Slinger Speedway celebrated the arrival of summer by dumping thousands of pennies on the track for kids to gather, but no child labor laws were broken. Parents watched in amazement as the youngsters picked the pavement clean in minutes, wondering why they cannot do this at home. The limited late models had the night off and both sportsman divisions competed instead. What followed made history.
Dennis Prunty was missing when the super late models qualified, driving his other car to good finishes at Road America’s winding road course that afternoon. He arrived by race time and used his one-time provisional feature berth starting in the back. Ryan DeStefano posted the quickest lap, matched by Lowell Bennett until defending champion Steve Apel lowered the mark in qualifying. Heats were won by Dale Prunty, Conrad Morgan and Bennett, with son Braison Bennett leading the four transferees from the 30-lap semi. Apel rolled the die to set himself in the ninth position for the feature. Rich Loch and Mike Egan shared the front row, followed by Nick Wagner, Brad Keith, Johnny DeAngelis and Austin Luedtke.
The 60-lap feature field roared to life at the green flag with Loch ahead on the opening lap and Egan leading the next time around. A dozen circuits were complete when a spun car regrouped the field. Choosing their lanes, some drivers found their choices pay off at the restart. Keith edged ahead of Egan at the restart, but Egan forged ahead to regain the point shortly after two dozen laps were complete. Apel found the opening he wanted as crossed flags marked the halfway point, leaving the rest to battle for their own positions. The most noticeable was the new black machine of Dennis Prunty threading his way from the back to the front as the laps wound down. Prunty had moved into second place as the white flag was in the air.
Everything changed when Loch’s car stopped in the corner to force a green, white and checkered flag finish. Lane choice was crucial, and Apel picked the outside to thwart Prunty’s favored groove. That may have made all the difference, with Apel roaring ahead of Prunty at the final restart. They were followed by Luedtke, Egan and Morgan at race’s end. Apel was asked about his lane choice, stating, “I thought for sure he (Prunty) would catch me. I picked the outside.” Followed by a swarm of children hoping for Apel’s trophy, the winner brought one onto the stage, claiming, “I told this kid a week ago I’d give him the trophy.” Prunty was heard to say, “He knows I like the outside,” but could be proud of his two top performances at two tracks Sunday.
The Midwest Sportsman field began with Ryan Gutknecht posting quick time, followed by Brian Holtz and Eric Lingford winning the heats. Gutknecht was relegated to the fourth row at feature time, following Scott Shambeau, Chris Storey, Lingford, Jack Stern, Bill Prietzel and Jay Shambeau. The field rolled to the green flag in double file, Scott Shambeau leading the way. The 35-lap contest gave no breaks to the field as the pack remained side by side for most of the race. Prietzel found an opening and got past Shambeau to lead the final twenty circuits. The nonstop race ended with Prietzel, Shambeau and Gutknecht crossing the stripe ahead of Stern and Holtz. There was no time to savor the victory, for Prietzel had to quickly climb into the Kenny Richards mount for the Area Sportsman feature next up.
The Area Sportsman class found Kyle Chwala posting the fastest lap in qualifying, John Daley and Mark Deporter the heat winners. Rich Wagner, Brad Hetzel, Nick Egan, Joe Shelby, Prietzel and Deporter began ahead of Chwala at the beginning of the 30-lap feature. Hetzel took the lead with the tightly-packed field following. The nonstop contest roared around the oval with the top four cars in a cluster ahead of the rest, beginning to lap the back markers early. Prietzel moved up to challenge for the lead, finally getting past Hetzel as the race reached the halfway mark.
As the laps wound down Deporter and Chwala were also able to clear their way to the front, getting past Hetzel before the checkered flag ended the race. Prietzel climbed out of his car with glee, his wife and daughter joining him in victory. After being told he was the only person to win two divisions since Al Schill did the double decades ago, Prietzel said, “That is cool”, adding, “My wife and daughter are here,” and brought them to the stage to share his moment. Jan Prietzel is usually the only crew for her husband, with daughter Jennie a bonus Sunday. Rounding out the top five was second-generation racer Egan.
Ryan Lovald joined the double-duty racers by joining the Slinger Bees in his Figure 8 car. Brandon Tackes posted quick time in the Bees and heats were won by Rick Schaefer, Paul Reagles and Carl Benn. Schaefer also won the semi, leading the four transferees as the checkered flag waved. Earlier Jared Deming’s wheel rolled off and careened into the pit opening, where it bounced off the rear of Tommy Hromadka’s super late model. The 25-lap feature began with father Marty Tackes and T. J. Graczkowski sharing the front row. Dale Kiley-Schaefer, Brandon Berens, defending champion Nick Schmidt and Carl Benn followed ahead of Steve Dickson and son Brandon Tackes. Marty Tackes led the way past the first-lap caution for an incident, and Schmidt took the point on the third lap.
There were no more slowdowns as the Bees buzzed around Slinger’s high banks, the swarm only opening a few opportunities to pass as the laps ticked along. With ten laps remaining Dickson forged ahead of Schmidt, who stayed on Dickson’s rear bumper to the finish line. Several cars were lapped before the end and Isaac Daniel lost a wheel as the rest crossed the final stripe. The top duo was closely followed by Benn, Schraufnagel and Brandon Tackes. There was no time to bask in the win, for the infield was being cleared for the night’s finale.
The Figure 8 field had a few close calls and one red flag for a car stopped in the race lane. Scott Goetzke was the final winner of the show, and before 9:30 fans flocked into the pits to visit their heroes. There is one more week of racing before July, with fireworks marking the end of June next week.
(Editors Note: Fay Hendricks is a long-time racing columnist and periodically will share her racing stories on Speed 51.) Photo Credit: Fay Hendricks.