TOPEKA, Kan., May 27, 2001 - For the second consecutive race, and the third time this season, Mark Pawuk drove his Pontiac Grand Am to the final round of Pro Stock eliminations, this time at the Advance Auto Parts Nationals at Heartland Park.
TOPEKA, Kan., May 27, 2001 - For the second consecutive race, and the third time this season, Mark Pawuk drove his Pontiac Grand Am to the final round of Pro Stock eliminations, this time at the Advance Auto Parts Nationals at Heartland Park. Although losing in the final round to Ron Krisher, Pawuk's effort moved him into first place in the Winston points standings for the first time in his racing career.
"This has been a dream of mine for as long as I've been racing," explained Pawuk. "I've been in second place before but never in first. Now I hope I can stay up there for a little while."
After setting the national elapsed-time record last weekend at Englishtown, N.J., Pawuk came into eliminations today qualified in the No. 9 position. The Summit Racing Grand Am driver defeated Bruce Allen in round one, Mark Osborne in round two and Rickie Smith in round three.
In the finals against Krisher, Pawuk's Pontiac darted to the right as soon as he accelerated off the starting line. Krisher's Cavalier took the win light with a 6.963 elapsed time at 198.73 mph while Pawuk crossed the finish line in 7.076 seconds.
"We got a big break there in round one against Bruce (Allen)," said Pawuk. "You don't get very many of those in this class so I can't be too disappointed with going to the finals. We've been to three final rounds this year because the team has been giving me an awesome racecar. We're going to get this Pontiac Grand Am to the winner's circle pretty soon, we're just running too good not to. We've been consistent and that's what it takes to be in the lead in this class. But hey, we'll take it. This is an awesome, awesome feeling."
Pawuk leads the Winston standings with 626 points. Warren Johnson is in second place in a Grand Am with 579 points, Jim Yates is third in a Grand Am with 566, Jeg Coughlin Jr., is fourth with 532, Kurt Johnson is fifth in a Cavalier with 505 and Ron Krisher is sixth in a Cavalier with 473.
In Pro Stock Truck, Jeff Gracia drove a GMC Sonoma to the semifinals before losing to eventual race winner Don Smith.
"I'm disappointed with myself because I didn't do my job at the starting line, said Gracia. "I had reaction times of .477 and you've got to have at least a .440 or better on raceday. If I would've done my job correctly I would've beaten him. Basically that was it. Now we'll go to Chicago and hopefully one of us will win the Duel and possibly the race on Sunday.
"So far we're having a good year. I'm fourth in the points standings and Bobby (Panella) is in second place. With the competition the way it is we feel good about where this GMC Sonoma is right now and where we're headed. Hopefully I can get a win under my belt before it's all said and done."
Pontiac Firebird Funny Car driver Tim Wilkerson had another outstanding weekend advancing to the semifinal round before losing to John Force. Wilkerson ran career-best performance numbers in elapsed time at 4.829 seconds and top speed at 318.77 mph.
"I'm extremely impressed with the performance of this Pontiac Firebird," said Wilkerson. "I can't say enough about my crew guys. They have worked really hard and everything has started to come together. It's just plain diligence. The bottom line is we don't quit - that's our motto. It's not easy racing in this class, and we knew it wouldn't be but we're not going to give up.
"There was nothing wrong with either lane today; we were just trying to get an advantage on (John) Force and that's why we moved over to the right side. He had been running in the right lane all day and we wanted to switch him up a little bit. It was fun to be there. Everyone knows now that we're back and that we can run well. We would've been low e.t. if not for a small glitch. We're still happy with our performance and we hope our sponsors are too."
Top Fuel driver Mike Dunn, drove the Gwynn/Steinbrenner/GMC/Yankee dragster to the semifinals before falling to eventual race winner Kenny Bernstein.
The next stop on the NHRA Winston Drag Racing tour is the Lucas Oil Products Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., on May 31 -June 3.