CNY farmer to make NASCAR debut at Watkins Glen this weekend

A CNY farmer will be making his NASCAR debut on Friday at Watkins Glen/ Photos courtesy Vicky Neelie

A farmer from Verona will trade in his tractor for a shot in NASCAR this weekend at Watkins Glen.

Bob Pawlowski spends most of his days farming 1,500 acres of land in Verona, but on Friday he'll make his first start in NASCAR's K&N Pro East Series at Watkins Glen. Pawlowski is the only Central New Yorker on the entry list for Friday's race.

“I moved up here in ’96. I followed NASCAR since ’96 – I never dreamt I’d drive in NASCAR,” Pawlowski said.

Pawlowski first started down the racing path in 2010 when he brought his Chevrolet Camaro to track days, during which enthusiasts go to racetracks and pursue as much speed as their cars (and their will) allow. The following summer he brought a faster car with him to those track days in pursuit of more speed.

Not long after, he had caught the racing bug; he started taking lessons from the Skip Barber Racing School and racing in a vintage series. "The vintage series worked out very well for us," Pawlowski said. "Raced in Poconos, Indianapolis [Motor] Speedway, then Atlanta, Watkins Glen, our home track, Mosport Canada. So we've been around to quite a few places."

All of the experience has paved the way for Pawlowski's debut in NASCAR. To race in NASCAR's K&N Pro Series, a driver needs to demonstrate they have enough racing experience to hold their own. After reviewing Pawlowski's racing resume, NASCAR gave its blessing for him to race on what the sport calls road courses: tracks with left and right turns. Watkins Glen is one of those tracks.

Pawlowski says if all goes well Friday, he hopes to follow it up with more races in the future. "It all depends on how we do," Pawlowski said.

He quickly added, "I think we've got something for these guys." Many of those guys are young racers with aspirations of reaching NASCAR's top series. Among the most notable names on the entry list for Friday's race in Watkins Glen: NASCAR Xfinity Series regulars Matt Tifft and Brandon Jones; Harrison Burton, the 16-year-old son of former NASCAR star Jeff Burton; and Ryan Truex, the younger brother of NASCAR star Martin Truex, Jr., to name a few.

The eldest of those drivers is Truex, who is himself just 25 years old. Young drivers with big aspirations are commonplace in NASCAR's K&N Pro Series. Pawlowski, who's 50, recognizes drivers like him are not, but that doesn't bother him. "The race is going to be a patience game and I hope my patience, being older, is going to be a key for me," Pawlowski said.

To make Friday's NASCAR start happen, Pawlowski has found support from Dale Quarterley, a North Carolinian who is fielding the car Pawlowski will drive. Channel, a seed company, is also supporting the cause and helping give Pawlowski the opportunity to realize his racing potential. "I think we all have talents that sometimes we don't understand we do have," Pawlowski said. "I never realized I could drive a car as decent as I could so it was just something that came on later.

"I'm still old for NASCAR, a lot of guys are retiring but, I dunno, we're gonna go out there and see what we can do," he added.

Pawlowski said a top-10 and completing all 41 laps in Friday's race at Watkins Glen would be a good result. He hopes Friday is just the first of several NASCAR appearances.

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