ELLERBE — The Ellerbe Lions Club is gearing up for the start of its 2017 Lawn Mower Racing Season, and Rex Crouch said fans and drivers alike can expect an exciting year.
“I believe this is the 12th year,” he said. “It’s a good family fun event. I mean, where else can you go in the county and spend $5 and get really good entertainment? We have a good group of guys, a lot of good out-of-towners who come. We have activities for the kids and they get candy and medallions. My main vendor is Lamont Jackson from the Norman Grill in Norman. He has some fantastic food. And at different races throughout the year, we raise money for various organizations.”
Crouch said last year they had a fundraiser for a racing buddy from Ohio for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
“And our last race last year, we were able to get supplies for the flood victims in Lumberton,” he recalled. “So not only do we race here at home, we try to reach out and help in the community, help racers in need and stuff like that.”
Asked how lawn mower racing differs from NASCAR, Crouch laughed a little.
“We when you first hear ‘lawn mower racing’, you laugh,” he said. “But if you’ve never seen it, it’s not what you expect. We’ve got classes from stock lawn mowers, to classes running 60 to 70 mph. But it’s very hard, competitive racing. The cool part is if you need a part at the end of the race, you can walk over to one of your competitors’ barns and they’ll have the part for you. It’s not like any other races I’ve been involved in.”
Crouch said his father was involved in drag racing go-karts, so he grew up around it.
“Lawn mower racing’s not like that, it’s nothing like that atmosphere where it’s all cut-throat and trying to win at any cost,” he said. “This is more like a big family.”
According to Crouch, the fan experience is similar to what is found at other types of races.
“We got a lot of loyal fans,” he said. “You’re able to back your truck or vehicle up near the bleachers. They tailgate. You can bring your own chair.”
The lawn mower racing circuit Crouch is involved with doesn’t stop at the county line, either.
“We travel all over the United States doing this,” he said. “Last year I won the championship, and also the year before last. Last year’s was in Tennessee. We’ve been anywhere from Michigan up north to Florida down south. This year we’ll got to Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.”
Just as professional race car drivers’ competition vehicles are taken from place to place in colorful and often branded trucks or trailers, the racing lawn mowers enjoy prime transportation, too.
“We have big, enclosed trailers,” he said. “There’s some guys who show up with their RVs when they camp at the track for the big races. People go camping with nice trailers. Yeah, we get into it.”
In Ellerbe, the entry fee for spectators and racers is low.
“We race just for trophies,” Crouch said. “1st ,2nd and 3rd place get trophies at each race. You have to buy an insurance band and there’s a $10 entry fee to race. To watch, it’s $5, and children six and under get in free.”
For information, call Crouch at 910-995-0750 or visit Ellerbe Lions Club Lawn Mower Racing on Facebook.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673.