After two days of a relentless monsoon that turned the Gainesville Raceway into a mosh pit, mother nature finally relented with sunny skies and brisk temperatures hovering over the track. The historic NHRA Gatornationals has been a racer and fan favorite for over five decades and despite being compressed from a four-day race down to a two-day event, it still dazzled spectators. For the many Sportsman racers, including the competitors in the Constant Aviation NHRA Factory Stock Showdown Series (FSS), Saturday and Sunday’s cold temps and great track conditions provided record-setting performance that they probably won’t see for the rest of the season. This was the race of the season for FSS class, and the competitors were chomping at the bit to make some passes, dial their cars in, and go rounds.
DSR Drag Pak driver Mark Pawuk took advantage of the stellar conditions as his 2021 Challenger Drag Pak blazed Gainesville Raceway with record-setting run of 7.608 at 183.15 mph to take the number one qualifying spot in the 16-car field. Tuned by A.J. Berge and Kevin Helms, Pawuk’s supercharged HEMI®-powered Drag Pak threw down the gauntlet among the other racers and sent shock waves through pits. “What a great way to kick-off the 2022 season,” said Pawuk, whose career-best finish was third in 2020.
“We worked really hard this winter to get everything ready to put together a solid campaign, and it paid off. A.J. Berge, Kevin Helms, and the guys have been hard at work testing and trying new components. I was blown away by how fast we ran on Saturday,” noted Mark.
Another Drag Pak racer who also went fast was Warren Walcher, as his 7.669-pass earned him the No. 3 starting position, while other Challenger Drag Pak competitors David Davies, Dennis Chaisson, and Alan Scruggs all made it into the tough FSS field. When the competition heard the roar of the HEMI’s rolling into the staging lanes for eliminations, they knew it was time for battle. “Great first weekend running Factory Stock Showdown and the competitors know we’re for real. All though we had mechanical issues after winning round two at the Gatornationals, they will get fixed and I’m really looking forward to competing at my first NMCA event next weekend,” said Walcher.
Scruggs, Davies, and Chaisson had their share of issues and didn’t make it past round one but based on the performance of their Drag Paks, they were quite pleased on how their cars performed. “It was an interesting weekend once we waited out the rain and got out of the bog pit our trailer was in,” laughed Chaisson. “We were a bit nervous as our two Friday qualifying sessions were washed out so that only left us with one session on Saturday as we hadn’t had my Drag Pak down the track since last October. We had no prior test sessions, so we had no idea how well the car was going run. We took it easy on our one and only qualifying session at the Gatornationals and made the field. During eliminations, I had a great reaction time on my opponent, but stood the car way up once it launched. It carried the frontend 150-feet down the track. It started to get close to the centerline on the track, so I had to lift and therefore, lost the race. But it was a heck of a ride!”
Dave Davies first round exploits were not as dramatic as Chaisson’s, but the sting of a first-round loss hurts just the same. Davies BILSTEIN-backed Challenger Drag Pak couldn’t catch the competitor in the next lane despite Davie’s HEMI-powered machine running almost 182 mph to his opponents 178 mph.
“The weekend went well. The team had the Drag Paks ready to rock, we had all the power we needed, I just didn’t execute well as a driver. But we’ll keep moving forward and be the NMCA event next weekend in Bradenton and use this race to test more parts before heading to NHRA 4-Wide Nationals in North Carolina later next month,” said Davies.
With the NHRA Gatornationals in the rearview mirror, the Drag Paks will head south down I-75 to Bradenton Motorsports for the NMCA season opener. Here they’ll once again do battle with the Cobra Jet Mustangs and COPO Camaros in the NMCA Holley EFI Super Car class. With the usual great track prep, we’re sure the Drag Pak drivers will once again reach new heights!
In the meantime, here’s some cool shots of the Drag Paks in action and behind the scenes from the NHRA Gatornationals.