One young local lawnmower racing enthusiast isn’t tanking any pit stops this season as he seeks to celebrate a connection made between himself and the late Carroll County Sheriff’s Deputy Curtis Bartlett. Zackery Schaefer, a 10th grader at RAE Center in Hillsville, has plans for trophies he is gunning for this year.
His goal this season is to race his mower (#122) to earn two trophies; one for the late Carroll County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Curtis Bartlett to be presented to Bartlett’s dad, Sam, and one for the Sheriff’s Office. A new, Sheriff’s-office themed racer was unveiled at the Center last Friday. He said the effort has become a family project, including his mother Christina, his father Sidney and his sister Holly Linville.
“Everything in it is racing parts – ARC Racing parts. ARC Racing rods and balancers, the cam. Everything in it is modified. Those are the wheels it came with,” said Zack Schaefer. “We actually bought this mower. Nobody could keep it running (it kept blowing engine head gaskets). We fixed it and it’s been a championship mower since then.”
Sidney said the idea of making a racing lawnmower in honor of Bartlett occurred to his son about a year ago. The unveiling of the mower complete with a paint job to match CCSO cruisers and custom decals and an “In God We Trust” logo on the back was at the RAE Center on April 27.
According to Sidney, Zack has been in lawnmower racing for six years in the Modified Front Head Division and All Modified Division. He captured first last year in the Modified Flat Head Division and third in the Modified Twin Division.
Bartlett, tragically, was lost in the line of duty following a crash in March of 2017 at the intersection of Route 58 and the Interstate 77 Exit 14 exit ramp in Carroll County.
“I met Curtis at Carroll County High School. I was playing dodge ball in my gym class. That was the first time I met Curtis. It was also the last time I saw him. Me and my mom and dad were on the way to Hillsville to drop off my sister (Holly Linville) when it (the accident) all happened,” Zack Schaefer said. “I was bawling my eyes out after I found out who it was. Later me and my mom and dad got together and decided to do this in memory of him. We got all the stickers printed out and order. We got the paint and took it to a friend in Mount Airy (N.C.) and painted it. My dad helped put on the stickers. Copperhead Graphics in Cana actually donated the stickers.”
He said should the memorial racing mower get wrecked (the mower has already seen action in one race in Taylorsville, N.C.), another hood is on order. He was slated to race at Veterans Park in Mount Airy on April 28, weather permitting. Zack says he got started in in racing after his father and a friend saw a lawnmower race in Galax. Two weeks later they began building their lawnmower.
“Ever since they got into it, they talked me into it. I was so nervous my first time. Then I finally got the nerve up and it’s been fun ever since. Now my five-year old nephew wants to start racing,” Schaefer said.
The two said typically, participants race for trophies not for money. Zack plans on continuing his winning ways and at least equaling his mark from last year. He plans on giving one trophy to Bartlett’s father, Sam, and another to the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, both inscribed in memory of Curtis Bartlett.
Sidney and Zack said the build was pretty much from the ground up and is an ongoing project as they make changes to meet new regulations in divisional competition.
“Most of the work was basically done out in the front yard,” said Sidney.
Zach said this has continued, though they look to have a building one day. Other work has been done under roof thanks to a friend in Mount Airy.
“We picked it up until today to keep the surprise up and picked it up the night before last,” he said. “We really didn’t want it in Carroll County until today to keep the surprise going.”
They said seven deputies were eating at Wendy’s when it was brought up the mountain. They walked in one door and out the door to look at it when they pulled into the parking lot. (There was just enough time to give approval before scrambling to answer a call.)
“It’s something he likes to do. I encourage him. (even though she is scared because the mowers can reach speeds over 80 miles an hour). This is for a good cause,” said Christina Schaefer. “A connection was made. The interaction with the kids was something special. Curtis met the kids at their level. This is why he wanted to do this in memorial. It is dedication.”
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.