The word racing usually conjures up thoughts of high speeds, adrenaline and wrecks. Two local men are thinking about things a little differently, though.
Bob Finnerty, of Sweet Valley, and Eric Pimm, of Dallas, are nationally ranked with the American Racing Mower Association. That's right, lawnmower racing.
Bob came to me at work one night and said you'll never guess what I saw on ‘YouTube,' Pimm said, recalling how Finnerty introduced him to lawnmower racing. I said, ‘No one around here does that and if you can find someone to teach us to build them, then I'll do it with you.' Here I am, eating my words four years later.
Larry Lanning, of Dallas, got the men involved and helped them along until they were ready to race on their own. He even lent them one of his racers until they were able to complete the modifications to their own.
The duo's first-ever race was locally held at the Northeast Fair but Finnerty and Pimm have raced their mowers all over the country, the largest being a race with more than 3,000 spectators.
You name it, we go to ‘em, Finnerty said of the events in which the pair has participated.
All racers start as a typical riding lawnmower, but after hours of work and custom fabricated and modified parts, they become racers. The mowers are stripped down to the chassis. The hoods, seat and other parts are modified and custom parts such as the axles are added. And, of course, tweaks are made to the engine.
Anything you can do to a car engine, you can do to a lawnmower engine, said Pimm.
There are nine different classes of racers, based on the engine's horsepower. According to Pimm and Finnerty, a basic racer or Super Stock, starts with 14 HP but after modifications are complete, the racers have approximately 40 HP. It can take about three months to prepare a racer for action.
Racers start as young as age 10 so there are always children at events and Pimm said that some events have even featured a Power Wheels race during intermission for little ones.
Three-year old Ashtun Pimm said, My favorite part is when he (his father Eric) wins and then I get the trophy.
Ashtun said his mommy, Amy races also, and that it's really cool.
It really is a great family atmosphere, said Pimm, who admits he probably would not have stuck with the sport this long had it not been so family-oriented. His wife raced in her first event on Oct. 21.
Ashtun talked about his friends from the races and Pimm said his entire family has made friendships that carry far beyond the track. Finnerty said they know racers from New York and New Jersey whom they spend time with off the track.
There's a very competitive spirit, but very friendly as well, he said.
Pimm explained there are usually several small accidents during the course of a race day, but everyone is eager to help out a fellow racer in need of hands or parts whether they are a teammate or the competition.
No one wants to win by having no one to race against, he said.
Pimm suffered an accident during the last race of the season just a few short weeks ago. He was racing on a clay track and was on the inside of a turn. The track was slippery, the racer running on the outside of the turn spun out and Pimm broadsided him, ran up and over the other racer and flipped backwards. The mower he was riding was totaled, suffering irreparable damage to the frame. Luckily, no one was hurt.
Finnerty and Pimm are currently rebuilding four new racers, including a super modified twin mower, for next season. It is the fastest class mower anyone can race and is capable of reaching speeds of up to 100 mph on a straight-away. The racer is costing Finnerty almost $3,000 to modify and more time than money.
Both men said lawnmower racing can be an expensive hobby but provides an opportunity to meet people and make connections that make things cheaper and easier. Almost everyone is willing to help you out, Pimm said.
The two are planning a Build Clinic for February or March, open to anyone who wants to learn more about the sport or anyone who wants to learn how to build their own racer. They are hoping more people from the area get interested in lawnmower racing so they can host more events locally.
The closest official track is currently in Tower City. Pimm and Finnerty are hoping to increase the size of the local racing chapter to get a track closer to home.
For more information on ARMA and lawnmower racing, visit creeksideracing.com or check out videos on YouTube under American Racing Mower Association.