Off to the "Lawnmower" Races

The most striking thing about the race is how loud it is. Ear-splitting, popping engines pull up to the starting line, and you have to yell to be heard above the din. The men, seated on their sputtering vehicles, are outfitted in helmets and boots and in some cases, knee pads and neck braces. This is a small town - about 200 residents - and close to 25 percent of the town will be racing today. Everyone knows everyone, if they're not blood relatives.

The race starts and they circle the baseball diamond on a dirt track, going 50, 60 miles per hour, and the air becomes cloudy with dust. Now your eyes hurt and your ears ring but you can't stop laughing, because the sight of 50 grown men folded into their John Deere lawnmowers and hurtling themselves at top speed through the park is something you've never seen before.

Lawnmower racing has been happening here, in Twelve Mile, Indiana - so-named because it's about 12 miles from anywhere else - since 1963. They claim they invented the sport as a way to curb Fourth of July drunk driving accidents, as a local event that would keep the kids in town and off the roads. Ten years later a lawnmower racing organization was started in England. And now there are lawnmower racing tracks all over the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

It gives the average guy the chance to be Dale Earnhardt for the day: a good racing lawnmower can be made for less than $5,000, and most men in Twelve Mile soup up their mowers themselves. And for $5 admission, folks in and around Twelve Mile get a to see a full day of racing. This is pure, unadulterated Americana.

Erin Lyall is a producer in the CBS News Chicago Bureau