what she calls “Americana with an edge.” This spring, Boomer traveled to Marble Falls and Menard to take in the spectacle put on by the Lone Star Mower Racing Association. The basic idea: remove the blades from your mower, trick it out according to rules and regulations, then go fast and try not to crash.

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Above: Scott Bittle has been racing since 2006. Nicknamed the “Mowlinium Falcon,” he has won the Texas State Championship five times. The sport originated in England in the ’70s and now has more than 50 chapters in the U.S. Sammie Neel, secretary for the Lone Star Mower Racing Association, says, “People have a need for speed, and this is one of the least expensive racing hobbies you can get into.”

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Above: Chris Akin is a rookie driver from Arkansas whom Boomer calls “super-intense.” The dangerous sport requires full gear: body suits, helmets, neck braces, and shoulder and chest protection.

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Above: Wes “Tha’ Kid” Campbell comes from a long line of mower racers.

“It’s not always what you put into your mower, it’s how you drive it. The person with the deepest pockets doesn’t always get the checkers in the end.”

—Bruce “Mr. Mowitall” Kaufman, President and Founder of the
United States Lawn Mower Racing Association

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Above: Intimidating bumper stickers.

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Above: Tim “Pocket’s Rocket” Lane, outside, and Caroll “Gizmow” Campbell, inside, speed down the track. There were issues with the dusty track that day; normally a water truck driver around and pats it down. Each class races twice: 10 laps for placement and 20 laps for the win.

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Above: Pat “Mow Broom” Lane, a registered nurse, pushes her mower.

“The spectators love the wrecks. We hate them, but they think there is something fantastic about blood and guts.”

—Sammie Neel

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Above: One of the association’s earliest members, Richard “Mow Patrol” Lively serves as vice president, emcee, and tech inspector, while also working as a clown at monster truck rallies.

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Above: A participant in Menard’s first-annual Turkey Festival, which took place next to the track, looks on.

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Above: A group of drag racers asks to look under the hoods.

“One rule of the sport has always been: Never race for purse money—It’s for fun, glory, and bragging rights.”

—Bruce “Mr. Mowitall” Kaufman

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Above and below: Spectators enjoy the race in Menard. “We’ve had anywhere from 200 to 12,000, depending on the venue,” Neel says.

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Photos by Jennifer Boomer.

Learn more about the sport of lawn mower racing from Bruce “Mr. Mowitall” Kaufman himself in the Alcalde podast below. You can subscribe to Texas Exes podcasts on iTunes.

 

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