Lawnmower racing returns to North Wilkesboro

By Jesse Campbell (jesse.campbell@mountaintimes.com)



Article Published: Aug. 15, 2013 | Modified: Aug. 18, 2013

Gentlemen, start your mowers.

NASCAR may no longer offer a sanctioned racing event in the foothills of Western North Carolina, but that doesn’t mean racing is not alive and well.

The competing vehicles, however, might be a little more domesticated.

By late summer, North Wilkesboro resembles Bristol or Daytona motor speedways with the arrival of a handful of Carolina Mower Racing sanctioned lawnmower races.

Speed devils and racers, who rely a little bit on ingenuity and professional craftsmanship, hit the red clay of North Wilkesboro’s Worth Evan Tomlinson Rotary Park on Saturday, Aug. 17. Gates open at 1 p.m., with inspection from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Practice follows with the green flag being dropped at 6 p.m.

Proceeds from the cluster of races benefit the Rotary Club of North Wilkesboro. Admission is $7, and children younger than 5 will be admitted free of charge.

“We have 15 to 17 classes racing,” Rotary Club member Mike Staley said. “The mowers can go anywhere from five horse powers all the way to a modified style car. Some of these guys put in $10,000 to $12,000, and it’s all to win a little trophy.”

Racers take to the 400-foot clay track to test their mettle against drivers from across the Southeast and variations of skill.

“It’s continual action all the time,” Staley said. “It’s sort of like Bristol.”

The track, accompanied by a wrap around grandstand, sits on 15 acres of flat land —ideal for any race, Staley said.

The types of mowers, or racecars, that roll into the fairgrounds are varied. As Staley will tell you, you just don’t know what to expect come race day.

“I like the different kind of people that come in,” Staley said. “You have some that come with a (machine) that looks like a NASCAR circuit car and others that look like a beat-up pickup.”

The races are also family events. In fact, it is not unusual for one clan come to cheer on as many as seven different races.

Prepping for a weekend race can be intense, with track maintenance being completed up to three days of the final checkered flag being waved.

By race day, more than 2,000 diehard Snapper and Murray fans flood the fairgrounds for the sound of souped-up engines and, dare say, the occasional spill and wreck.

But not to fret, as Staley pointed out, the track comes with “plenty of safety features” to ensure an exciting, but comfortable experience for fans and racers alike.

The high-octane races are also a boon to the downtown area.

Staley noted that convenience stores, restaurants and even a local sporting good store all benefit from the traffic brought in by the races. “It does good for the whole town,” Staley said.

The gates of the fairgrounds are located beside West Park off D Street in North Wilkesboro.

For more information, call Mike Staley at (336) 902-7052.

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