PROTORQUE racer Mark “Cowboy” Pawuk earned his first NHRA Factory Stock Showdown career win at the NHRA Midwest Nationals on Sunday, October 1, 2023.
Fielding his Empaco Equipment-backed 2021 Dodge Challenger Drag Pak, Pawuk kicked off a storybook weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway just outside of St. Louis, Missouri, by taking the number one qualifying spot in the highly competitive category with a 7.712 at 179.40 mph pass.
The Akron, Ohio-based racer’s qualifying performance in NHRA Flexjet Factory Stock Showdown set the pace for the substantial 22-car field and marked him as the man to beat for the weekend. Working together with his son, Kyle Pawuk, longtime crew chief, A.J. Berge of HemiTuner Performance, and David Barton of Ray Barton Racing Engines managing the powertrain, the Mark Pawuk Racing team’s platform performed flawlessly.
Making plenty of power is only part of the equation, though, as Pawuk paired his supercharged Gen III Hemi engine with a ProTorque U9 torque converter. Specifically designed for 1,000-2,000 horsepower street and race applications, ProTorque’s U9 converters use the same cutting-edge technology found in the company’s renowned Revolution series and racers across the globe have been finding tremendous success with their new U9s on board.
In eliminations, Pawuk started strong as he turned on the win light with a 7.715 at 179.49 mph run over Conner Statler in the opposing lane. In round two, though, Pawuk enjoyed a bye run and took full advantage of the unopposed opportunity to shoot for the moon. His resulting time slip showed a run of 7.583 seconds at 182.03 mph, and it was one for the history books as it reset the national elapsed time world record for the class; the pass also set the top speed of the class for the event.
Bolstered by his impressive performance, Pawuk headed into round three where he faced off against Del Holbrook. Unfortunately, Holbrook’s entry broke just after staging, and the door was open for Pawuk to power down the track in 7.630 seconds at 181.40 mph.
The following semi-final round brought even more success for Pawuk, as he defeated the previous event winner, Aaron Stanfield, with a 7.655 at 180.38 mph trip and was rewarded with a $1,000 bounty for his accomplishment.
Finally, in the last pairing of the weekend, Pawuk took on Stephen Bell. With a quick 0.036-second reaction time, Pawuk held the advantage from start to stripe and his 7.638 at 180.89 mph run earned him a trip straight to the winner’s circle where he rightfully celebrated with his entire crew.
At the conclusion of the 12th Annual NHRA Midwest Nationals race weekend, the eighth of ten events in the Flexjet Factory Stock Showdown season, Pawuk was sitting third overall in championship points thanks to his impressive finish.
From his number one qualifying performance to his record-setting run, claiming the Low ET and Top Speed numbers for the weekend, grabbing a grand in the Flexjet Factory Stock Showdown Bounty Program, and taking home his first NHRA Wally in years, Pawuk’s picture-perfect weekend might not have been possible without his ProTorque converter helping put his Hemi’s power to the ground.