By Mark Lowe For the Pharos-Tribune
---- — TWELVE MILE — The biggest little town in the USA, Twelve Mile Indiana, will host the 51st annual running of the Twelve Mile 500 Lawnmower race on the Fourth of July.
Technology will again count the laps in three separate races at the longest running lawnmower race in the US on Thursday. Each mower will carry a transponder registering completion of a lap as they cross the start/finish line. This system has proved to be a great improvement over the manual lap counting used in the past.
The club qualified 50 mowers in three different classes a few weeks ago and still has room in each class for more on race day. The Briggs class has 13, Super Stock 19, and the Modified class 18. Each class has room for 33. The coveted 33rd spot is always left open for race day entries or those who could not complete their qualification run.
Four cycle Briggs mowers with centrifugal clutches make up the Super Stock race while more stock style mowers will still compete in the Briggs race, a great beginner’s spot, but do not think this is your grandmother’s mower! Several of the Briggs racers also compete in the USLRMA (United States Lawn Mower Racing Association) and have plenty of experience with a circuit of races around the nation. Their high-powered machines are not by any means guaranteed to win or even finish as Twelve Mile has a great equalizer, a speed limit!
Now you ask, why does a race have a speed limit? Simple answer, safety for drivers and fans. All the other tracks are only a fraction of the size of Twelve Mile’s quarter mile and do not have the number of curves or obstacles that face drivers at Plank Hill Park. From the 90-degree home plate to the trees, drivers compete with the track as well as the other drivers. The track has plenty of straightaway to let even the Briggs drivers reach speeds plenty fast enough to cause injury if something goes wrong.
A driver caught speeding or driving recklessly will find himself on the dreaded black flag board along with a Lions member waving the black flag at the offending racer. A trip through a penalty pass area where they stop briefly and have their number logged before continuing onto the track but not passing the start finish line costs them a half a lap.
Another risk is that after four such penalties the racer is disqualified and has to exit the race. This helps to keep speeds down and hopefully mishaps also. The pit stops are also tracked, as racers have to make a minimum of three.
There will be more than racing going on in Twelve Mile. Today a basketball tournament will start at 5 p.m. at Plank Hill Park along with a talent show and a free movie sponsored by Corinth Brethren Church who will serve free hot dogs and water while supplies last. There will be other vendors open for more options if visitors wish. The fireworks will light up the sky at dark.
On the Fourth there will be a breakfast at 7 a.m. and lunch at 10:30 at the community building uptown. The parade starts at 11:30. Activities then move to Plank Hill Park with the first race starting at 1 p.m. There will be a footrace for the kids after the first race sponsored by Community State Bank. The next two races are scheduled for 2:30 and 4. There will be plenty of vendors available and feel free to park uptown and walk in to avoid the traffic. Admission is $5 for adults, $1 for 6-12 and under 6 free.
See twelvemile500.com for directions, qualification results, rules, history, plus pictures from last year’s race.