Some of the bluster was out of Brian Labbe’s voice. The U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association championships in Ohio last weekend didn’t go so hot.

“We got our grasses kicked,” he said.

It happened in the third lap of the first race.

Brian, of Readfield, and Harry Sawyer, of Leeds, top lawn racers from Maine who compete in a class of machines that can reach 70 mph, were racing fifth and sixth when Labbe mowed too close to the edge of the dirt track. His wheel tangled up in the hay barrier.

“The hay’s unforgiving,” Brian said. “It was like putting the front break on that tire. A rookie mistake, that’s what I’ll blame it on.”

Brian spun around backward and Harry swerved to avoid him, setting off a chain of mower chaos.

“He almost got run over – not just by me but by the whole pack,” Harry said. As it was, Harry grazed one of Brian’s tires and got hit twice himself.

Harry finished the race 13th, Brian 16th.

Disappointing, but in a sport with more twists and turns than a suburban backyard, the results didn’t hurt their end-of-season standings.

Nationally, Brian finished 2006 ranked seventh (it helped that the guy he was tied with didn’t show last weekend). It looks like Harry will finish in 10th place.

Brian’s take on his first competitive year: “Awesome. I challenge anybody to go out on the tour and do any better.”

Harry came in 20th in the U.S. last year.

“I cut that in half (coming in 10th). Next year I’m hoping to cut that in half again,” he said.

On Saturday, rain chased off spectators at the Richland County Fairgrounds in Mansfield, Ohio, and forced drivers to walk around wearing trash bags over their snazzy racing gear.

“It was horrendously muddy. They didn’t even let us practice on Friday,” Harry said.

Then Brian discovered too late that his new mower didn’t have the right exhaust or carburetor for maximum speed.

On the upside, they had a great time hanging out with friends.

Both drivers belong to the new Central Maine Lawn Mower Racing Association, a chapter of the USLMRA trying to raise members and the public profile of the sport. They might appear at fairs this fall.

Brian will appear sometime soon as a local celebrity chef at Peppers Garden and Grill in Winthrop. He hopes to have fun with the menu – maybe a Dirt Pie and dandelion greens.

The USLMRA’s 2007 season begins this month.

Editor’s note: The full story on Brian and Harry’s mow-mentous adventure ran last Sunday in the b Section. Or online, go to “b section” at

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