TWELVE MILE — John Troyer has a most “mow-tivating” story.
Though he’s a member of the “First Family of Mowing,” for the first 20 years of his lawnmowing racing career he came up empty.
But on the 50th running of the Twelve Mile 500 Wednesday, Troyer recorded a win in the Super Stock division for the second straight year, adding to his family’s impressive haul of Twelve Mile titles.
“Yeah it does feel good,” Troyer said, “after 20 years of eating dust and black flags.”
The Twelve Mile 500 is the oldest lawnmower race in the nation. The Twelve Mile Lions Club holds the event, which raises money for upkeep at Plank Hill Park and for the town of Twelve Mile.
Dean Owens won the Briggs division for his fifth Twelve Mile title in his 38th running of the event, which is a record. His five titles trail only Randy Troyer’s 10.
“It was just as exciting as it was the first year,” said Owens, whose first title came in 1976.
“For me it’s kind of a tradition. My family’s been doing it for quite a few years. My dad was one of the race drivers at one time. So it’s just a family tradition for me. Of course I like to coming out here racing with the Troyers.”
Greg Zimpleman took the title in the Modified division, his first Twelve Mile title. The 2000 Caston grad recently picked lawnmower racing back up after competing in stock car racing for a time.
“It feels good to finally beat a Troyer,” he said.
As for the advantages of racing mowers to cars, Zimpleman, of Fulton, said, “It takes a lot less money and it’s a lot of fun. I’ve got my son here and he’ll probably run one, one of these days.
“It’s a great place to bring your family over. We have three young kids, and it’s a really fun, economical place to bring them on the Fourth of July. There’s a lot of shade trees, good food and a lot of friends.”
High temperatures probably kept some fans away, but there was still a good-sized crowd on hand for the festivities. Wednesday’s temperatures reached 98 degrees with a heat index of 106.
Owens, of Mexico, said he kept the weather in mind when he was riding his Briggs mower.
“I tried to run a fairly slow RPM, maybe a mid-range RPM, without working the engine too hard,” he said.
John Troyer, of Denver, said lawnmower racing doesn’t take up too much of his time.
“Any more, I really don’t put that much time into it. Once you have a good machine that’s established, and you know exactly what works, what doesn’t, really not that much. But years ago, yes, I put a lot of time into them,” he said.
The day started off with a glitch as computer problems caused a one hour, 15 minute delay. Computers had been counting laps and keeping track of speeds in recent years.
“This is the third year for that, and it’s worked out great for us. But what happened was the gentleman who usually runs that, he’s in Portland, Ore., for a four-day event. His replacement came in last year but she had a scheduling conflict,” said event organizer Mark Lowe. “I think it’s more of a wire issue, the computer seems to be fine.”
Once the races got underway, the drivers and the spectators braved the heat for another day of fun on Independence Day.
Following Owens in the Briggs division was a top five of Randy Troyer, Cole Calloway, Dennis Bodary and Scott Summers. The Super Stock top five included John Troyer, Andy Curtis, Darren Ulerick, Grant White and Andy Pickens. The Modified top-five finishers were Zimpleman, Chuck Warpenburg, Joe Troyer, Darrell Ulerick and John Troyer.