You can’t cancel the races unless it actually rains. Sunday was a perfect example of this as Slinger Speedway hosted the second round of the Pepsi Challenge for the super late models. The race program was sped up and the drivers obliged by completing three of the five features without a caution. Despite lightning in the clouds surrounding the track, no rain ever landed at Slinger. The Miss Slinger contest took center stage during intermission, with Paid Decker joining the bikini-clad contestants in her race suit. Actually, Decker has moved to North Carolina as part of a driver diversity program, so would not be able to serve if she won.
The super late models began with Rob Braun switching to his secondary mount Sunday, and the Decker team finding equipment problems after qualifying. The John DeAngelis crew found a broken rocker arm during practice and thrashed to make repairs by the end of qualifying. Later things looked much better as DeAngelis joined Ryan Farrell and Mike Egan as heat winners. Austin Luedtke topped the field in time and rolled the die to set the feature invert at ten cars. This placed six-time champion Conrad Morgan and Nick Wagner in front of seven-time champion Lowell Bennett, Ryan DeStefano, Egan and Dale Prunty, who celebrated the Fourth of July by getting married. Behind them were Dennis Prunty, Tim Lampman and Luedtke.
The 60-lap contest began with Morgan ahead until Bennett found footing in the outer lane to get past. Curt Tillman spun and Decker couldn’t avoid hitting his car, eliminating both before ten laps were complete. The field regrouped and Bennett chose the outer lane for the next start. Bennett’s car veered widely and then retired as Dennis Prunty led the stream of hard chargers. Racing two abreast, it took time for the field to break up as the laps ticked by at the rate of five laps a minute. Shortly after the halfway mark the pack caught up to the back markers and threaded their way through. Suddenly Braun’s car went straight to the wall with fifteen laps remaining. He climbed out okay, but his car was not.
Prunty chose the outer lane for the final restart and kept ahead of Luedtke for the final fifteen circuits. Defending champion Steve Apel was finally able to clear heavy traffic, moving up from his fifth row start on a mission to the front. The race ended with Prunty putting a lapped car between him and Luedtke just as Apel got past Morgan and Dale Prunty rounded out the top five. “It feels good not to have a flat tire,” remarked Prunty after being shut out of victory lane earlier this year. “It’s good to get back to win,” added Prunty, adding that he had just gotten his engine back in the car. The win was in Prunty’s own number 22 car, and the number 42 mount is owned by former racer Pete Wiedmeyer. Asked about using the outer lane, Prunty replied, “The outside is not always good here, but I knew the outside was the only way to go.
The area sportsman field was skimpy Sunday, and Ken Schraufnagel ruined Kyle Chwala’s clean sweep by winning the heat race. With Chwala posting quick time, he was relegated to the third row for the 20-lap feature. Rich Wagner and Schraufnagel made up the front row, taking turns leading the opening laps in the nonstop event. Chwala passed them both on the fifth orbit and notched another win in his second season at Slinger. Schraufnagel stayed right behind to the end, with Joe Shelby, Wagner and last week’s winner Nick Egan rounding out the top five.
The limited late models were visited by Jon Reynolds Jr. for the first time this year and posted fast time. This was a test run for the former champion before returning next week for the Big 8 Late Model contest. Adam Peschek’s debut in this division ended badly when crashing hard into the wall. Peschek had been competing in the area sportsman field and a dirt track modified elsewhere this year. Tyler Schley and Jack Stern won their heat races and the 40-lap feature began with a seven-car invert. Jack Stern and Mike Held started in front of Al Stippich, Kevin Knuese, Danny Church and Alex Prunty. The green flag was followed by Stern leading the pack until Church got past on the tenth lap.
Behind Church the pack remained two abreast until late in the contest, speeding to conclusion without delay. Prunty and Reynolds finally found openings to get to the front, but Church had already established a lengthy lead by then. The pair ran out of laps as the race concluded, with lapped cars separating the top three from Stippich and Held at the end. While having his photos taken in victory lane, Church discovered his tire had gone flat and was towed to the pits.
Brandon Tackes posted the quickest time in the Slinger Bees before heats were won by Allen Maher, Zach Braun and defending champion Nick Schmidt. Teen Jared Deming headed the four transferees from the semi and the 25-lap feature field was set. Brandon Berens shared the front row with Heather Stark, with Schmidt, T. J. Graczkowski, Dale Kiley-Schaefer and Carl Benn following. Berens led the first lap and Schmidt took charge from that point to the end. The second circuit saw the sole caution flag when Steve Dickson’s car looped around while trying to get to the front. Dickson had to begin at the back of the pack as the rest of the race sped to conclusion. Schmidt began lapping the slower cars with Kiley-Schaefer and Schraufnagel following. Dickson was the car to watch, threading his way past Tackes for fourth place as the checkered flag ended his progress.
The American Super Cup cars paid another visit, with Andy Forster posting quick time and 15-year old Derek Doerr winning the heat. The 20-lap feature began with Greg Davis and Erle Hoth in front of Mick Ellis, Brian Baldyga and Forster. Hoth took the point at the green flag and never relented as the race quickly concluded. Behind him were Baldyga, Ken Jones, Forster and Doerr.
Spectator eliminations followed, but one car left a huge puddle after winning his segment and had to be towed. The Figure 8 field quickly followed with several near calamities, but no crashes. Six-time champion Scott Goetzke was the final race winner just past 9:30 Sunday. A successful night of racing was in the record books with time to spare. Over an hour later the pits were still dry, but miles away we were met by wet roads. Sometimes things just work in your favor.
(Editors Note: Fay Hendricks is a long-time racing columnist and periodically will share her racing stories on Speed 51.) Photo Credit: Fay Hendricks.