Pig 'N' Ford
Pig 'N' Ford by Bob Pagani (CC BY-NC-ND)

Barstool Racing and Other Strange Motorsports You Didn't Know Existed

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Pig 'N' Ford
Pig 'N' Ford by Bob Pagani (CC BY-NC-ND)

Weirdos, Start Your Engines

Motorsports is a huge industry, spawning documentaries and films, massive amounts of news coverage, rabidly dedicated fans, formal racing associations, and, of course, countless competitions every year the world over. But within the wider world of motorsports, there is a smaller realm of competitions that pretty much boggle the mind. Do they make sense? Some, not so much. Are they nonetheless a ton of fun to watch? For sure. Here are 20 uniquely weird and wonderful motorsports (with lots of linked videos for your enjoyment). 


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IMG_5598
IMG_5598 by Peter Black (CC BY-SA)

Lawn Mower Racing

This motorsport is exactly what it sounds like. The vehicles in question are ride-on mowers with the blades removed for safety. Lawn mower racing, which is popular in the United States and the U.K., happens all over both countries; one of the biggest U.S. competitions is the Twelve Mile 500, which is named for the Indiana town it takes place in and not the distance covered. The race occurs every Fourth of July since 1963. Here's a vintage video of the 1975 Twelve Mile 500. Another fun fact? There's a video game fashioned after the sport called Lawnmower Racing Mania 2007.


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Pig 'N' Ford
Pig 'N' Ford by Bob Pagani (CC BY-NC-ND)

The Pig N' Ford

Taking place at the Tillamook County Fair in Oregon for nearly 100 years, this motorsport combines Model T Fords and, yep — pigs. The backstory is that two locals conceived of this race in 1925 after they came across a loose pig while out driving a Model T. They chased it down and delivered it back to the farm it had escaped from, apparently having enough fun in the process to make it an enduring fair tradition. The race involves three laps of drivers retrieving 35-pound pigs from a pen, crank-starting their 22-horsepower, stripped-down Model Ts, and keeping hold of the squirmy, squalling porkers while they race. The racers come from "franchises," with a modern racer likely to be the son and/or grandson of a former racer. What does the winner get? Nothing more than bragging rights and a trophy.


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School-Bus Driver
DavidPrahl/istockphoto

School Bus Racing

School bus racing isn't meant to be a demolition derby, but apparently often becomes one, mostly due to the track configuration. The use of a figure-eight race route encourages a lot of near misses and, of course, some not-misses-at-all. To get a good idea of what this looks like, check out this YouTube video (we recommend skipping to the 1:15 mark for the thrills to really start). For a deeper look into the culture and intensity of this sport, you can rent the 2017 appropriately titled documentary, "Smash: Motorized Mayhem."


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18th April 1969: Swamp buggy racing at Naples, Florida.
Photoshot / Contributor / Hulton Archive / Getty Images CC

Swamp Buggy Racing

Swamp buggies are vehicles built or modified to race in wet and boggy terrain as well as traverse obstacles such as logs and stumps. Invented by a Floridian in the first half of the 20th century, competitions gained popularity after World War II. The United States' biggest swamp buggy races take place in Naples, Florida, each year in November, January, and March. Tourism website Visit Florida notes there are a few good reasons to attend, including that "they’re all down-home fun, complete with corn dogs, cheering fans, and an abundance of beer."


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Position of the snowmobile while skipping

Snowmobile Water Crossing

This motorsport involves snowmobiles and … not snow. Instead, competitors in this sport see how far they can hydroplane their vehicles across water, usually in lakes or rivers. Also known as snowmobile skipping, snowmobile watercross, and snowmobile skimming, the first such event — the World Championship Snowmobile Watercross — was held in Grantsburg, Wisconsin, in July 1977. You might think the vehicles wouldn't get very far, but the world record set by Norwegian Morten Blien in 2015 is actually 212 kilometers, or nearly 132 miles.


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Towable Trailer
AnitaVDB/istockphoto

Trailer Racing

If just the thought of pulling a trailer on the back of a vehicle makes you nervous, this event illustrates why. Usually done in laps or — for even more destruction — on a figure-eight route, these races usually involve lots of wrecks and debris. In fact, competitions often have official names or nicknames such as "Night of Destruction" or "Slinger Slamfest." For an idea of just how bananas trailer racing can get, check out this 2018 event at Illinois' Rockford Speedway (the race starts at about the 2:20 mark).


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Three combines guided by GPS technology, harvest wheat in close formation.
Andy Sacks / The Image Bank / Getty Images CC

Combine Harvester Racing

If you're getting the idea that people will modify a vehicle meant for anything but racing to, well, race it, you're not wrong. Enter the souped-up combine harvester, a piece of equipment typically meant for farming. But in the hands of someone with a little imagination and a need for speed? A racing machine capable of being pitted against other combine harvesters or even a Shelby GT350


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The Races
The Races by abbyladybug (CC BY-NC)

Belt Sander Racing

Take a 75-foot channel track, some long extension cords, remote control triggers, belt sanders, and humans with nothing better to do, and you've got belt sander racing. It is exactly what it sounds like — though we'll include this helpful video for you to get a real feel for it — and while we poke fun, it actually looks like a ball (and it's not the only power tool being modified into a racing machine). Wondering how fast belt sanders are able to go? According to SoTex Belt Sander Racing Association's Facebook page, the San Marcos, Texas-based Sudden Death Racer once hit a top speed of 50 to 60 mph.


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Motorized Bar Stool dirt track racing?
Motorized Bar Stool dirt track racing? by George Thomas (CC BY-NC-ND)

Barstool Racing

Often taking place during St. Patrick's Day events (for what we think are pretty obvious reasons), barstool races involve mounting a perch typically meant for sipping a beer onto a modified frame of another vehicle — usually a go-kart — and attaching a motor. The vehicles are capable of tight turns, which means the races are also perfect for seeing lots of people flip their rides.


