CARBON HILL, Ala. (WIAT) – Racing is a passion for thousands in Alabama, but breaking into the sport can be tough. It takes tons of money, usually sponsors, and good old fashioned “know how.” For racers that have the knowledge, there is a unique path they can cut to a track. “Basically we’re a bunch of racers that enjoy speed, that don’t have the big pocket books to go race the big cars,” said George Herrin, president of the Bama Tenn Mower Racing Association. Herrin and dozens of other drivers break out their lawnmowers and race several times a year. “It’s fast,” said driver Todd Mobley with a laugh. “Usually people have no idea. I mean they’re thinking we’re getting…on our lawnmower flying down the road. They have no idea.”
The machines that race at Carbon Hill’s Full Throttle Mower Speedway are not exactly like what you take for a leisurely spin around your yard. They’re equipped with high-powered motors that crank out insane levels of RPM’s and acceleration. “In the first fifty, sixty feet they’re wide open. I mean, they’re like a bullet,” Herrin explained. He added that he’s hit 91 miles per hour while goofing off and just running in a straight line. “I’ve hit the pavement at 65. I blew a brake line, missed a turn, and clipped a curb — and all hell broke loose,” he chuckled.
Lawnmower racing in the small Walker County town is meant to be a family sport. Drugs and alcohol are not allowed at the track and everyone is invited to participate. “Some of the wives race, women race,” said Mobley. “Everybody is invited into the sport to race.” One “woman” that runs around the track is known simply as, “Dirty Girl.” That would be Mobley’s lawnmower. “It made it more exciting to tell the stories about my race to my wife just saying ‘Dirty Girl’ rather than my lawnmower,” he joked.
The BTMRA had as many as 130 drivers at one point. Lawnmower racing is seeing a dip nation-wide, but the heart and support of the community is as strong as ever. “We’re like a family,” Herrin stated. It’s also a way to chase the sands of time and remain forever young. “I’m fifty-four years old, overweight, [and] beat up a lot from the racing,” Herrin explained. “But, no matter how bad I hurt or how bad of a day I’m having, when I’m out there on that track I feel like I’m eighteen years old.”