In the empty parking lot of an abandoned building, a seven year old boy refused to let go of the steering wheel of the family fun kart. Turning lap after lap - literally running until his kart was out of fuel or a tire blew out - Paulie Harraka learned that his hands were made for the steering wheel.
"I love it so much that I wanted to race. I had no idea if I would be good or not, but I just wanted to race. So, we did," Harraka tells time and time again when asked how he got his start. "And, as fate would have it, we won. And with that, I was hooked."
Harraka would go on to win the New Jersey State Championship that year (1997), and again the following year.
Moving from the state to national level in 1999, Harraka didn't miss a beat. He won the 3rd race of the season en route to becoming a National Champion at only 9 years of age. The following year, 2000, Harraka continued his torrid pace, winning 4 National Championships, each in a different classification, as well as the Triple Crown and the Future Star Award. By the end of his karting career, Harraka amassed 13 National and 6 World Championships, including a stunning win at Daytona International Speedway in December 2004, where he became the World Karting Association's youngest ever Senior World Champion.
On an invitation from H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler, then President of Lowe's Motor Speedway, Harraka jumped from karts to Legends Cars - three quarter scale, high powered race cars. Harraka capitalized by winning his first ever race at the Lowe's Motor Speedway Summer Shootout.
The triumph at Lowe’s Motor Speedway paved the way for Harraka, who is of Syrian descent, to receive an invitation to the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine. He impressed team owner Bill McAnally there and the two paired up in 2007, winning NASCAR Rookie of the Year Honors on their way to a second place points finish. They continued their relationship into 2008, winning the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Championship with 11 race wins! Harraka and McAnally then moved to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, where they continued to rack up race wins and awards in 2009 and 2010.
Continuing to climb the ladder, Harraka has driven for multiple teams in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series over the last three years. In 2014, he is focused on continuing to compete at the NASCAR Nationwide Series level, moving closer to his goal of Sprint Cup Champion.