Dennis Prunty was up to the challenge Sunday, sweeping the super late model field for the final leg of the three-race Pepsi Challenge at Slinger Speedway. Edging out point leader Steve Apel for quick time, Prunty followed up by winning his heat race. Jeff Holtz and Chris Blawat were the other heat winners, Brady Bennett led the final four transferees from the semi and Tommy Hromadka used his one-time provisional to join the feature field. Prunty began the 60-lap main event behind Johnny DeAngelis, Austin Luedtke, Travis Dassow, Rob Braun, Dale Prunty and Apel.
DeAngelis was ahead on the first lap before Luedtke gained more ground in the outer lane the next time by. Five laps were complete when Apel spun, sending him and DeAngelis to the rear of the 19-car field. Luedtke chose the outer lane at the restart, slipping and recovering three laps later with second-place Braun spun in the aftermath. Again Luedtke picked the high side, and the pace picked up at the next green flag. The next caution flag flew on lap fifteen when Tim Lampman and Braison Bennett spun, and Luedtke again chose the outer lane. Dale Prunty was inside at the restart and gained enough to capture the lead the next time around. And then it began.
Dale Prunty’s car used a bit of both lanes with Luedtke trying to pass on either side to no avail. The flagman showed Prunty the sign to use one lane several times, but nothing changed. Just past the halfway mark Jeff Holtz slowed to a stop to regroup the field again. Dale Prunty again chose the inner groove with brother Dennis on the outside. Dennis Prunty prefers the outside and showed why by taking the lead on the next lap. Again Luedtke challenged Dale Prunty but was not given enough room to pass, his frustration ending with the pair crashing into the concrete wall. Both cars were out with major damage with twenty laps remaining. Lowell Bennett’s car stopped to avoid hitting them, and was allowed to keep his position. Dennis Prunty chose the outer lane with Bennett inside at the restart. Apel spun three laps later that resulted in him and Bennett restarting in the back of the pack.
Things settled down for the final thirteen cars, with Dennis Prunty completing a clean sweep and capturing the Pepsi Challenge title as well. The thirteen survivors received the checkered flag with Dassow , Braun, DeAngelis and Chris Blawat completing the top five. Capturing his third win of the season, Dennis Prunty closed in on point leader Apel with one race remaining. Prunty quipped that they needed the sponsor who used to provide a bonus for a clean sweep, stating, “When we ran the modified we got a thousand dollars for doing it.” Asked about getting past his brother Dale, Prunty replied, “He gave me a good clean line and that’s how we got there.” Prunty added, “We were sitting on the track and somebody yelled “Prunty go home.” Yeah, you can go home now.” Winning is the best revenge.
Ryan Gutknecht topped the Midwest Sportsman field in qualifying, followed by Jack Stern and Bill Prietzel winning the heats. The 35-lap feature invert placed Jimmie Evans and Brian Holtz in front of Jay Shambeau, Gutknecht, Prietzel and Cody Erdmann. Evans led one lap before Holtz took charge of the nonstop race. Gutknecht took his time passing cars and was the leader just before a dozen laps were complete, holding on the checkered flag. Increasing his point lead over Stern, Gutknecht was followed by Prietzel, Erdmann, Holtz and Kenny Joosten at the stripe.
Mike Deporter topped the Area Sportsman qualifiers and heat winners were Rich Wagner and Kody Hubred. The 30-lap feature began with Paul Wagner and Andy Welter in front of Hubred, Deporter, Kyle Chwala and Nick Egan. Paul Wagner led the first lap and spun the second time around, followed by Hubred getting the black flag and leaving the race. Deporter was the leader at the next caution for a spin with eleven circuits remaining. Chwala took the lead after the restart and was about to receive the white flag when Egan and Welter spun. Welter took the blame and went to the rear alone and the race finished with the green, white and checkered flags in quick succession.
Chwala claimed his eighth win of the season, and only needs to show up to earn the championship. Completing the top five were Depoerter, Egan, Brad Hetzel and Rich Wagner. Later the entire Chwala race team, including Hubred, gathered in front of the stage to have ice and water dumped on them as part of the popular Ice Bucket Challenge to benefit the ALS foundation. Changing into dry clothes afterwards, Chwala had to leave for work shortly after drying off. We’re pretty sure he had a smile on his face.
Steve Dickson returned to the Slinger Bees and set a new track record in qualifying. Kyle Sikora, Isaac Daniel and Nick Schmidt were the heat winners, and one wheel escaped during the second event. Jared Deming led the four transferees from the semi to the 25-lap feature. Tom Berens and Matt Rose began in front of Rick Schaefer, Jake Schraufnagel, Dale Kiley-Schaefer and Dickson. The race quickly concluded without incident, with Berens replaced by Schraufnagel on the fourth lap. Behind the leaders Dickson turned up the wick in the closing laps and got past Berens before the checkered flag. By that time Schraufnagel was too far ahead. Brandon Tackes and Kiley-Schaefer completed the top five with several lapped cars among the finishers.
The Figure 8 field had some near misses thrill the crowd with Joe Mueller posting another win. It was just before ten o’clock when the crowd flocked into the pits to meet their heroes. There are only two more races before the season ends, and the super late models crown their champion next Sunday.
(Editors Note: Fay Hendricks is a long-time racing columnist and periodically will share her racing stories on Speed 51.com)
Photo Credit: Fay Hendricks