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Avon Park Race Weekend Reunites British & American Racers
By Angeline Robinson
All systems were MOW during the March 9-10 weekend in Florida at the Avon Park Mower-Plex. Wes Pyburn, Josh Bence, along with their staff and their families hosted an amazing event for the United States Lawn Mower Racing Association members! Little did they know, it would be a weekend for the history books!
As many of you know, my family and I hosted our favorite British Lawn Mower Racing Association (BLMRA) racer, Simon Campbell during our race-cation down in sunny Florida for the 2018 STA-BIL Snow Bird Nationals. We spent the greater part of the week hitting theme parks, shopping, and spending some fun quality time together. It was absolutely wonderful! I had given Avon Park staff a heads up that Simon was coming; they were all so excited. We were all quite determined that we were going to make sure that Simon had the very best of times! I think we did.
Thursday night before the race, Avon Park held an open practice in conjunction with their sponsor. Simon wanted to do a little shopping for his daughters, so us girls opted to hit the mall with him. Derrick, Dylan, and friends headed down towards the track to make sure that all of our systems were mow… they were not! Tommy blew a head on his in practice, Derrick turned a few laps on his new motor, and it dropped a valve. It was just our luck!
After shopping, we headed down to at least feed them, and pick the boys up because they were to have an early morning on Friday. We fed everyone, then sent the small boys back to the house for bed.
Upon arriving at the track, I noticed a fire pit up the hill that was burning, it was chilly, and I’m all about a fire. Little did I know that our intrusion into the fire pit area would set the pace for the entire weekend! The crowd around the fire was small, but ever so welcoming, as always. I introduced Simon to them all, everyone immediately loved him.
We pulled up a hay bale, as we shared a few drinks and laughs. Thursday night was hilarious to say the least. Matt Garner steps in with the best British accent we have ever heard. He and Simon carried on all night with one another. Simon taught us all about banjo eggs. If you didn’t learn about that this weekend, just ask Matt; Simon taught him well. Christine even made banjo eggs for breakfast the next morning, per Simon’s recipe, of course. These antics would continue throughout the entire weekend, around that fire pit. We all belly laughed until wee hours of the morning every night! My abdominal muscles still hurt from the laughter that came from the weekend. If you weren’t in Avon Park this year, you should make it a point to be next year. I can promise you now, it’s going to be even better!
Now, let’s talk about racing: Friday was off to a rather early start for many of us. Christine was up cooking her family, Simon, and my small boys banjo eggs, the registration booth was buzzing with old friends and new, the tech area was flooded with 75 or so MOWchines, it was absolutely great!
Practice comes, then heats, some MOWchines have some technical difficulties during that. The scramble is on to try to get mowers fixed to make the next race. Now, bring on the main races: In the JP class, Nick Paccione held of new racer, Gracie Enos for the win. In the AP class, Wally Bender would take the win. In the I-MOW class, Mike Paccione would hold on for the win. In the GPK class, there was no stopping Claire Enos as drove straight towards the checkers. Mr. Bruce Runyon would take the lead, and never looking back until he saw the checkers waving in the SP class. The GP class was maddening for me to watch, as Simon was out there. There were quite a few bumps, and flips, all were ok, thank goodness! But, Kenny Wyman would drive his red, #37.2 GP MOWchine straight across that finish line for the win! T
In the CP class, Alex Stella would hold off Justin Sanders and Mr. Bruce Runyon for the win. Derrick Robinson drove off with the lead early on in this race, straight towards the checkers. The FXS race was crazy; there were mowers everywhere in all positions, I could hardly keep up. There was one very clear thing, Derrick Martin took the lead, and never looked back. Derrick set times on his FXS that were very close in comparison to the FXT times. Speaking of FXT, we will call it the Wes Pyburn Show! Wes took off out front, and there was absolutely no catching him! We are so glad that you’re back out there, Wes.
Saturday when we arrived at the track, it time to tweak some mowers to get them just right, or back to normal if they had been messed up on Friday. We had practice, and then a driver’s meeting. In the driver’s meeting, everyone was warned that there was potential rain headed in, and to race their heat race as if it were the main. Just before time for the main’s to begin, the rain comes. It’s not a lot of rain, so the staff was on the track trying to keep it dry. It continued raining, finally a coin toss determined that it was time for food and drinks; Racing was cancelled.
That was not to stop our fun time, though. We had a pretty awesome trophy ceremony. Shannon Pate and his awesome fabricating skills made some pretty amazing trophies for the GPT racers and some superlative awards he created on his own. He also created a special trophy for Simon; I had an idea and he knocked it out of the park! Thanks again Shannon, you are the BEST!!! We ate some fabulous BBQ and fixin’s all prepared by the Avon Park Mower-Plex family, and it was delicious! Then, it was back to the fire pit for more belly busting laughs, helium tanks, and big fish and little fish! It was absolutely amazing!!!
It was then time for those pesky “See you soon’s!” This is the worst part of any trip for me! I can’t wait to see all of you Floridian’s again real soon! We had to be out of our rental home early the next morning, daylight savings time had kicked in, and we were in a rush. My brother Tommy had to be a one airport around 11:30am, Simon’s flight was leaving later that evening at another airport. So, we all said goodbye in the driveway there, and each headed off in different directions. We delivered Tommy safely and timely to his airport, then Derrick and I took Simon out for a T-bone steak lunch and around Orlando before his send off.
Saying goodbye to Simon is not easy for any of us. He came into our lives last year in Maryland, it was an instant bond, like we had all known each other for years! We have only became closer in the months since Maryland, and it was awful saying see ya soon! I just kept telling myself that I will be seeing him sooner than most, because we Robinson’s are heading over to England to race the 12 hour race with them this year!
Seriously though, y’all… if you were not in Avon Park, Florida this March, mark it on your calendar for next year! It’s going to be bigger and better than EVER!
Now it’s time for y’all to MOW on to Texas, we won’t be making that trip again this year, but I hope y’all have some Nanner Puddin’ for me while you’re there! See y’all real soon!