PAYSON -- When you think about a lawn mower, what do you think of? Probably a tool to mow your lawn. But for some racing fans they are used for more than that. And when can you turn a weekend chore into a sport, it is race time with riding lawn mowers.
"When my friend Mike Hudson and I heard about lawn mower racing, we immediately became interested," said Roger Hope, who has a local lawn mower racing association. "We have 14 paid members and we sure have a fun time."
Lawn mower racing is a type of motor-sport where participants race modified riding lawn mowers. Basically, a lawn mower is a machine having a rotating blade for cutting grass; however, even though the original mower engines are maintained, the blades are removed for safety. Nearly all of the machines used in these races are older ones that racers remodel for racing. Lawn mower racing is founded firmly in the use of both standard mower engines and chassis.
And Roger Hope has gotten his family involved in the sport as well. Hope's 24-year-old daughter, Heather, has been racing for five years.
"I decided to get involved and race so that my dad had some competition," Heather Hope said. "I love to race, and racing my dad is the best. We have turned this into a family sport."
Heather Hope's Sears Craftsman riding mower, known as the Big Green, seems to bring her a lot of luck. Her family owns six racing mowers, but currently are only racing three. Along with Big Green, her other mower, which used to be pink but is now a shade of blue, goes by the name of Old Blue.
The sport was invented in 1973 by a group of boys in a pub in Sussex in the United Kingdom. They formed the British Lawn Mower Racing Association, and soon afterward a northern equivalent, the Northwest Lawn Mower Racing Association, was formed. The sport was introduced in the United States by the manufacturers of a gasoline stabilizer called Sta-bil. It has since developed into a nationwide organization, called the U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association.
Racers are required to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, goggles, gloves and boots. They also each have a tether that hooks to them; in case of an accident or emergency, the tether will kill the engine.
"We take every precaution we can for the safety of the riders," Roger Hope said.
Hope has not only enjoyed racing because it is a family sport, but because it is something different from the regular idea of sports.
"We have people racing from the youngest being 8 to a 70-year-old racer," Hope said. "It is not a sport to make money. Everything we make goes back to pay for insurance in case of something happening."
Lawn mower races attract thousands of fans because a lot of lawn mower races are programmed from town to town. It is only a hobby to enjoy, and there is no gambling in terms of mowers racing.
Hope has raced in races in Fairview, Lindon, Plymouth, Weber and Davis and will compete in a race to be held on Saturday in Salem. The Salem race is held in conjunction with Payson's Onion Days, which is Payson's annual celebration.
The race will be held at the Salem Arena from noon to 3 p.m. and the cost is $3 per person or $10 per carload. For more information, contact Roger Hope at (801) 310-7315.