A week after winning his first NHRA event in Bristol, Joe Welch struck again with a second title in the School of Automotive Machinists and Technology NHRA Factory Stock Showdown in Norwalk. Welch crossed the finish line just .011-second ahead of former Pro Stock racer Mark “Cowboy” Pawuk, who reached the final in just his second appearance in the Factory Stock class after more than a decade out of the sport. Welch ran his win streak to eight consecutive rounds with an 8.107 to 8.115 victory in the all-Dodge final round.
In a near mirror of his dominating performance last week in Bristol, Welch qualified No. 1 and also had one of the quickest cars in each elimination round including runs of 8.11, 8.12 and 8.13 in his three wins over reigning series champ David Barton, Scott Libersher, and Gainesville winner Stephen Bell, all of whom were driving COPO Camaros.
“Just like last week [in Bristol], we were struggling; something in our performance was falling off and I don’t know what it was,” said Welch, who uses engines supplied by Mike Moran. “I don’t know if our engine is getting tired or what. In the last round the times were off but my guys did a great job getting the car together. I like the power we have but we had more when we started racing in Bristol. I have about 40-45 runs on this engine and it needs to be freshened.”
Qualifying was reduced to just two sessions due to rain but that didn’t prevent the Norwalk race from having one of the quickest fields in the history of the class. Welch took his Drag Pak Challenger to the top half of the field with an 8.092, 169.30 and the 16-car bump was Kevin Skinner’s 8.283. Pawuk was second-quickest at 8.102 and the top four qualifiers were all Dodge Challengers.
Pawuk, who retired raced in the Pro Stock class for more than two decades and scored 6 wins in 22 final round appearances, made his return to NHRA competition for the first time in more than a decade when he debuted his Schumacher Racing-prepared Drag Pak Challenger in last weekend’s Bristol race. Pawuk quickly adapted to his new surroundings with wins against Houston champ Arthur Kohn, defending Norwalk event champion Chuck Watson, and Aaron Stanfield, who was the runner-up in Gainesivlle. Pawuk made his best run in the quarterfinals with an 8.091, 169.19 in his high-flying Dodge, and he needed all of it since he held off Chuck Watson’s quicker 8.075 to win by just a thousandth of a second.
The SAM Tech NHRA Factory Stock Showdown will take a short break before the seven-race series returns for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, August 29-September 3.