Justin Pawlak takes on Formula Drift in an 800-horsepower Roush Stage 3
By Steve Turner
Blasting out of the gate, the Aluminator engine revs rapidly as boost from the TVS supercharger sends over 800 horsepower to the rear wheels of a satin-black Roush Mustang. Its pilot works the hand brake and throws the wheel to start the drift toward the course’s first clipping point. The judges are watching and his competition is following, but Justin Pawlak is in his element as he navigates the course.
“It feels awesome!” Justin enthused. “I mean what else can explain it… It’s basically taking a 9-second drag car and being able to kick it sideways!”
Kicking it slideways in pursuit of that ultimate run is just the angle he’s been playing for the last 10 years when Justin discovered an affinity for the tire-smoking automotive ballet that is drifting.
“I have been modifying cars since I was around 15. I graduated from Universal Technical Institute and pursued a career in the automotive industry working at AEM from 2003-2005, moving on to pursue my driving career from then on,” Justin said. “I have owned my SoCal performance shop, Hot Line Performance, for the past five years where I have built both pro-level drift cars and SEMA show cars.”
Justin came onto the radar of Ford fans in 2010 when he joined the Falken factory drift team and competed alongside another prominent Mustang drifter named Vaughn Gittin Jr. Seeing this duo sliding their S197 Mustang around the Formula D circuit definitely opened up drifting to fans of domestic performance, and it was a pivotal point in Justin’s career.
“Showing up and driving has definitely been a blessing for the past five years. I feel very fortunate to have been a Teal and Blue factory Falken driver as it was a dream of mine from the beginning. Driving for Falken definitely changed my life and I’m forever grateful to Andrew, Nick and Jonathon from Falken for giving me that opportunity and for believing in me,” Justin said. “I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without those three guys! As for running and owning my own program, I’m excited about the next stage in my career and the opportunities I have. It’s definitely a lot more work, but at the end of the day I feel like it’s where I need to be now. I like the attachment I have to the car and program and I feel like the crew I have now is a real solid fit for the direction of my team!”
That new team includes a new ride, a new powerplant, and a new set of sponsors, including the likes of Car Crafters, Ford Performance, Roush Performance, and Weld Wheels. The latter has definitely come in handy thanks to some wild rides that Justin’s been on early in the season, including this intense collision at Round 2 in Atlanta, Georgia…
“It was definitely a crazy feeling staring at the pavement for that split second. It’s definitely something I would like to avoid in the future,” Justin confessed. “Weld Racing has been awesome this year with both their support and the equipment that they provide. The wheels are much lighter than what I’ve run in the past, which frees up power that I can actually feel!”
Speaking of power, the heart of Justin’s Roush Stage 3 Mustang drifter is a combination that isn’t that far removed from what you would run in your street car. The engine is one of Ford Performance Racing Parts’ Aluminator crate engines. Built for boost, this 9.5:1-compression 5.0-liter is topped by one of the FPRP/Roush Performance 2.3-liter TVS superchargers enhanced by one of VMP Tuning’s eight-rib belt drive conversions. The combo has proven durable, but you never know what can happen on the course, so Justin keeps a spare in the trailer that’s complete from blower to Exedy clutch.
“Pretty much everything is new about the program this year: new chassis, new engine, new drivetrain, new wheels, new suspension and, most of all, new crew. I’m excited about all the changes that have happened. My crew is extremely supportive and I feel like they have a positive attitude at the track, which keeps me in the right mind while I’m driving,” he added. “The new car works extremely well with just the little bit of testing that we’ve had with it. Although we haven’t had the finishes that we’ve hoped for so far, I feel confident in what we’re bringing to each event and I feel like success is right around the corner.”
We definitely picked up on that vibe from Justin’s camp after an altercation in practice led to a broken Panhard bar at Round 3 in Orlando, Florida. The broken bar caused the body to ride on the tire and peel it off the rim in competition. Losing a tire cost him points in the first run and the busted bar made it tough to make up any ground on the second run. Despite dropping out in the first round, Justin and his team were positive about the future.
“We have some big plans for next season which will include some big news that we’ll be announcing soon,” Justin teased. “So stay tuned!”
The Mod List
Block: 2014 Ford Coyote aluminum
Crankshaft: Forged steel
Rods: Manley H-beam connecting rods w/ ARP 2000 bolts
Pistons: Mahle hard-anodized forged pistons w/ Graphal low-friction coating
Cylinder Heads: Four-Valve aluminum w/ Boss 302 valve springs
Intake: Roush Performance intercooled lower
Power Adder: Ford Performance/Roush Performance 2.3-liter TVS supercharger w/ VMP Tuning eight-rib drive
Fuel System: Donkey Power Injection 1,250cc injectors w/ Radium Engineering fuel rails, Radium Engineering fuel pressure regulator, and Radium Engineering Fuel Cell Surge Tank
Exhaust: 1 7/8-inch stainless steel headers
Transmission: Andrews Products A431 dog box four-speed manual w/ Exedy twin-disc clutch and Driveshaft Shop carbon fiber driveshaft
Rearend: Winters Performance Quick Change w/ a spool and 4.10 gears
Engine Management: Motec M800 tuned by Eric Rhee at Westech
A-arms: Car Crafters w/ modified steering knuckles
Struts: KW Suspension coil-overs
Springs: KW Suspension
Wheels: 18×9-inch Weld Racing RT-S S77B
Tires: 255/40-18 Falken Azenis 615K
Shocks: KW Suspension coil-overs
Springs: KW Suspension
Control Arms: Car Crafters upper and lower
Wheels: 18×10.5-inch Weld Racing RT-S S77B
Tires: 295/40-18 Falken Azenis 615K
Justin Pawlak Black Stallion Gallery