In his own words, Russ Wailand's lawnmowers "don't go putt-putt, they go vroom-vroom." His mowers don't clip, crop or cut either. They can, however, race and can clear a lap or two in the time it takes a typical mower to roll out of the garage.
"Some people might not understand the concept of using lawnmowers to race," racer Matt Golding of Moline said. "They kind of laugh at you when you talk about it. But when you modify them, a machine that typically goes around 5 mph becomes something else entirely."
Indeed. Racing mowers reach speeds up to 70 mph.
Lawnmower racing has caught on in the Quad-Cities, moving Mr. Wailand and others to work to expand the sport's local presence.
Mr. Golding and his 15-year-old son Jason discovered mower racing a couple months ago and recently started racing together as father-son bonding time.
"This is something my son is interested in that we can do together," the single father of three boys said. "And with a teenager, you just don't get that chance very often."
The Goldings just purchased their own mower and are modifying it together, with Jason taking the mechanical lead.
"I was 15 once and I know there's a lot worse things he can be doing with his time right now," Matt Golding said. "I think it's great for my son. He's learning mechanics and how to work on small engines. He may even turn this into a trade one day."
Lawnmower racing is a perfect fit for him, Jason Golding said.
"As a kid, I never really got into sports at school. So this is my sport," he said. "And every kid's dream is to drive. I'm not old enough to drive a car yet, so I'm going smaller."
Organized mower racing began locally a few years ago at B&S Raceway in East Moline. Mr. Wailand recently fashioned a larger track in Milan just off Main Street near the Route 67 bridge on land donated by Joe Proctor behind Orby's Sales and Service. He wants to bring lawnmower racing to Milan.
"I thought this would be a good way to bring some more fun and entertainment to the village," Mr. Wailand said. "This is a nice little sport and a cheap hobby for friends, neighbors and young people to get involved in."
The races operate by American Racing Mowers Association standards. Racers aren't paid, even if they win, so there's no financial gain involved, only fun and the thrill of friendly competition, Mr. Wailand said. Patrons would be charged a nominal fee. Half the revenue would go to maintain the track. Half would be donated to the Milan Fire Department for first responders.
The track might also draw racers from other regions, which would mean potential economic opportunities for Milan, especially the businesses surrounding the track, Mr. Weiland said. He has approached village officials with his proposal and currently is pursuing permits.
Anyone interested in Mr. Wailand's track or potential sponsors can contact him at (309) 631-7533.
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