■ DRAG RACING has always been part of Kassandra Pawuk ’ s life . Her first race was when she was just 6 weeks old , and there , she was in her first drag racing photo – propped up on the back of the Pro Stock car driven by her dad , Mark Pawuk .
These days , the younger Pawuk is the one behind the camera as she captures eye-catching images and creates engaging social media posts for many of NHRA ’ s most popular drivers and teams .
“ I started as an intern with Don Schumacher Racing [ DSR ] in 2018 doing hospitality ,” explains Pawuk , who completed two additional internships during her tenure at University of Central Florida , accepted a role in hospitality at DSR , then moved toward a social media position with the high-profile team .
“[ This career ] was something I didn ’ t know existed until I got into the drag racing world , and last season , I decided to spread my wings and grow ,” Pawuk continues . “ The position with Natalie [ Torrence ] and Innovative Creation Experts came up , and it ’ s been great .”
Pawuk attends every race on the NHRA tour and captures and posts content for the company ’ s clients in every professional category . But with a father who raced Pro Stock throughout her childhood and who returned to competition in recent years in NHRA ’ s Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown class , Pawuk and her brother , Kyle , seem almost destined to wheel race cars . The Ohio native doesn ’ t dispute that this may be part of her future .
“ I actually talked to my dad in 2019 about going to Frank Hawley ’ s Drag Racing School , but then COVID hit ,” recalls Pawuk . “ It finally happened this year , the Wednesday and Thursday before Denver . I flew home , went to Frank Hawley ’ s school , then left for the Denver race Friday morning . I ’ d never been in a car or down a dragstrip before I strapped into the Super Comp dragster .
“ It was more mental than I expected , but I connect with that . The first couple of laps were not great , and I was scared . I ’ d also never seen a car leave on a trans brake . But once I was past the initial launch , I was like , OK , this is fun . By my fourth pass , I actually smiled .”
Pawuk says she ’ d like to make more laps in a race car , and there has been talk of going in with her brother to share a dragster . Her vision for racing includes working her way up and running Super Comp , Top Dragster , Top Alcohol Dragster , and possibly even Top Fuel .
“ But most of all , I just want to see myself grow as a person ,” she says . “ I feel like I ’ ve already grown so much in the last year , and so many different things have happened . I know I ’ m going in the right direction ; I just want to be the best version of myself that I can possibly be .”
For Pawuk , that includes establishing a name of her own .
“ I ’ m proud that even though my dad has history in racing , I ’ ve been able to come out here and create a career of my own that has blossomed into so much more than I imagined . I love that people know him , but they also know me now . I think that ’ s really cool .”
– KELLY WADE DI
130 | Drag Illustrated | DragIllustrated . com Issue 179