Kevin “Cooter” Penne and is both a car and racing lawnmower enthusiast. “I started liking cars at around six or seven years-old,” he said. “My neighbor had a Camaro and I thought it was the coolest.” From then on, he was hooked. Penne’s first car was a 1968 Chevy Nova which he spent much of his time fixing up from its initial “piece of junk” status. He saved his money, built a huge engine for it, and it became a race car.
Penne first learned about lawnmower racing when he saw a race in Grayslake, IL. He felt that he had to start racing and, the following year, he was a contender. “My first mower was a Cub Cadet rear engine rider, with a 8hp modified to put out around 12hp,” he explained. Back then, riders didn’t often have places where they could buy modified parts for their mowers so they essentially had to build them from scratch and modify them on their own. Penne never thought that lawnmower racing would turn out to be the huge sporting even that it is today but he is glad to have been able to experience its growth. “With Gold Eagle’s help I became a twelve-time National Champion.” He hopes the sport will continue to grow so that others will be able to experience the same thrills and create amazing memories.
Penne’s plans for the future revolve more around cars because he’s built a 1964 Chevy Malibu that he calls the “Old School Malibu”. The car is strictly for drag racing. This year, he has had an excellent campaign season and the Malibu is becoming well-known in the northern Illinois racing community. The Malibu took a lot of saving, working, planning, and research to find the correct parts but it is Penne’s dream car and keeps him motivated every day.
As a Cool Rides Online Champion, Penne is able to travel with his car and mower while spreading the word about Gold Eagle Products. He initially wanted to become a CRO Champ to give back to Gold Eagle Company, the company that kept him so motivated in lawnmower racing and was part of some of his best memories. “The amount of people I meet and greet is off the charts,” Penne says about his experience as a Champ so far. “It takes a lot of time and effort to be a CRO Champ but if you’re motivated and feel you can handle it…Get on board!” Penne encourages anyone who is as passionate about cool cars and lawnmowers to “help people help people”, as he puts it.
When asked what he likes to do in his spare time, Penne laughs. “I have absolutely no spare time,” he said. “If you race anything you will know what I’m talking about.” Any of his spare time is spent preparing for the next race or show or with his wife, Nancy. “She’s no Nancy or Sally, she’ll bust your chops in a blink!” Penne said of his wife. In the future, Penne would like to spend more time with his family and would also like to take them to the track.
As for advice for individuals who are just getting started with lawnmower racing, Penne has a few words of advice. “Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start out with something to get your feet wet and then move up…it’s more expensive than you think.” He also advises to build a network of at least one other person to form your team for both support and to have fun. When it comes to cars, Penne offers some words of wisdom from the shop: “Make your time on this earth count, we only get one shot to do something” and “there are three kinds of people in life: those who watch things happen, those who make things happen, and those who wonder what happened! What kind of person are you? Be somebody!”
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