Virginia Crossroads: Lawnmower Racing - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Virginia Crossroads: Lawnmower Racing

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Benny Gilbert is the Richard Petty of lawnmower racing. Benny Gilbert is the Richard Petty of lawnmower racing.

It's a gravel lot.  A man with a substantial white beard is doing "doughnuts" and spraying dust and gravel as he sits atop what looks like a combination between a lawnmower and a go-cart.

That's Benny Gilbert on one of his racing lawnmowers.  Benny is kind of like the Richard Petty of lawnmower racing.  He's won hundreds of races, multiple championships and now has his own race team.

Lee Draugham/Lawnmower Racer: You take advice from Benny, He's a great mentor of mine.  I've known him 20+ years.  He's a legend into it. 

Benny's operation is based at his welding shop, which is next to his house.  He's retired and devotes all of his time to lawnmower racing. 

Benny Gilbert/Lawnmower Racer: I'm what they call independent.  I race with whoever and where ever I'm invited to race with.

One mower is named after his late brother in law.  His personal ride is named grandpa.

Benny Gilbert: I named it grandpa because I got the grand kids and got the grand younguns names on it. 

The guys are practicing this day on Benny's property outside of Fries but the real racing happens at scheduled events, on Friday and Saturday nights.

There's a race series that straddles the Virginia-North Carolina border.  There's a website that includes standings and schedules, and Benny's team even has a Facebook page.

Carlin pointing at a basic riding lawnmower: This is where it all starts?  Benny: This is where it starts. It's a Huffy or a Yardman.

A mechanic and welder by trade, Benny converts real lawnmowers into racers that have been clocked at up to 80 miles an hour.  The mowers are supposed to be 60-70 percent stock.

Benny: It's a double edged sword you got to be light enough to be fast, but stout enough to take the abuse of the racin'. On a short track it can be pretty rough out there.

Kevin Babcock/Lawnmower racer: It's fast, cheap and a lot of fun. 

Kevin Babcock races for Benny.  So does his daughter, 20-year old Brittany Poland.  Lee Draugham, another racer in Benny's stable is leading in the points right now in two divisions.  

Lee: It feels great.  It's adrenaline.  Butted with … :45 You're out there beating and banging with 10, 15, 20 others.  It's just a blast. 

Kevin: It started out in somebody's backyard.  It's a big time up and coming sport.

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