Reading Preview Pro Stock

MOHNTON, Pa. - Mark Pawuk can still remember the feeling he had in his gut just minutes before lining up beside Warren Johnson to decide the Pro Stock final at the 1995 Keystone Nationals. Pawuk, 41, of Bath, Ohio, eventually lost that...

MOHNTON, Pa. - Mark Pawuk can still remember the feeling he had in his gut just minutes before lining up beside Warren Johnson to decide the Pro Stock final at the 1995 Keystone Nationals. Pawuk, 41, of Bath, Ohio, eventually lost that race to the 'Professor' of Pro Stock, but he hasn't lost the feeling. He wants to get back in that position again. Indeed, he says it's been a long dry spell since he's been to a final round in NHRA Pro Stock competition. Too long, in fact. A recent performance at the NHRA national event in Brainerd, Minn., got Pawuk's juices flowing once again. He advanced to the semifinals for the first time since last season's Mile-High Nationals in Denver, driving his Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird to early round wins over John Nobile and Bruce Allen before losing a close one to Johnson, denying his entry into the final round. Pawuk, who last won in '95 at the Mid-South Nationals in Memphis, Tenn., has been running strong lately and feels a return visit to the finals are definitely a possibility. Winning will be the main goal at the 15th annual True Value NHRA Keystone Nationals, Sept. 16-19 at scenic Maple Grove Raceway. Pawuk has been runner-up at the $1.6 million race, 17th of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series, in both '95 and '91. "We're still not where we should be," Pawuk said. "We've been qualifying strong at some races, and we've finally won some rounds on race day and I'm driving better - it's just a matter of keeping the little stuff from biting us. We have a young crew that's learning what it takes to go down the track on race day and now we're beginning to put all the pieces together." His new team, led by new crew chief Rob Downing, have worked hard to produce career-best performances in elapsed time (6.883 seconds) and speed (200.08 mph) this season. He's also qualified in the No. 3 position at four events this season. He earned a little more confidence by winning an independent Pro Stock meet in Woodburn, Ore. prior to the NHRA Autolite Nationals. However, the biggest momentum push for his team came in Minnesota. "After going to the semifinals at Brainerd for the first time this year, the attitude in the whole camp has been very positive," Pawuk said. "I'm hoping this momentum surge can continue to carry on through the final third of the season. We're carrying a lot of enthusiasm and it's time that we take advantage of the opportunity and make some good things happen." Pawuk says his team's turnaround is attributed to work done under the hood of his racecar. "It's the engine program and the fact that we made some great strides in that area over the winter," Pawuk said. "We're making better calls on the tune-up. The whole team is thinking better, coming up with ideas and putting everything together. We want to keep our consistency, keep qualifying well, go more rounds, win a race and move into the top-five. I've got a lot more fire and drive than I had six months ago. It became a real drag for a while, but I really feel that this resurgence in our performance has enabled me to get a different outlook, and get more pumped up on race day."

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Nobile , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Bruce Allen