Paulie Harraka Back on Track and Working Hard for More

For Paulie Harraka, being back on track in the No. 44 ‘Buckle Up’ Toyota for TriStar Motorsports this past weekend was most exciting, especially after pulling off a 19th place finish in the Nationwide race at Dover International Speedway.

But that taste of success simply served to further whet the appetite of the Duke University and Drive for Diversity graduate, who is now working hard on his next opportunity to get back behind the wheel of a race car.

“It was a lot of fun,” Harraka said of his Nationwide TriStar Motorsports debut. “We had a really good car.”

“I was able to move up fairly quickly in the early going but I had an unfortunate incident on pit road with just a guy stalling out and making a mistake and miscommunicating with his spotter,” Harraka continued. “We became the victim. And that hurt us. It bent the splitter down a little bit and it obviously hurt the front fender so we lost front down force. We’d land so hard in the corner that it would bottom out the splitter. So, it made the car a little bit of a handful.”

“But I was able to move around and we made some adjustments and got the handling back,” Harraka said. “We were able to move back up and pass a lot of cars to get back in the top-20, which was our goal for the weekend.”

“All in all, a good day, especially for my first time in the 44 car and working with this race team. We really enjoyed working with each other and I think we built a good foundation to go and do more and run better next time around.”

Harraka was also very grateful to have the sponsorship from the Delaware Office of Highway Safety, focusing on seat belt education, a cause in which Harraka passionately believes.

“I’m really grateful to the Delaware Office of Highway Safety and their ‘Buckle Up’ program,” Harraka said. “We really did a unique marketing package with them. It’s a relationship that we had that we were able to put together.”

“It’s so important to make a habit of buckling up,” Harraka continued. “You should just do it every time you get in a car because you don’t get that second chance.”

Harraka was not the only one pleased with the sponsorship deal.

“The Office of Highway Safety is thrilled to have a new partner in traffic safety with Paulie Harraka and TriStar Motorsports,” Alison Kirk, community relations officer for OHS, said. “We had a great weekend with Paulie and the team to bring seat belt safety education and outreach to fans at the Monster Mile. We appreciated the support that they gave us to share the Buckle Up message in the racing community.”

In addition to his sponsor, Harraka was also pleased to join the TriStar Motorsports team, one that is deep in veteran talent with drivers Mike Bliss and Jeff Green.

“We felt like there was a great platform here for me as a driver having a race team that has a lot of their own equipment, a beautiful race shop, and teammates that I can really lean on like Mike Bliss and Jeff Green, champions with multiple wins,” Harraka said. “We were joking around and saying that Mike Bliss probably has more laps run at Dover than I have in my whole racing career. So, to have those guys to lean on, we have a great bunch with the 44 crew and it all came together well.”

In addition to his teammates, Harraka has yet another tool in his belt that he utilized this past weekend at the Monster Mile and at all the tracks where he races.

“Ted Musgrave (2005 Truck Series Champion) comes with me to all that races that we do,” Harraka said. “Ted is a coach and a mentor to me. He’s great because he’s seen almost every scenario there is to see. He’s been there, he’s driven it himself, and he has a tremendous amount of knowledge about the race car as well.”

“He’s really good at helping us when I need to be doing something differently or when we need to adjust the cars. He can watch what the other cars are doing in a way that is different because he has been in those situations so many times. He helps with information and helps us work through optimizing our race car.”

Harraka admitted that he learned quite a few lessons from his novice run with TriStar Motorsports and the No. 44 team at the Monster Mile, the track that he considers his ‘home track’ as a Wayne, New Jersey native.

“The first time you work with a new team and a new crew chief you have to figure how you fit into that and how I can best enhance the race team,” Harraka said. “So, when my crew chief Greg Connor and I sit down, we’ll run through everything that happened this weekend and what we can do better as a race team and how we can improve our communication.”

“They know a little bit better now what I look for in a race car. I know a little bit more about what to expect from them. Obviously, being in a Nationwide car, you learn who you can be around, who you can expect to give you room and who not. All in all, it was a good day.”

So, what are the plans for the future for Harraka and do those plans involved the No. 44 car and team?

“We are working on a few different things to have me in the 44 this year,” Harraka continued. “So, it’s a step by step process and certainly the run we had yesterday was helpful to that.”

“Without a doubt, I’m excited to be back in the car,” Harraka said. “Racing is a bug that bit me when I was seven years old.”

“You work your butt off to have opportunities to drive race cars and you are grateful when you have them. And then you work your butt of to have more,” Harraka continued. “I’m really excited about the prospect of working with this race team, being with them more, and being in this 44 car again.”

Harraka summed his feelings up about being back in the race car with great passion and enthusiasm.

“It’s great to be back in a race car,” Harraka said. “It’s great to be back working with a race team and spending time in the shop with the guys.”

“It’s fun to work again on the challenges of optimizing your race car,” Harraka said. “I’m in my element.”

“And I’m working hard for more.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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