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  • Tara Crutchfield

Give it Some Gas, Grandma

Start your engines and glue down those dentures, Polk County. It’s time for the 2022 NAMSER Races. The Polk Elderly Alliance and Polk County Tourism, in partnership with NASCAR, are bringing you the national phenomenon that is the National Association for Motor Scooter Elderly Racing (NAMSER). Instead of mullets and mustaches, the stands will be filled with Life Alert necklaces and arthritis. The 2022 NAMSER Cup, to be held at the Auburndale Speedway next month, will host two pedal-to-the-metal categories – Jazzy and Little Rascal races.


A Jazzy, for those who don’t love their grandmas (or else you would have already gotten her one), is an electric wheelchair lauded as the height of mobile luxury. Little Rascals are a brand of 4-wheeled motorized scooters. Jazzys clear 4.25 mph of ground speed with the capability to cover even the roughest terrain due to its advanced suspension. Little Rascals are a more adrenaline-inducing vehicle maxing out ground speeds at 6 miles per hour. Try walking that fast – not going to happen. Left Pa-paw out in the rain? No worries, he can kick that Rascal into 4WD, and he’ll be just fine. In fact, he might even tow you out of the mud with his 10,000-pound towing capacity. Known as the working man’s motorized scooter – there’s a reason they call the Little Rascal a ‘power’ chair.


As many of you may know, the NAMSER Cup is a pretty big deal in the world of American auto racing. A true national pastime, these blue hair badass races have been broadcast everywhere from Austin, TX to Philadelphia, PA. Polk County Tourism was overjoyed when they won the bid to host the 2022 NAMSER Cup. With the distinction of hosting the races comes millions in tourism dollars. Expect even more seniors on Polk County roads as the NAMSER caravan of groupies make their way to the races (some of which are traveling from The Villages – so protection is strongly advised).


Every year at the Daytona 500, thousands of screaming fans watch cars blur around a 2.5-mile track, 200 times, traveling a distance of 500 miles. The ‘Auburndale 2,’ as officials are calling the 2022 NAMSER Cup, will consist of speedy seniors going a heart-pounding 4-6 miles per hour for eight laps, totaling 2 miles around the quarter-mile-long Auburndale Speedway.


Typical NASCAR races last between one and three hours, sometimes going upwards of six hours if there are unexpected delays. “The Jazzy races won’t take that long because our racers don’t have the patience for that. They tend to get cranky and easily startled. The race starts at the crack of dawn, and they’ll be napping by 7:30 am,” said Red Smith, a race official. Professional pit crews will be onsite to juice up Jazzys and keep those fogeys flying.


Fans of both racing and the elderly can expect big names in the sport. You know them, you love them, you have a t-shirt with their face on it – Doris, Barb, Shirley, Agnes, Dolores, Bernadette, Lois, Pop-pop, Mimi, Percival, Wilbur, Eugene, Gus, Archie, Jim, Walter, Norman, Virgil, and Abe – that’s right, even Abe.


Standing atop NAMSER Cup sponsorship tiers are brands of note – Mountain Dew, NAPA Auto Parts, McDonald’s, Busch Light, and GEICO. Individual sponsors (the ones you’ll see plastered on the motorized scooters, wheelchairs, and racing suits) include Depends, AARP, those late-night commercials that sell specialty coins, Fixodent, Big Casserole, WHAAAT Hearing Aids, and a Nigerian prince in need of social security and bank routing numbers.


Jazzy and Little Rascal races are not for the faint of heart. These geriatrics get brutal. According to NAMSER rep Red Smith, “We’ve had problems in the past with seniors getting a little too competitive. They’ll ram their vehicles into each other, hit passing scooters with canes, poke tires with knitting needles, and even throw banana peels on the track. Things can get real bloody, real fast.”


Geezer aggression aside, it’s safety first for race organizers. All vehicles will be outfitted with roll cages, and they’ll be required to wear fire-retardant itchy sweaters. “Sometimes they try to take a curve too fast and topple right over, so we’ve tried to mitigate any risk of injury for the drivers.”


Racing stars hook fans with a show of personality at every turn. And some of them like to really ‘jazz’ it up. Smith remembers, “Last year we had a fella put a pair of truck nuts on the back of his Rascal. Damndest thing you ever saw – Eugene with his bifocals on and pants pulled up to his chest, just gettin’ it…truck nuts flapping behind him. That was a big hit.”


Fans are asked not to make too much noise, or competitors will file a noise complaint. “Most of them are hard of hearing, so it’s not so much the noise that riles them up. It’s more if you look like you’re having fun over an acceptable level – they can sense it, and they don’t like it.”


Perhaps the shining moment of the race is when the winner is showered in Ensure Protein Shakes and prune juice because “champagne gives them heartburn.”


The winner of the 2022 NAMSER Cup will win a gift certificate to Polk County's newest restaurant, Chewz Wisely, and get the honor of leading the first lap in the NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway this September. It’ll take a while.

Coinciding with the NAMSER Cup is an unofficial off-road mud race at Bone Valley ATV Park. This race is an entirely different animal with power chairs and motorized scooters that have been taken from so-so to yee-yee. Local racers are already building out their Jazzys and Little Rascals with beefier all-terrain tires, lift kits, exhaust, chromed-out baskets, underglow, and of course, diesel engines. “It’s a lot of torque for a small vehicle, but it’s fun. Have we had a few broken hips, lost a grandma or two in the process? Sure,” said an organizer for the mud race dubbed the Redneck Retiree Tough Scooter Races.


Grab your tickets to see retirees rev their engines at either of these exciting events by emailing april_foolz@havenmagazines.com.

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