"Everywhere I go, the name follows me."
Few in the K&N Pro Series may know the name Robert Pawlowski. But almost everybody knows "Farmer Bob."
Pawlowski has only made three career K&N East starts, all coming at Watkins Glen International (from 2017-2019), and will make his oval debut this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Racing-Reference: Robert Pawlowski Career Statistics
Residing in Verona, New York, about one hour East of Oswego, Pawlowski works his day job as a farmer, amongst a plethora of other responsibilities that are thrust upon his plate.
"It’s my real job in life," Pawlowski told NASCAR.com of his nickname. "My full time job is farming 1,800 acres. It’s a real big load, try to go to the gym in the morning, work out, be in shape to drive the car, come back, run the farm, run a feed business, and a trucking business all in one. It’s a really busy thing."
Originally from Danbury, Connecticut, Pawlowski remembers watching 1985 NASCAR North Tour champion and two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Randy LaJoie get his feet wet at Danbury Speedway every Saturday night.
He had always had an interest in racing, but wound up waiting much longer than the average person to get behind the wheel.
After buying a 2009 Chevrolet Camaro at the ripe age of 43, Pawlowski’s father convinced him to take it for a spin at WGI on an open track day. He took his dad up on the offer, and was amazed at what he discovered.
He could drive. Fast. And well, at that.
"I came up the backdoor racing way. I didn’t grow up racing, never knew I had any driving ability," he said of his first time driving on a track. "Went down, did very good and everything happened from there. Started racing with the vintage group, got a couple stock cars in my barn, started racing those more and more and I could see we were making good quality time. I said ‘you know, we could be competitive out there,’ so I jumped in there."
Before then, he had made a name for himself designing snowmobile tracks for the National Series of Snowmobile Racing. He still does from time to time, most notably in Duluth, Minnesota and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, getting out to a handful of races in the summer.
"I built my own track," he said. "I was kind of the originally guy, ‘if you build it, they will come.’ I was watching a legendary motocross guy, Doug Henry, who grew up racing snowmobiles and then I got into building my own track, making my own snow and I built it for 10 years. I’ve raced snowmobiles for five years and then got out of that and got into racing cars."
In 2017, he rented a car from Dale Quarterley for his first start, and has been working with land speed record breaker Aaron Brown, out of his Denver, North Carolina shop since 2018 for his limited K&N schedule with what’s known as Robert Pawlowski Racing.
"Besides being my crew chief, he’s been doing the land speed record stuff with his NASCAR car," Pawlowski said of Brown. "Right after the race at Loudon, he’s packing up and going out to Arkansas to the mile because they didn’t have much luck in Utah. Everybody’s busy in our stable, that’s for sure."
While most drivers start racing in elementary school and are in the K&N series by their teenage years, Pawlowski is a stark contrast of what has become the norm. He first got behind the wheel at age 43, and is still going at it 10 years later.
"It started slow, got into it more and more," Pawlowski said. "I’ve been working a lot-it’s a lot of work to get to the race track for me and we’ve been doing a lot of traveling […] the hours we work to make things work.
The only other track Pawlowski has raced on is a big one: Indianapolis Motor Speedway. While there to race on the infield road course, the track allowed him to have a 30-minute test session on the 2.5-mile oval.
Earlier this summer, Pawlowski, Brown and company went to Motor Mile Speedway and tested in preparation for NHMS. Brown was impressed with Farmer Bob’s speed, especially given their tire deficit while testing.
"It’ll be a lot of fun to get out there and mix it up with the guys and if we get the car dialed in, I think well do alright," he said. "This’ll be a good experience for us. Our goal is to go there, have a good run, come out of there in one piece and we’re going to start scheduling ourselves to go down to New Smyrna for the first week (next season). Hopefully we can go out and be competitive, that’s my goal."
Pawlowski has always been a NASCAR fan, and when the opportunity provided itself to go racing and help the series out, he didn’t think twice about it.
"The series needs cars, and there are so many young guys doing it," he said. "It’s definitely a different series than it was years ago as the Busch North when you had a lot of older guys driving. But now it’s a younger guys series. I don’t play video games all day long. My video games are real with with farmer tractors. That’s my video game all day. Aaron and I are going to go down there and try to make something happen."
Pawlowski is realistic and knows a win isn’t likely. But given his past, late start and unique story of how he got into racing, he couldn’t help but chuckle when reflecting on his journey.
"Who knew back then that I’d be jumping into something like this today?"
The Apple Barrel 125 is scheduled to go green on Saturday, September 21 at 1:20 p.m. EST.