RICHFIELD, OH 9/10 It was the biggest race of the year, and the biggest disappointment of the season for Mark "Cowboy" Pawuk and the Summit Racing Pro Stock team. After fighting through the first weekend's inclement weather conditions, and being...
RICHFIELD, OH 9/10 It was the biggest race of the year, and the biggest disappointment of the season for Mark "Cowboy" Pawuk and the Summit Racing Pro Stock team. After fighting through the first weekend's inclement weather conditions, and being within milliseconds of making the field, Pawuk's car was "invaded" by gremlins that resulted in an electrical fire on the last day of qualifying. The fire began in the dash/instrument panel area of the car and resulted in electrical short circuits and fire all the way to the back of the car.
"Eleven cars ended up running 6.83," said Pawuk following the race. "We were one of 'em, but with an eighty-three-nine we were at the back of the pack. We weren't worried because we'd run better on each run, and based on our tune-up we had every expectation of continuing to go in that direction. When I smelled the smoke during the burnout for our fourth session I knew we were in trouble."
The car's ignition system lost power as a result of a short circuit in the main power line, and despite changing as much of the wiring as the team, led by crew chief Marcus Bowen, could quickly reach between sessions, its performance fell off dramatically in the fifth and final session, relegating Pawuk to the sidelines for eliminations.
"We're extremely disappointed by how things turned out," he readily admitted. "We'd geared up a lot of effort for this race, and had been doing extensive testing on the track as well as a lot of work in the engine shop.
"We know we've got some other problems that we're trying to address before the Lucas Oil Nationals in Reading. In comparing our elapsed times against everyone else's we're usually among the Top 10 in the first half of the track, but the car falls off dramatically in the back half. In comparing that portion of the track with the other competitors we're a lot further down the list, and that's a problem. The key is in getting the car to run both the front and back halves in the same way."
Prior to the U.S. Nationals the Summit Racing team did extensive testing with both their Jerry Bickel-built Pontiac Grand Am as well as their Don Ness-built back-up model. Both performed as expected under the conditions encountered, which enabled the team to do some engine componentry evaluation at the same time.
"I'm not suggesting that we'll try the Ness car before the season's over," says Pawuk, "but it did show a lot of promise. At this point that's what we're looking for so that if we feel the need we can switch to a different Pontiac Grand Am with the knowledge that it'll perform just as consistently as our current model does."