Sunday featured fireworks, fast cars and fun at Slinger Speedway. The prelude to the July 4 weekend provided something for everyone as a hint of drizzle in the air evaporated in the afternoon sun. This begins the middle of the season when teams are beginning to feel the burden of weekly racing while vying for valuable championship points.
Steve Apel topped the timing chart in qualifying in the super late model field before rolling the die to start the 75-lap feature back in the fifth row. Rob Braun had mechanical problems sideline his car, so he transferred to his spare mount normally driven by James Swan. Dennis Prunty also went to his other car when problems were found in the one he planned to use. Braun and Prunty won their heats along with Lowell Bennett, and Josh Wallace headed the four transferees from the semi. Bennett and Dale Prunty shared the front row at feature time, followed by Dave McCardle, Ryan DeStefano, Mike Egan and Nick Wagner. Bennett was barely ahead of Dale Prunty at the next green flag, but Prunty gained the advantage in the outer groove.
Jerry Eckhardt used his one-time provisional to join the feature field, perhaps regretting his decision when a car spun in front of him and he couldn’t avoid running into it. Pitting for repairs, Eckhardt returned in time for the restart. The next lap ended when smoke erupted from the Johnny DeAngelis car and others spun in the expensive fluids on the track. Prunty chose the outer lane again, his favorite line paying off by edging Bennett again. As the contest sped along it became obvious the two to watch were Apel and Dennis Prunty, who were climbing their way to the front. The fast pace was slowed again with 40 laps remaining when a car stopped on the track. Prunty again chose the outer groove, finding older brother Dennis Prunty inside him. Both prefer the outside, and the younger brother prevailed.
Dale Prunty left his brother to battle with Apel as he began lapping the field, crossing the finish line ahead of Dennis Prunty, Apel, Brad Keith and DeStefano. The winner got a laugh when claiming, “If you’re going to start on the pole and lose, that sucks,” quipping that he borrowed the shocks from his brother’s shop earlier this week. Prunty added, “Those guys were racing hard behind me,” adding thanks to his sponsors, crew and family. This may have been an anniversary present for himself, but Dale Prunty will still have to get something for his wife.
It was nephew Alex Prunty who took quick time in the limited late model field, rolling the die to place his car in the fifth row at feature time. Jake Vanoskey, Dan Jung and Al Stippich posted heat wins and 13-year old Grant Griesbach led the final four from the semi. The 40-lap feature began with Corey Funk and Jack Stern in front of Steven Schulz, Brian Holtz, Joe Bongiorno and Jordon DeVoy. Funk was passed by Schulz on the fourth lap and the pack was left behind. Funk’s car spun with nine laps remaining, and Schulz resumed the point. Behind him was a fierce contest as Mike Held charged his way up from the fifth row to the front.
Pushing his car into an opening, Held took the lead with two laps remaining, closely followed by Schuz, Holtz, Bongiorno and Prunty at the checkered flag. Held wasn’t even sure he would make it to the track after waking up sick, but gulping fluids helped calm his stomach afterwards. Telling the crowd that he was talked into coming to Slinger, Held was happy he did. Talking about the race, Held said, “They wanted to stay on the bottom. It’s hard on the outside. When you see an opening you’ve got to be patient and wait for it. It was a really good battle.”
Nick Egan topped the Area Sportsman qualifying and Andy Welter won the heat race. The 30-lap feature started with Josh Ferhrmann and newcomer Rick Coppernoll in front of Adam Bleskan, Scott Hoeft, Paul Wagner and Joe Shelby. Coppernoll took the point after the green flag with Shelby getting past on the fourth orbit. Egan picked his way through the field from the back to take charge after a dozen circuits, leaving the rest behind. Egan’s advantage evaporated with six laps remaining when Shelby and Welter had an altercation while vying for second place. The restart ended in another caution after Coppernoll spun and Hoeft made contact. The race ended peacefully as Egan posted his third win of the season, followed by Bleskan, Welter, Wagner and Shelby. It may not have been that peaceful in the pits, however, during post-race discussions.
Brandon Tackes topped the Slinger Bees in qualifying, with heat race wins going to Dave Lembki, Brandon Berens and Nich Schmidt. Paul Reagles led the final four from the semi, joining the back of the field for the 25-lap feature. Steve Zoromski, E. J. Waldron, Jakob Hassler, Nick Schmidt, Matt Rose and Tom Berens made up the first three rows as the green flag waved. Zoromski took the point until Waldron’s powerless car forced the caution on the third lap. The restart provided the chance Berens needed, finding his way to the front the next time around to post another win. Berens had Schmidt in close pursuit at the end, leaving a trail of lapped cars before Tackes, Heather Stark and Jake Schraufnagel. Berens joyfully took his checkered flag on a reverse victory lap.
The fireworks display was enjoyed by young and old, and the evening ended with another crowd pleaser when the Figure 8 race provided a few close calls. Willy Van Camp claimed the final win of the night and the program concluded before 10:30. Kids dragged their parents to the pits to meet their heroes, getting autographs and candy in the ensuing hours.
-Story and Photo by Fay Hendricks