Story by Ainsley Jacobs.
Having grown up at the racetrack watching their father, Mark “Cowboy” Pawuk, race in the NHRA Pro Stock ranks, siblings Kyle and Kassandra Pawuk recently attended Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School and are actively continuing their family’s drag racing legacy.
Although Mark had taken a hiatus from drag racing for more than a decade to focus on his family, both Kyle and Kassandra encouraged him to get back at it with NHRA Factory Stock—and they each wanted to give driving a try, too.
“My wife and I talked and we both wanted the kids to go to a drag racing school to get experience, but the only place I would allow them to go was Frank Hawley’s School,” stated Mark. “I attended several times through General Motors when I was racing professionally, and I knew it’s a professional, first-class operation.”
When the family realized that there was an upcoming session at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio, they seized the opportunity to finally have Kyle and Kassandra participate at a track near their homes.
Kyle, 25, is actively involved in drag racing and had already been down the track a few times in a variety of Sportsman cars. “When we showed up, I didn’t know anyone except my sister. It was an interesting dynamic. We were the youngest ones there,” shared Kyle, who expected more rookie racers his own age.
The two-day licensing school kicked off with classroom sessions where students learned the logistics of drag racing and the importance of the mental side of things. “It was great and they taught us so much,” Kyle added of the experience, which soon transitioned to on-track racing. “I was happily surprised that, after making a run, they would go over the details and discuss the things we could be doing better. I enjoyed learning how your brain works and how that impacts your function as a driver.”
Kyle was able to drive both a Super Comp dragster and a Super Gas door car. Although he enjoyed piloting a dragster for the first time, he prefers the greater challenge that an enclosed door car provides due to the limited visibility.
Kassandra, however, had never been down the drag strip at all—despite having worked in hospitality and social media for years with many of NHRA’s top-tier teams.
“The classroom was excellent and then it was time to get in the car. I wasn’t nervous about racing until I did it!” confessed the 27-year-old. “By day two, it was totally different and I had a lot of fun.”
For her, enjoying the experience was secondary to being able to more accurately understand what her client-drivers go through on a day-to-day basis. Kassandra was pleased to expand her working knowledge from behind the starting line to behind the wheel, too.
Mark is thrilled to see the second-generation racers following in his footsteps. His parents were there to encourage his drag racing endeavors, and he is honored to now be able to do the same for his children. “I got goosebumps seeing them run,” he said. “I don’t know where their paths will go, but if I’m on the starting line watching, then Bonnie and I will be pretty lucky.”