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Drivers moving 'em down at Fulton Festival

October 23, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. - Even with the rivalry, Jackie Andrews and Ken Williams shared a few laughs Sunday afternoon before the race that determined Pennsylvania's 2006 champion in what Andrews called "a poor man's sport."

The pair and dozens of other racers donned helmets, turned the keys in their ignitions, tested the track and sent dirt flying.

About five hours later, Andrews of Havre de Grace, Md., crossed the finish line, earned the state S/P circuit championship title and took her lawn mower home.

Williams of Newport, Pa., wrecked his mower in the final race and damaged the steering, said Aimee York, vice president of administration with the Pennsylvania Lawn Mower Racing Association.

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Sunday's lawn mower races, held in conjunction with the Fulton Fall Folk Festival, were the final competitive opportunity for participants in Pennsylvania this year.

Andrews first raced on a dare in 2000 and has become a well-known name within the U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association - the organizing body for "America's grassroots motorsport."

Andrews said she "just got hooked" after that first ride and is hoping to qualify in the top five spots next year at the national competition in Ohio. In addition to Sunday's win, she took first place in her class among the Delmarva competitors and was voted driver of the year among that group.

"We're all like family. We all get along," Andrews said.

Andrews focused on her breathing before the racing started, while Williams looked over his mower, which had a new belt and oil change for the event.

The mowers owned by Williams and Andrews were categorized as S/P, which are typically the fastest on the track. The mowers in competition can reach speeds of 85 mph and are categorized by engine type, horsepower and external modifications.

The blades are removed from all mowers in competition.

The team behind Terrie Garver of Littlestown, Pa., and her "Lead Sled" said their strategy for competition was to "keep it running." However, Garver also experienced steering difficulties early in the afternoon.

That team - mostly wearing purple to match the mower - traveled throughout Pennsylvania and to New Jersey, Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia for 15 races this season.

"We go all over the place," Dave Smith of New Jersey said. He met his uncle, John Smith, in Harrisburg, Pa., and the two traveled to McConnellsburg together.

Dave Smith, who owns a lawn mower repair business, built one of his racing mowers in 2000 and the other in 2002.

"It's always changing," Dave Smith said. "People are always finding ways to go faster or go around corners tighter."

For more information about lawn mower racing, visit www.letsmow.com.

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