Mark Pawuk drove his Empaco Equipment 2021 Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak to victory this past Sunday at the season-opening NMCA Muscle Car Mayhem event at Bradenton Motorsports Park. Competing in the heads-up Holley EFI Factory Super Cars class, Pawuk faced some stiff competition from the herd of Cobra Jet Mustangs, COPO Camaros, and other Challenger Drag Paks competing in the class. Pawuk is also the first claim the new Direct Connection Contingency Program that pays $10,000 to a Drag Pak driver that wins in the NHRA Factory Stock Showdown or NMCA Factory Super Cars categories. The $10,000 purse is the largest available contingency award from a manufacturer in either class.
With 19 competitors entered in the Factory Super Cars class, Pawuk laid down a solid qualifying effort with a 7.898-second run at over 178 mph to land him in the number six qualifying spot. With the field set for eliminations, Pawuk’s Challenger mowed down the competition with a string of consistent passes on his way to the finals to face opponent Jeff Bragg. At the flash of the tree, Pawuk’s Challenger Drag Pak left first and never looked backed as he ran a mind-numbing 7.80-second pass at 177.67 mph in the heat of the day to Bragg’s losing 8.20-second run.
“We’ve worked hard all winter and the crew has done a great job trying to figure out what these Dodge Challenger Drag Paks want and how to make them go fast, and we’re gaining on it,” said Pawuk, who also competes in the eight-event Constant Aviation NHRA Factory Stock Showdown Series, and recently qualified No. 1 at the season-opening Gatornationals. “We weren’t the fastest here at Bradenton this weekend, we got a couple of breaks, the driver did his job when he needed to, and it’s kind of a boost for me after red lighting by two-thousands in the second elimination round at Gainesville after we set the national record for the class. It’s a great way to come into the second race of the year with a victory and I’m looking forward to a really good year as we have a great team together and a real fast hot rod. I’m very excited about the future here with Don Schumacher Racing, along with all of the great sponsors and I can’t wait until our next race at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte next month.”
Making sure Pawuk’s 1,500-horsepower HEMI-powered Drag Pak was hitting on all eight and putting all the power to the track surface was DSR Drag Pak crew chiefs A.J. Berge and Kevin Helms. This ‘dynamic duo’ has made huge strides in the consistent performance of the DSR Drag Paks during off-season testing and it’s paying off.
“Kevin (Helms) and I have been banging our heads together all winter, collaborating on ways to make these Drag Paks even faster and get them to the top of the field and it’s starting to payoff. We’re just getting started and we’re not done yet. Kevin and I are chipping away at it and the DSR Drag Paks are going faster and faster,” said Berge.
“It feels really good to win despite having many struggles this weekend. After coming off a stellar performance from the Gatornationals, we learned more and kept on swinging. We knew the competition would be fast as they set the performance bar this weekend by qualifying one and two at Bradenton, but DSR brought home the trophy. We’re going do some equipment maintenance, reload, and head to the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals next month and see if we can put one of our DSR Drag Paks in the winner’s circle over there,” said Helms.
The next stop for the three-car DSR Drag Pak team will be the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway in Concord, North Carolina, April 29 – May 1.