Mowing down cancer: Racing team promotes awareness
Winchester — The sight of a pink and white lawnmower racing around a dirt track isn’t an everyday occurrence.
But there is no doubt about the message behind Marvin Grim’s lawnmower, No. 87, ridden by his nephew Tommy Jewell.
“Breast cancer awareness” is painted along one side of the pink and white machine, and on the back is “Save the ta-tas.”
“I have seen race cars with breast cancer awareness, but not racing lawnmowers,” said Marvin, 51, of Winchester.
The family has not been touched by breast cancer, but so many people have been affected by the disease, said his wife Susan Grim. They were not certain about people’s reaction to the paint job, but hoped it would inspire a “good thought and humor about somebody taking their time out to do it.”
The lawnmower is one of eight owned by Marvin and raced under his team Grim Racing as a weekend activity. During the week, he works as a truck driver.
Although the mower has been ridden in previous seasons, races held on Sunday at the Augusta Motor Speedway in Augusta, W.Va., marked its first outing since being painted pink and white during the winter, Marvin said.
The mower is an 18-horsepower Briggs and Stratton model that travels at about 40 to 45 mph, he said.
The color was a suggestion by Tommy, 25, who lives in Warren County. He did the paint job, and Todd Wetzel donated his time to do the lettering. Most of Marvin’s other mowers are painted in matching orange.
Tommy said he has seen racing lawnmowers painted in honor of the armed forces, prisoners of war and other groups. He decided one for breast cancer was also appropriate.
“It was just to show support to all the people who have been touched by breast cancer,” he said.
The breast cancer awareness lawnmower and the others on the team will be raced around the area throughout the season, which continues from April until October, Marvin said.
In addition to races at Augusta, the team competes in events at the Clarke and Frederick county fairs and the annual fall event at Historic Long Branch near Millwood, he said. He manages the racing events at Augusta and Long Branch.
The events feature races in three classes — Valve and Block, Overhead Valve and Run Outlaw, which is “anything you want,” Marvin said. The breast cancer mower is in the Valve and Block Class.
Lawnmower racing is becoming an increasingly popular sport, Susan said. Part of the appeal is the excitement and challenge, but it is also a great family activity, she added.
In addition to Marvin and Tommy, the Grim Racing team includes Marvin’s son Dustin Grim, nephew Aaron Grim, and friends Steve Feathers and Doug Hughes.
“Plus, it keeps him entertained. He is happy in doing it,” Susan said.
From the time he raced for the first time in 2005, Marvin has been hooked. He has gradually increased the number of lawnmowers he owns and the members on his team.
Marvin likes challenging himself with different mowers and competitions, Susan said. Part of the reason for the size of his team was that he really enjoyed building the motors and kept adding drivers to race them.
Of course, the victories are sweet, too, Marvin said. In his garage is a wall with several shelves for trophies he and Tommy have won.
During the racing season, competing is a huge part of the Grims’s lives. In the winter, when no races are held, Marvin focuses on repairs and repainting, but he drives his wife crazy while waiting for the first races to begin, she said.
He spends much of his free time in the garage working on the mowers — it is “where he loves to be more than anywhere else,” she said.
“They are my toys,” Marvin added.
“It’s an exhausting sport, racing the mowers round and round a track at high speeds. And there definitely aren’t any shock absorbers,” he said. “You run until your tongue falls out.”
For more information about lawn mower racing or upcoming events, visit augustamotorspeedway.com.
— Contact Laura McFarland at email@example.com