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Fans flock to Figure 8 Races
Fans flock to Figure 8 Races by Peter Haden (CC BY-NC)

Figure Eight Train Racing

It has "train" in the name, but this motorsport actually involves attaching three cars to each other and racing them on a figure-eight track. What makes it exciting? Well, for a start, the person in the first car is responsible for navigation, the person in the back car is responsible for braking, and the middle car is unoccupied. What else makes it worth the watch? If you guessed the tendency for things to go a bit out of control, you're exactly right.


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Irina Sidorkova of Russia crosses the line to win the reverse grid race during the W Series Esport League Round 4 at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on July 02, 2020 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Clive Rose / Staff / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images Europe / Getty Images CC
Shootout City -- 2014 Genright Ultra4s at Superlift
Shootout City -- 2014 Genright Ultra4s at Superlift by Spidertrax Off-Road (CC BY)

Rock Bouncing

Website Road & Track called rock bouncer racing "the Most Out-of-Control Motorsport You'll Ever See." While there is clearly some stiff competition on this list, rock bouncing is definitely intense. It challenges competitors to get their 4x4 buggies to the top of some extreme hills, the result of which typically involves more ways to roll a vehicle than you could ever imagine. To get a real glimpse of just how over-the-top rock bouncing is, check out this video of runs taken at Kentucky's Rush Offroad Park.


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Formula offroad Bålsta 027
Formula offroad Bålsta 027 by Mikael Mildén (CC BY-SA)

Formula Off-Road

Another extreme motorsport from the off-roading sphere, this one involves drivers competing on steep hills, extreme terrain, and other challenges in 4WD vehicles. Popular in Nordic countries — it was invented in Iceland — Formula Off-Road has since made its way here, and U.S.-based competitions take place at Bikini Bottoms Off Road Park in Dyersburg, Tennessee. Want to check it out? Here's a great compilation of some extreme hill climbs.


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Poags Hole Professional Motorcycle Hillclimb
Colleen C./Yelp

Poags Hole Professional Motorcycle Hillclimb

If you can't imagine doing some of the hill climbs in those last two motorsports in a caged vehicle, this 23-year-old event, which takes place in Danville, New York, will probably freak you out even more. Competitors ride motorcycles that are 10 feet long and fueled by nitromethane up a 700-foot "monster hill" with a few jumps on the way. Sounds extreme, right? It is — bikes flip, bodies fly, and crowds go wild.


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An official chases a man on a mobility scooter as he attempts to drive down the cycle route ahead of the Men's Individual Time Trial Road Cycling on day 5 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 1, 2012 in London, England
Dan Kitwood / Staff / Getty Images News / Getty Images Europe / Getty Images CC

Mobility Scooter Racing

Mobility scooters — normally vehicles for older adults and the infirm — have of course been modified for racing, particularly in Europe, where the sport (and we use that term loosely, of course) is more popular. One such race took part on the famed Isle of Man TT motorcycle course. Organizers, according to BestRide.com, called it the "Isle of Nan TT" and the full day of events included bingo games and costumes involving "fuzzy slippers, comfy robes, and purses likely full of hard candies."

Two cars drifting battle on race track with smoke, Aerial view two car drifting battle.
AvigatorPhotographer/istockphoto

Skid Plate Racing

Sparks fly in this motorsport — literally. This is, of course, what happens when you remove the back tires on your racing vehicle and replace them with metal skid plates. There's lots of out-of-control action on the track, including spun-out cars, crashes, and, yes, sometimes even actual fires. If you want to get an idea of how dangerous these events can be, the rule book says that "complete fire suits are recommended."


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sidecarcross
sidecarcross by deportebalear (CC BY-NC)

Sidecarcross

A branch off of motocross, this sport involves two racers on each vehicle, with one driving the motorcycle and the other riding in a sidecar. The sidecar passenger has a bigger role than you might think, as he or she has to maneuver their bodies during the entire race to counter centripetal forces. Popular in Europe — legend has it the sport was invented in the U.K. in the 1930s — there's even a world championship held over several rounds at top motocross venues throughout the continent.


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Streetluge racer.
scottdunlap/istockphoto

Powered Streetluge

Streetluge, in which the rider operates a road luge that's a bit like a skateboard, came about around the 1970s. At some point, someone got the bright idea to add a motor to the luge, and an already extreme sport got even more intense. According to the sport's official website, the speed record was set in 2012 by Roland Morrison, who luged his way up to 169.46 mph. That is, interestingly, not even double that of the non-motorized streetluge speed record recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records — 101.83 mph.


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Fight through second corner
Fight through second corner by Henrik Sandstrom (CC BY-ND)

Motorcycle Ice Racing

While records of this sport date back to Sweden in the 1920s, the first "official" race took place in Moscow in 1939, according to Rider Magazine. Riders fit their tires with metal spikes and race on ice at speeds that would quicken the heartbeat of just about anyone watching. The sport is particularly popular in central and northern Europe, but competitions take place all over the world, including in the United States in Indiana, Michigan, New York, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.


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male surfer rides on motorcycle with surfboard by ocean beach
molchanovdmitry/istockphoto

Motorcycle-Boat Racing

And, finally, we'll leave you with this sport, which we can't explain any better than this delightfully British YouTube video, in which baffled and amused announcer Wayne Kershaw asks, "What in chuffin' hell are people doing?" They're riding motorcycles into the water, Wayne, and many are sinking. As his interview subject notes, "We pride ourselves on knowing an awful lot about motorbikes, and almost sod-all about boats."


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