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Get off the lawn at annual Mike Cupps memorial mower race

MARBLE FALLS — I’ll admit it, I’m probably one of the slowest mowers in the world. I push my mower around the yard at a leisurely pace.

Dennis Drake assured me I would have no chance in the upcoming fourth annual Mike Cupps Memorial Lawn Mower Race at Sweet Berry Farm on April 23. Well, the first problem is there’s no push mower class.

“Some of these lawn mowers can get upwards of 70 miles per hour,” he said.

On my best days — and going downhill — I can maybe hit 1 or 2 mph. So, yeah, I’m sitting this one out. But that’s a good thing because now I can just enjoy the race itself.

And so can you.

The racing is 2-5 p.m. at Sweet Berry Farm, 1801 FM 1980 between Marble Falls and Granite Shoals. Admission is $5.

And NASCAR’s got nothing on these speed freaks with their customized, souped-up lawnmowers.

“Well, they can reach 70 mph, but because of the track, we don’t really hit those speeds,” Drake said. “Some of the classes hit the 35- to 40-mph range.”

Which on a lawnmower is still pretty fast, especially going around a short, dirt track.

The race is part of the Lone Star Mower Racing Association circuit, so people from across the state will be hauling their mowers in to compete.

While racers can earn points toward the overall LSMRA standings as well as placing at the event, they also will help generate funds in honor of Mike Cupps, who died of cancer, and the Sweet Berry Farms event raises money in the fight against the disease.

Drake said that, this year, they’ve selected a Granite Shoals family whose 7-year-old daughter Alyssa Flores is battling leukemia. She was first diagnosed in April 2015. All the proceeds go to the girl and her family.

“We wanted the money to directly benefit somebody in the community,” Drake said.

Cupps died Jan. 24, 2013. The memorial race is a way of honoring him for his courageous battle as well as his dedication to lawnmower racing.

“When I first started racing, he was one of the first people I met,” Drake said. “He was just so willing to help others. If your mower broke, he probably had a piece to help you fix it. And Mike would just give it to you out of his trailer. And if your mower broke and his mower broke, he’d help you fix yours before working on his."

“That’s just the type of guy Mike was,” Drake added.

As lawnmower racing grew in popularity, racers lacked a central place to get parts. So Cupps created one. He even noticed that the stock axles found on riding lawnmowers just wouldn’t hold up to racing, so he designed and built a special racing one.

“He called it the Acme Axles,” Drake said. “His axles are used all over the world.”

Cupps’ humility, generosity and dedication made him one of the most popular people on the circuit. His death hit the lawnmower racing community hard.

“When you lose someone like that to cancer, or anyone to that disease, it just breaks your heart,” Drake said. “The disease affects everybody.”

Since Cupps’ death, the lawnmower racing community has lost several other racers and supporters, making this particular race even more important.

“Each year, Mike’s widow (Janice Marie Cupps) comes to the race,” Drake said. “She’s just proud that we’re remembering Mike with the race.”

As for the race, the competitors don’t just line up and speed around the track to see who has the fastest lawnmower. There are several classes based on speed and experience.

For new racers, the IMOW is one of the best places to start. Drake said the rules highly limit what’s done to the mower — the engine is stock and governed to a 3,650 RPM max — making it a very equitable division.

“So it really does come down to the driver,” he said.

The other classes allow for more modifications. And then there’s the FX (Factory Experimental) Class. You’ll just have to use your imagination on that one.

As for my lawnmower racing days, they were over before they even started. Actually, that’s pretty true, considering I couldn’t get my push mower cranking the other day and I had to borrow the neighbor’s electric one.

At this rate, they’ll never let me race. But at least I can sit in the stands and cheer on the real racers.

Go to lsmra.com for more information on racing in general or sweetberryfarm.com for more on the race venue.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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