TWELVE MILE – It’s amazing what success can do to a person.
Earlier this week, Dean Owens was ready to pull his lawnmower into his garage only to be used on Sunday afternoon spins around the yard – provided that it ever rains in Indiana again. But on Wednesday, the veteran racer used the knowledge that 38 years of competition has wrought and outsmarted 15 other drivers to win the Briggs Class of the 50th edition of the Twelve Mile 500 Lawnmower Race. With victory in hand, now Owens isn’t positive what his future might bring.
The victory was the fifth overall for Owens and first since 2005.
“It was just as exciting as it was my first year,” Owens said.
Owens raced in his initial Twelve Mile 500 as a 13-year-old in 1969. He didn’t have the fastest mower in this year’s qualifications (he was sixth), but prior to the race he said that the key to winning would be “staying out of trouble.” With temperatures topping 100 degrees on the Plank Hill Park quarter-mile dirt track, “staying out of trouble” meant keeping your engine actually running.
“I tried to run a slower RPM,” Owens explained. “I didn’t want the engine to work too hard today.”
With each passing lap, mowers were pulling off of the track and into the pits to get worked on. By the finish, just 10 of the 16 racers still had machines able to circumvent around the baseball diamond and through the trees of Plank Hill Park.
No one was plagued with more mechanical problems than pole sitter Neil Schroder. After blazing through qualifications with a 27.426 miles per hour speed, Schroder never got on track, no pun intended, Wednesday.
“You get the mowers built up so much and then they don’t like sitting there,” Schroder said. “They tend to start getting cantankerous.”
Schroder was only a couple of laps in when he started feeling his engine “cut in and out.” He pulled off to the side and got his mower going again, but the day was one trip into the pits after another for him.
“It seemed to be something in the carburetor is not right,” Schroder said. “Then my exhaust fell off also.”
The field quickly got spread out, which took away some of the fun – but not all of it – for Owens.
“I love running in traffic,” Owens said. “It’s fun to do the passing game. But it was still a fun day.”
No one has raced longer than the Mexico resident and only Twelve Mile’s own Randy Troyer has more victories with 10. Owens wanted to compete in the 50th anniversary race, but had talked about retiring from racing after this race. However, he wasn’t ready to pull the trigger quite yet, now that he is the reigning champion again.
“We’ll just have to see what 365 days brings,” Owens said.