SAK puts pictures of missing children on race car

Saturday, August 18th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (AP) _ The way Don Sak measures victories nowadays has little to do with the checkered flags on the Trans-Am Series.

The driver/owner has begun putting pictures of missing children on the hood of his Valvoline/Don Sak Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro.

He started the effort at the Detroit Grand Prix in June, and a missing 7-year-old girl pictured on his car was found in Mexico and returned to her father in Traverse City, Mich., last month.

Tori Lynn Wollangur's picture and other publicity helped lead to the girl's return, Cheboygan County Sheriff Dale Clarmont said.

``That was our first victory,'' Sak said. ``And only one so far.''

In cooperation with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Sak is changing the photos to show a local missing child on every stop of the series.

At the Motorola 220 at Road America this weekend, he displayed a large decal of 5-year-old Shawna Nowaczyk of Eagle, Wis., who's been missing since October and is believed to be with her noncustodial mother in Los Angeles or Guatemala.

Police and family members set up an information booth at Road America, and Sak's Camaro bearing Shawna's photo was seen by thousands of spectators and will be seen by a TV audience next Saturday, when the race is shown on The Speedvision Network.

``I like it, I appreciate it,'' said Joseph Nowaczyk, Shawna's father.

What compelled Sak and Valvoline to give up the most prime sponsorship positioning on the race car to help find abducted children?

``I've got three grandchildren and I thought if one of them ever came up missing, I'd give up racing to find them. I'd give up everything, I'd give up my job,'' said Sak, 51. ``It's heart wrenching to talk to people whose kids have been taken from them.''

Last month, NASCAR's Melling Racing put a bumper sticker with a picture of missing Washington intern Chandra Levy on the back of Stacy Compton's car for the Pepsi 400.

``Not to take anything away from that, but that's a hot media item,'' Sak said. ``What we're doing is not hot in the media. So, we have to get this exposure.''

Sak wants more drivers to follow his lead and hopes it can become a major cause like the old milk carton pictures of missing children in the 1980s.

``I hope it becomes as big and I hope it doesn't have to happen,'' Sak said. ``There shouldn't be missing children. But there are.''