What do NASCAR Chase competitor Greg Biffle, Office Depot and Mike Pagano, proprietor of PaganoPhoto, have to do with potentially solving New Jersey’s fiscal crisis? Well, if Greg Biffle wins the AAA 400 race at the Monster Mile in Dover, Delaware this weekend, Office Depot will make Mike Pagano, a new Jersey small businessman, a millionaire, bringing some much needed income tax revenue to the coffers of New Jersey Governor Christie.
Pagano, who works full-time for the State of New Jersey in the Department of Environmental Protection by day, has been using his evenings, weekends and furlough days to turn his photography hobby into a business. On a lark after listening to an interview with Cup driver Greg Biffle, Pagano entered the Office Depot’s ‘Official Small Business of NASCAR’ Sweepstakes, hoping to bring home the million dollar grand prize.
“Greg Biffle was on the radio talking about this contest going on and said that someone could win a million dollars,” Pagano said. “I was driving down the road but that perked my ears up. I thought ‘I like contests and I’d sure like a million dollars’ so let me look into this.”
“When I got home that day I went on the Office Depot website and signed up for it,” Pagano said. “I sent notes to all my friends on Facebook to nominate me and here I am.”
Pagano is one of two finalists for the Office Depot Small Business of NASCAR award. His competitor for the million dollar grand prize is Rose Berger, owner of Professional Cleaning Service in Greer, South Carolina.
Both finalists have been having the NASCAR time of their lives prior to the second Chase race at Dover International Speedway. The pre-race festivities have been especially enjoyable for Pagano, who has been a NASCAR fan for quite some time.
“The original interest in NASCAR came from our son, who is a high school junior now, back when he was in kindergarten,” Pagano said. “He had a Jeff Gordon little plastic lunch pail and started watching the races. We started watching the races with him and within a couple of years, we were hooked and going to races at Pocono and Dover.”
Pagano, however, has had to switch his allegiance from Jeff Gordon to Greg Biffle as his primary driver. Not only did Biffle’s interview convince him to enter the contest, but Pagano is also paired with Biffle for the contest, who will make Pagano a millionaire if he wins the Dover race.
“It was a random pairing,” Pagano said of his match with Biffle. The other finalist is paired with Tony Stewart and whichever driver finishes ahead of the other will make their small business the final winner.
Biffle, who had dinner with both finalists, as well as Tony Stewart, was pretty stoked about the contest as well.
“This weekend is going to be pretty exciting because Office Depot and 3M have created an incredible opportunity with this year’s ‘Official Small Business of NASCAR’ sweepstakes,” Biffle said. “As a small business owner myself, I want to do a great job for PaganoPhoto, the small business featured on my car, and hopefully give them a shot at the $1 million prize.”
Pagano has been busy prior to the race weekend, appearing on SPEED TV’s NASCAR Race Hub show, as well as visiting the new NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“We were at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and we saw a few videos,” Pagano said. “Every one of the videos was of Greg winning a race so that’s a good sign. Also the last time we were at Dover, Greg won. So I told him at dinner that I was his good luck charm at Dover.”
Pagano and his fellow Small Business finalist will also have some surprises in store at the Monster Mile.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Pagano said. “All they told me is that we’re watching Nationwide and the Cup race. The rest of the details are hush, hush for now.”
The bottom line, however, is that if Greg Biffle crosses the finish line and takes the checkered flag, Mike Pagano will be $1 million richer. His wife and children will also be joining Pagano for the race experience, although they will be trading their Jeff Gordon gear in for Biffle T-shirts and caps.
“This is as close to a million dollars that I’ve ever been,” Pagano said. If he wins that prize, Pagano plans to sink all of the money back into his photography business, enhancing his digital computer capabilities, as well as increasing the income tax coffers of the State of New Jersey.
While only one small business owner will walk away with the big bucks, both Pagano and Berger are set to receive a $10,000 small business makeover from Office Depot. Each competitor also gets the name of their small business on the back of Biffle’s and Stewart’s race car respectively.
“That was really a cool thing to see,” Pagano said after getting a preview glimpse of his business’ name on Biffle’s car. “I saw a tear in my wife’s eye.”
While Pagano is enthusiastically pulling for Biffle to be in victory lane, Tony Stewart, racing for Rose Berger and her cleaning business is stoked for the competition.
“Building a successful small business takes a lot of hard work,” Stewart, a NASCAR small businessman himself, said. “It’s great to be able to reward small business owners for their dedication.”
“Greg (Biffle) and I are definitely ready to battle it out this weekend on their behalf,” Stewart said. “We both want to deliver the $1 million prize with a win and the bragging rights that come with it.”