Mike ‘Mow Power’ Paccione of New Jersey is known for his fierce maneuvering and grace under pressure, traits that have vaulted him to the top of the National Lawn Mower Racing Series. These are his thoughts from the 2014 STA-BIL Keeps Grass Fresh Finals…

Lots goes on in my head before the race, during the race and after the race.

I spent all summer working for the Pole Position in the STA-BIL Keeps Gas Fresh Finals. Chris Cox riding “Rusty” was just too good; beat me head-to-head in our four meetings.  I got my three wins when he was not there.

Now I am sitting #2, outside, front row.  How can I beat him?  I need to get to turn 1 ahead of him.  I have a Pat Sullivan machine and a (Wally) Bender Engine, I like that combo.  We have circled the track a few times, the engine is warm, waiting for Rich Webb to drop the green.  I need to be quick on the throttle, gotta beat Chris to Turn 1. . . . . . waiting, come on Rich, anticipate, green!  Go!  Chris throttled up simultaneously, we are side-by-side, Rusty is fast, I am second into the turn . . . darn . . . OK, stay with him, anything can happen.  Turn 3 & 4, still on him, but he’s pulling away on the straight, into the next turns, Cox raises his arm, what’s up?  Did he break?  Yellow . . . caution . . . red.  Gotta stop, someone is off his mower.  Ken Jones, oh no.  He’s up, thank goodness, but his ride is not as fortunate.  Bummer, Ken is a real good guy.

They are lining us up again, 2 by 2, we did not complete a lap, another chance.  Must beat Chris into turn 1.  Side by side, eyes on Rich, gotta throttle up exactly when he flinches . . . . . green, go . . . . Cox and Rusty are just as fast . . . grrrrr . . . . second into Turn 1 again.  Stay on him, he’s faster, but do not give up, anything can happen.  Lap after lap, he’s stretching out, but I still see him.  He has a quarter lap on me, now a third.  Quick look back, no one coming up on me.  Focus on Chris, stay on my lines, run at him, he’s not that far out, anything can happen.

Past half way, Turn 2, is that Chris?  Slowing on the outside, raising his hood, what’s going on?  Passed him, something did happen.  Holy cow, I’m leading.  Keep running hard.  Turn 3 & 4, clean.  Turn 1 good, out of Turn 2 Where is Chris?  Maybe he’s off the track?  Did he push off to the infield?  I do not see him, look for him again next time around.  Thoughts change when hunting versus being hunted.  Still no sign of him.  Back into Turn 3, stay tight, Turn 4, I hear something, I know that sound.  Are you kidding me? Is he back racing?  Is he on me already?  Stay tight, fast, keep my line.  Turn 1 I see Rusty on my right hip, ugh.  It’s OK, keep Chris outside.  I can hold him off if he’s outside, run my line through the chicane, into Turn 3, do not slide wide, he beat me on the last lap in Ellerbe when I did that, he’ll make me pay for a mistake, learn your lesson!

How many laps left?  I see the parallel white and green flags, two  to go… that’s two too many!

Straight lines, fast into the turns, brake hard, do not slide wide, I still hear him, see him again side-by-side through Turn 1 & Turn 2, keep him out there, do not let him in, he’s faster, but make him go the long way around, do not give it to him, loose out there, good traction on my lines, I am accelerating fast, the Bender Engine is screaming, the Sullivan frame is handling, don’t mess up, Chris and Rusty never do and he wants this, the defending champ, come on, white flag, full throttle, tight, tight, tight, brake hard, left front wheel just off the hay bales, stay on them, Chris is right next to me, out of Turn 2, squeeze the throttle, go, go, go, last turn, tight, he’ll kill me if he gets inside, he’s right there into 3, out of 4, checkered in sight, everything we have . . . . .

Man, I cannot wait to see my friends in 6 months at the 2015 season opener in Florida!