JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF
MARBLE FALLS — While often considered a tool for grooming the yard, a group of hardy souls are set to push their lawn mowers at high speeds around an oval track at Sweet Berry Farm. Some of these modified beasts hit top speeds of 70 mph.
The second annual Mike Cupps Memorial Lawn Mower Race is 11 a.m. March 23 at the local strawberry patch, 1801 FM 1980 between Marble Falls and Granite Shoals. There will be several races during the day.
Lawn-mower racer and organizer Dennis Drake said he expects at least 26 drivers and their mowers, noting some participants will compete in multiple races.
The annual event honors a man who loved the sport and perished far too early, according to Drake. The race recognizes the efforts of Mike Cupps, a man who advocated for the sport before losing his battle to colon cancer in 2009.
“Mike Cupps was a member of our group,” Drake said. “He fought the battle but finally lost it.”
Cupps served as vice president of the Lone Star Mower Racing Association for two terms. The Mike Cupps Memorial Lawn Mower Race is the first spring event for LSMRA. The association has five other races planned, with two in April, two in May and one in June.
Cupps demonstrated his love of the sport by making two significant contributions to lawn-mower racing, Drake said.
First, he created and owned Acme Mower Sports, a one-stop shop that carried just about anything needed for a lawn-mower racer, Drake said.
“He got all those parts centralized,” Drake said, “and you could order from him.”
Cupps also designed and built front axles that could go as fast as the driver wanted, Drake said. Prior to his design, an axle was rated for about 8 mph.
“On city streets and straightaways, they run about 70 mph,” Drake said about Cupps’ axle design and impact on lawn mowers. “They’re used all over.”
And how fast did Cupps’ axles allow drivers to go?
“As fast as we dared,” Drake said with a grin.
Drake has wanted to bring a lawn-mower race to the Highland Lakes for some time, but the toughest part was finding a venue.
After visiting Sweet Berry Farm, Drake said he found the ideal location and formed a partnership with owners Dan and Gretchen Copeland.
Last year’s event raised more than $2,000 for the American Cancer Society, which was a good start, he said.
But this year’s race was scheduled the same day as the annual Bluebonnet Festival in Burnet, so organizers moved it to the fourth weekend of March, hoping to entice more spectators.
Those spectators will have their own area that includes double fencing as a safety measure, Drake said.
And a concession stand will be staffed by members of the local Relay for Life teams, which raise funds to fight cancer.
“This is a special race for me and for the LSMRA,” Drake said. “Not everybody here knew Mike, but they knew of him.”