Columbus: Mark Pawuk local favorite

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 6, 2000) - Mark Pawuk is a born and raised Ohio native who's proud of his Buckeye State heritage. So it's no surprise that when the opportunity comes each year for the 42-year-old business owner and Pro Stock driver to...

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 6, 2000) - Mark Pawuk is a born and raised Ohio native who's proud of his Buckeye State heritage. So it's no surprise that when the opportunity comes each year for the 42-year-old business owner and Pro Stock driver to race his Summit Racing/Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird at National Trail Raceway, the competitive fire starts to burn a little bit hotter knowing that he's racing in front of the home-state fans. "I love racing in Columbus," Pawuk said. "This is my home race so the pressure gets turned up a notch with everything that's on the line here. We have all of the executives on hand from Summit Racing and Pontiac, plus the friends and family that show up to lend us their support and all of the loyal fans that we've had in this area for so long that have stuck by us. Saying it's a big race for us is an understatement -- it's almost our whole season wrapped up in one weekend. That's why it's so important for us to do well, qualify strong and win this thing." Heading towards the halfway point of the 23-event NHRA championship tour, Pawuk continues to capitalize on one his best starts ever. Currently seventh in the points standings, the season to this point has produced its share of sterling moments for the Bath, Ohio, resident including a No. 2 qualifying effort at Las Vegas, a runner-up performance at Phoenix and semifinal-round appearances at Las Vegas and Houston. So far this season, Pawuk has also been successful in qualifying in the top half of the field at every event. "I'm very satisfied with our progress this year," Pawuk said. "I'm driving much better and the car has performed very well, especially on raceday. But when I compare my reaction times to last year they're over four hundredth's of a second better. I thought maybe our luck was changing after Phoenix. We ran well and I drove well. With the way our car has performed this year, it's exciting going to the races again. "We have a young aggressive team, everybody works well together, and we continue to build and gain knowledge. I think all indications point to the Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird being in the winner's circle more than once this year. We came close a few times this year and we're going to continue working hard to achieve excellence." The 2000 season is Pawuk's 14th year as an NHRA Pro Stock competitor. Over the course of his career, he has won four national events and raced in 15 final rounds. Last year, Pawuk finished eighth in the Winston standings, winning 15 rounds in his best campaign since 1995 when he was sixth in the Pro Stock points race. Although he fell short of his goal of winning a race, Pawuk's effort in '99 was nothing short of outstanding. He qualified in the top-half of the field at 17 events and no worse than fourth nine times. It was a testament to the continued success of Pawuk's in-house engine program, the hard work of crew chief Rob Downing and his trackside teammates, and a harbinger of things to come this season. "We're fighting tooth and nail with the Winston Cup to keep our good people," Pawuk said. "Their bigger budgets afford them the opportunity to offer better incentives. The reason NHRA and some of the fans don't understand the costs involved in a Pro Stock operation is that most of our research and development is done away from the racetrack. If anyone would come by and look at the facility that we have, as well as the other Pro Stock teams, and see the full-time staff that we support, the amount of parts and pieces, and the amount of r & d that we have going on to try to stay competitive, they would realize the tremendous investment it takes to race NHRA Pro Stock." Now Pawuk hopes that the investment pays off with a victory at the Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing. "The Pro Stock class is by far the most competitive category in drag racing," said Pawuk. "I know the fans have to love it. We're constantly buying new parts and pieces and going in different directions to figure out what works. I would say that maybe five percent of what we try actually works. When you're battling it out in such a competitive arena as we are, those are the chances you have to take to move your program forward." The 36th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing at National Trail Raceway in Kirkersville, Ohio, on June 15 - 18 is the 11th race on the 23-event NHRA Winston championship tour. Qualifying highlights can be seen on ESPN2 on Saturday, June 17, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. Same-day coverage of the early rounds of final eliminations can be seen on Sunday, June 18, starting at 1:30 p.m. Eastern with a complete program of raceday beginning at 5 p.m.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mark Pawuk