NHRA: 'Cowboy' Pawuk Looks for Better Pro Stock Results in Texas
24 April 1998ENNIS, Texas -- Some of Mark Pawuk's best Pro Stock performances have taken place at NHRA's two fabulous facilities in the great state of Texas. But then again, that makes perfect sense. Where else would a driver with the nickname 'Cowboy' be at his best?
Pawuk, who has moved back into contention in the Winston top-10 standings this year for the first time in over two seasons, says that the hard work his Summit Racing Pontiac team have put in during the last year is starting to pay off.
Pawuk has posted two quarter-final appearances, one first round loss and two DNQs this season. While his progress may look weak to some, consider the competition in Pro Stock is among the toughest in auto racing. Nearly 40 cars regularly attempt to qualify for only 16 race day positions.
"This class is so competitive," said Pawuk, a resident of Bath, Ohio. "There are just so many quality cars out here. Just making the field is an accomplishment."
Pawuk was introduced to the harsh reality of Pro Stock racing at the recent Fram Nationals in Atlanta. He missed the qualifying cut by a very slim margin.
But there's no better cure for a DNQ than preparing for a race at a race track where the driver's history has been good. Pawuk produced his best effort in the last six months during his last trip to the Motorplex, the Revell Nationals last fall. At that race he qualified 11th and beat Mike Thomas and Gordie Rivera before losing in the semi-finals to Jim Yates. Last year at the Lone Star Nationals, Pawuk suffered a first round loss, also to Yates.
The 12-year NHRA veteran will look to use the momentum gained last fall at the Motorplex to his advantage and end a two year winless drought at the second annual Castrol Lone Star Nationals presented by HiLo/O'Reilly Auto Parts, April 30-May 3 at the state-of-the-art Texas Motorplex. The $1.7 million race will be the seventh of 22 events in the $30 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.
Despite the setback at Atlanta, Pawuk feels confident that his Summit Racing team has put all the pieces together to make a run at getting their first win since 1995, and end the season in the Winston top-10 for the first time since '95 as well.
"We're constantly working, testing and trying to find ways to make the car better," Pawuk said. "We just have to keep working hard in all areas and eventually it will come together. We have to start being more consistent and running better on race day."
* Quiet confidence: While Warren Johnson has been winning races and setting NHRA national records to become the biggest newsmaker in NHRA Pro Stock racing this season, another Pontiac driver has been turning some heads with his early season performance.
Mark Osborne, a veteran Pro Stock racer from the small town of Abingdon, Va., has earned two No. 1 qualifying positions in his Dick Sherman Racing Firebird, advanced to the semi-finals at the ATSCO Nationals and then won the $50,000 non-points Winston Invitational at Rockingham, N.C.
"We've been consistent and that's really what makes the biggest difference in a team's operation," said Osborne, who earned his first NHRA Pro Stock victory at the 1995 Fram Nationals in Atlanta. "The success we've had has really made us more confident. I think we're only going to get better as the season goes along."
* Schedule: Pro qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. May 1. Qualifying continues at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. May 2. Final professional eliminations start at 11 a.m. May 3. Federal- Mogul competition starts at noon April 30.
* Tickets: Tickets are available for the Lone Star Nationals. Call the Texas Motorplex, (972) 878-2641, or Ticketmaster for ticket information.
* On TV: ESPN2 will televise two hours of same-day final round coverage and highlights of the Lone Star Nationals on May 3, starting at 11 p.m. (CDT). There will also be two hours of qualifying highlights and live first round coverage on May 3, starting at 10:30 a.m. (CDT).