Lawnmower races rule Wild Coyote summer celebration
Race organizer Brad McQuigan (white t-shirt) gets ready to wave the checkered flag during Saturday's lawnmower races at the Wild Coyote Bar southwest of Thompson Falls. (Chuck Bandel/VP-MI)
A water truck sprays the race course to try and keep down the clouds of dust generated by lawnmower races Saturday afternoon at the Wild Coyote Bar. (Chuck Bandel/VP-MI)
Fans seek shelter from the sun during the Wild Coyote Bar lawnmower races this past Saturday at the bar eight miles out of Thompson Falls. One of the contestants passes by behind the shade seekers. (Chuck Bandel/VP-MI)
Valley Press | August 3, 2022 12:00 AM
Corey Frank already had it wrapped up. He had successfully won his time trials and heats, and was in effect the champion lawnmower racer of the day.
The Wild Coyote Bar Days title was his after guiding his “stock” lawnmower around the sun-baked and dusty oval that was the race course well ahead of the other seven challengers.
The final race around the makeshift dirt oval across the street from the legendary bar eight miles southwest of Thompson Falls was shaping up as a mere fan pleaser. A chance for the 100 or so spectators, who were mostly congregated under the shade of some towering pine trees to see all of the racers do 15 laps at the same time around the approximately quarter-mile track.
In the first few laps of the grand finale, he was neck-and-neck, back and forth with another driver until near disaster struck.
Roaring and sliding around the first turn of the opening laps, the two leaders bumped wheels, sending Frank’s lawnmower of the track and into a shallow barrow pit that was flanked by a wire fence.
The crowd of beer-charged spectators went momentarily silent as Frank and mower disappeared into a thick cloud of dust as temperatures hovered near the century mark.
The smell of burning rubber, which turned out to be from a belt on Frank’s mower overheating during the collision, filled the air.
As the dust settled, the new lead rider “mowed” on, slowed only by the trauma of the moment and a yellow caution flag waved by race organizer Brad McQuigan. Much to the relief of the festive crowd of fans, Frank emerged from the cloud, a little shaken but otherwise okay.
Like any good racer, Frank immediately began trying to assess and restart his wounded ride. He eventually got it going while other racers were held behind a “red” flag, but the mower he had been riding so successfully all day was clearly limping along more than the driver.
“We just bumped tires and got a little tangled up on the corner,” said Frank after the collision. “I’m OK but the mower was not raceable”.
As McQuigan lined up the mowers for a restart, Frank got back in line on a borrowed mower and finished the race, albeit at a much slower pace on a slower mower. Just a short time earlier, Frank blew away all challengers with his lean over the side style as he plowed through the track’s four turns, much the way a speed skater leans as he or she takes corners on the ice rink.
“I do lean on the turns, it helps not having to slow down much,” he said after easily winning the races he was in before the big crash. “This is so much fun, I’ve been doing this for a couple years now and I love doing it”.
Frank said the race on Saturday was for purely stock, unaltered motors of between 20 and 27 horsepower. No one, including McQuigan knew exactly how long the course was. The machines, he said, can reach speeds of up to 35 miles per hour.
“We don’t really worry about that,” McQuigan said. “We just set up a course and let em go”.
The lawnmower races were one of the big attractions of the Wild Coyote’s annual summer celebration. Also included were rubber duck “races” in which entrants wrote their name on small rubber ducks which were then released into a nearby creek with the winner being the owner of the first duck to cross the finish line.
Bands, beer and good times were clearly the theme of the day.
For fans the race was a welcome relief from the blistering sun as most huddled under the shade of the pine trees. Among those was Plains area resident Dennis Osburn who watched the spectacle from the inner track circle.
“I’ve never been able to mow my lawn that fast,” he joked. “I’m surprised at how fast they can go”.
If the goal was fun in the woods, mission accomplished.