Garden tiller racer Wayne Waller has a simple two-word sentence to
describe the existing world record in the World Championship Rotary Tiller Race.
The annual race of souped-up garden tillers takes place this weekend at
the PurpleHull Pea Festival in Emerson, Arkansas.
Race time is set for 3:30 p.m., Saturday.
The record has stood since 1998, when Ronnie Hughey of Stephens,
Arkansas, was a blur as he tilled the 200 feet of plowed ground in 7.21 seconds,
leaving a vortex of dust wafting in his wake.
Since then, tiller racers have challenged the record and the “Seven
Second Barrier,” but none have broken through.
However, Waller is convinced that not only will the barrier be broken
Saturday, but also that the new record will be somewhere around 6.5 seconds.
He says he has two tillers that are consistently performing in that range
during trial runs.
“It’s a good possibility, weather permitting, we will see a new
record under seven seconds,” says Commissioner of Tiller Racing David
Cunningham. “We have some guys
who’ve been training, practicing, getting their machines ready, and they’re
coming after the record for sure.”
However, some are skeptical and doubt the record will fall. Among them
are defending world champion Kenneth Frazier.
“I don’t think so,” says Frazier, who tilled through thick mud in
last year’s rain-plagued event, to win the title.
“Even if it doesn’t rain, I still don’t think so,” added Frazier,
who is also a nephew to Hughey, the world record holder.
Despite the mud, one of Waller’s tillers was timed at less than seven
seconds during an early heat at last year’s event, but officials ruled it a
false start. A controversy ensued.
This year, there will be a video recorder at the starting line.
Tillers haven’t always been so speedy.
In 1993, the world record was 12.51 seconds.
A year later, Jimmy Smith piloted an alcohol-burning tiller owned by
Ricky Waller to a then-record shattering time of 7.94 seconds.
These days, that speed isn’t even in the money.
Tiller technology has advanced to a new level.
Begun as a lark as an appropriate side event for the very first
PurpleHull Pea Festival in 1990, the World Championship Rotary Tiller Race has
turned into a monster.
The event now draws attention from not only national media, but
international as well.
“We had a television crew from Germany cover us last year,” said
festival spokesman Bill Dailey. “And
we’ve got a crew from Nickelodeon scheduled to be here this year.”
With motor sports enjoying a wave of increasing popularity, Dailey claims
tiller racing is also benefiting from another activity on the rise.
“The tiller race is a beautiful blend of motor sports and gardening,”
New categories of tillers will also race this year, among them the
“Powder Puff Modified” division for women who wish to race the speedy souped-up
tillers, and the “Flower Bed Tillers” for children 10 and under.
The Emerson PurpleHull Pea Festival will be this Friday and Saturday,
June 28 and 29, on and near the grounds of Emerson High School.
The World Championship Rotary Tiller Race is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.,
Saturday, June 29.
More information is available on the festival’s Web site,
www.purplehull.com, or by phoning (870) 547-2707.
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