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U.S. Marine returns home to fulfill family racing tradition

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What: 51st annual Twelve Mile 500 Lawnmower Race

When: 1 p.m. today

Where: Plank Park, Twelve Mile

Troyer will try to uphold family legacy with win at Twelve Mile 500

Thursday, July 4, 2013 - 6:10 am

DENVER – The summer of 2012 proved to be a difficult one for Lance Cpl. Zach Troyer of Denver.

While it was challenging for the then 24-year-old to survive his first year as a member of the United States Marine Corps, the personal difficulty escalated because he had to miss an important annual family event.

Troyer was serving at the 29 Palms base in Southern California a year ago which forced him to miss the 50th annual Twelve Mile 500 Lawnmower Race, which has been dominated by members of the Troyer family for over a quarter-century.

“All of us do it and it's a lot of fun,” Troyer said.

He may have missed the golden anniversary of the famed race in the north-central Indiana town of Twelve Mile, but he sure wasn't going to miss another if he could help it.

He'll be competing alongside four other Troyers (Randy, John, Joe and “Fudge,” otherwise known as Mark Troyer) at Plank Park in the three classification event today.

“It's been since I was 12 when I started,” Troyer said. “I've been to all of them, but last year was the first one that I missed. I had to come back for it.”

He was granted a week of leave from his base at Cherry Point, N.C., where he serves as part of the Headquarters Squadron, and he will race in the Briggs and Modified races, the latter of which he is qualified in the seventh position.

John holds the pole position in that race, while Randy is fourth and Joe sixth.

Having the lowest position may not prove to be that big of a deal for Zach, who is a three-time winner. The 2006 North Miami High School graduate knows something about racing to win.

“It's competitive,” Zach said. “Especially if it's between (the family).”

Zach and Joe (his cousin) have battled in the dirt and mud for years on quads, which gets competitive regardless of whether there is an audience or trophies.

“It doesn't matter what we get on really,” Troyer said. “The competition is always there.”

The race is broken into three categories: Briggs and Super Stock (both of which are four-cylinder races) and a two-cylinder Modified race.

Plank Park opens at 9 a.m. today with the Briggs race staring at 1:30 p.m. The Super Stock race will follow at 2:45 p.m. and the Modified race wraps up the day at 4 p.m.

The track is a quarter-mile long, so the 33 drivers in each class will race 60 laps or a total of 15 miles in front of what could reach a couple of thousand spectators sitting around on blankets and in the back of pick-ups catching a front-row view.

“The key to winning at Twelve Mile is with the speed limit, you have to watch (the judges),” Troyer said. “When they look away…”

Race officials clock each driver on every lap and impose a pit-stop penalty for exceeding the 15 miles per hour speed limit.

“I used to think about (the speed limit),” Troyer said. “But the three times that I've won, I was just joyriding around and not even paying attention.”

Sort of like the time at the Miami County Fairgrounds where he drove up over his father (Randy) and wrecked them both.

“It was my fault,” Troyer gushed. “We were racing for first and we went into a turn and I went too fast up on him and smacked him right in the back end.”

A big year for Troyer and his wife, Alicia (Murphy), could be made even better with a victory today. The couple are expecting their first child in October, a son who will be named Camden. Zach earned his first racing victory at Camden Track, but he swears that wasn't the reason behind the name.

“It's actually not the reason,” Troyer said. “Alicia liked the name and I just thought about that being my first win. It was just a coincidence.”

But it won't be a coincidence if Lance Cpl. Troyer takes the checkered flag today and speeds around the dirt track and through the trees. After all, duty (and family) calls.