On-Track Prospects Look Promising This Year For Pontiac's Mark Pawuk The Cowboy Heads West For Las Vegas Showdown LAS VEGAS, January 30, 2006 - While the clock ticks toward the beginning of the 2006 NHRA season, Mark Pawuk, like the rest of...
On-Track Prospects Look Promising This Year For Pontiac's Mark Pawuk
The Cowboy Heads West For Las Vegas Showdown
LAS VEGAS, January 30, 2006 - While the clock ticks toward the beginning of the 2006 NHRA season, Mark Pawuk, like the rest of his peers in Pro Stock, is meticulously making the final preparations for what he hopes will be a successful campaign and a return trip to the POWERade top 10. The Buckeye State native is embarking on his 22nd season as a professional on the NHRA circuit, perennial participation surpassed only by the legendary Warren Johnson among active Pro Stock drivers, and an astonishing feat in itself considering the difficulty to stay competitive in a motorsports category renowned for its parity.
"The guys spent a lot of time this winter looking at data from the runs we made since Indy and we've made a few minor changes to the racecar," explained Pawuk. "We spent the week of Jan. 9th testing our GTO at South Georgia Motorsports Park in Valdosta where we ran a couple of the engines we had left over from last year. The car performed pretty well. We do have a deal this year with Ron Krisher, and we put the racing motor we have from Ron in the car after about a day-and-a-half of testing, and ran respectable. We still have a ways to go but we were happy with the results. Our best lap was a 6.67 at 206.54 mph, which was the quickest and fastest I've ever gone - that was encouraging. We had good conditions to test in, but compared to the other cars that were there, we were pretty happy with the results. We're looking forward to building on our relationship with Ron.
"Overall, we made 15 runs, and were very satisfied with the results and the consistency of the racecar. The conditions were better on Monday and Tuesday when we ran our own motors. I didn't get there until Wednesday and Craig Hainkinson drove the car and ran a 6.68 at 206.30. Our focus in the offseason has been on the car, and considering we haven't done any R & D work over the winter with our engines, we were pretty pleased."
Like any competitor who has been in the arena for as long as Pawuk, there are a large number of successes to tally to go along with moments of disappointment, but there is no question that the Ohio native has earned the respect and admiration of fans and fellow competitors throughout the sport.
"My biggest focus during the offseason has been trying to find a major sponsor," explained Pawuk. "At the same time, we continue to receive tremendous support from Pontiac, Mr. Heater, Summit Racing Equipment, and Great Lakes International Carriers, and we've put together a deal with the Norris Auto Group to get a new pit vehicle to haul in our transporter. Plus, we have a number of great associates on board again this year. Every little bit helps us to be competitive, and we have some things that look promising, I'm just hoping something comes together for us."
Prior to his debut on the professional straight-line circuit at Columbus in 1985, Pawuk broke into the sport of drag racing on local strips in the northern and eastern part of his home state where he earned the nickname "The Cowboy." As a successful Super Gas competitor in the NHRA Sportsman ranks during the late '70s and early '80s, Pawuk was a three-time national-event runner-up, first at Indianapolis in 1980, and then at Columbus and Brainerd in 1983. As a Pro Stock racer, Pawuk has accumulated six national-event victories, 21 final-round appearances, over 200 round wins, two top-five and 11 top-10 points finishes.
Last year Pawuk struggled at the beginning of the year and took time away from competition during the summer months to consolidate his team's resources and to prepare a new Pontiac GTO for the season's final push. He returned to racing at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis using Ron Krisher horsepower and advanced to the semifinal round, and then ran strong at the year's final two events at Las Vegas and Pomona.
"The GTO is a large improvement on what we had been running," said Pawuk. "Even though we had been struggling the last couple of years, we felt we had some issues with our engine program but we knew that we just couldn't be that far off. That's become evident by the way our engines ran at Valdosta. It's hard to believe that a car could slow you down that much, it was like it had a governor in it and we're still not certain why. It made nice runs, it just didn't go anywhere. It's interesting how that happens. I've seen other guys go through it and sometimes some new tubing can make all the difference in the world with your program. The guys on the team have done a great job of bringing the car out and getting it to run fast right off the bat. For us to struggle like we did last year, and then to go to the semifinals at the biggest event of the year was a huge morale boost.
"At the end of last season, we were on a good charge. We were making excellent runs, the performance of the GTO had us competitive again and I was doing my job behind the wheel. When all of that clicks, good things happen. We ran well the last two races and went to the second round at both Las Vegas and Pomona. It was a great way to finish the season and was a tremendous boost for the entire team going into 2006."
It's been a while since Pawuk felt this good about the start of a new season and he knows that reaching his goals will take a large number of small steps. But with the return of key crew members for another racing campaign and a carry over of momentum from 2005, the Pontiac GTO driver feels confident about his prospects.
"There are certainly some things we'll be able to carry over from 2005," said Pawuk. "When the car makes a good run, is consistent and you're not fighting issues, it's a lot easier to test variables that may make you better in the long run. When we were in Valdosta we had the opportunity to try some things that before we hadn't been able to. Some things panned out, and some things didn't, but it gave us a direction to go in. When we go to the Pontiac Pro Stock Showdown in Las Vegas we'll have some different things we'll work on, we'll see how they respond and if we can get our car to run a little quicker. You never know. When we're looking for thousandths of a second we always start with a baseline tune-up and work from there. Because we struggled so bad the last couple of years, we were just throwing things at our car and our engine program, and when you do that, you get lost and there was certainly a time period when we were lost. Now that we've got some consistency back, I think we've grown our program and the opportunity is there for us to improve our performance.
"Our goals this year are simple. We want to qualify for every race, and that's a big accomplishment in itself these days. We would love the opportunity to win at least one race in 2006 and finish in the top 10. We're taking small steps with reasonable goals, and if you look at the number of cars that qualify for every race, there aren't a lot that do make every event. If we can go some rounds and finish in the top 10 that would show us that our performance level is back to where it needs to be. I feel more confident than I've been in years. It looks like we have good power from Ron (Krisher), and the crew has been together for several years now, which is a big boost because everybody works well together. I'm very optimistic. If I can drive like I did at the end of last year then good things can happen."