LaJoie. Dillon. Blaney.
For these NASCAR personalities, it’s more than just a last name— it’s a legacy. It’s following in footsteps; it’s filling big shoes. It’s a pressure that Alex Prunty, a fellow third-generation driver, knows a little too well.
But last Sunday at Rockford Speedway (IL), Prunty didn’t just carry on his family’s legacy, he added to it for the second year in a row. The Lomira, Wisconsin native successfully defended his National Short Track Championships title, an accomplishment that has evaded the rest of the Prunty racing clan.
“Between me, my uncle Dennis and David we’ve won a lot of the big races,” Prunty told Speed51.com. “It’s the one race that nobody could seem to win from the family. So for me to breakthrough to do it, kind of set me apart from the family. It’s something that only I’ve done twice now and something we’re really proud of.”
“The car was just amazing,” Prunty said. “We didn’t change a thing the entire weekend from the first shakedown in practice Thursday. I was like, ‘ah, man, I might even go to work Friday’, because it was just that good. It’s a really neat deal to be able to unload a car that fast and not have to change a single thing. It’s a testament to how well we build cars as a family.”
Prunty went on to dominate the 200-lap feature in a similar fashion to his 2017 run at the 1/4-mile oval (taking over the lead early to avoid trouble), despite having an entirely different car setup from the year before.
It was a risky move, but one that Prunty believes is just part of being a driver.
“There’s one thing that’s always on a driver’s mind,” Prunty said. “It’s to get better, always improve. We found some stuff at Slinger this year and thought we improved our program there pretty well. We brought it down here to Rockford and it was really good. “
Prunty took home his first Super Late Model championship at Slinger International Speedway (WI) just several weeks earlier. It was the cherry on top of a season that, three years ago, the 25-year-old would have never thought possible.
“I was kind of at a dead end,” Prunty said of his earlier racing career. “I was having a lot of success in [Limited] Late Models and financially that was all I was able to do. My dad didn’t want me to be another one of those kids who just had their parents write a check. He made me learn to work on the cars, fix the cars and find a way to pay for those things.
“So when the Kulwiki Driver Development Program began, I instantly signed up for that and I actually had one of the board members come to me after I won my 2015 Late Model championship and tell me I could do better. I don’t want to say that I didn’t believe in myself, but I never pictured myself as a Super Late Model driver until the Kulwiki program got ahold of me.”
Prunty became the 2016 Kulwiki Driver Development Program winner, a milestone that helped poise him to compete with, and beat, some of the biggest Super Late Model talent in the Midwest.
“When you move up into the Super Late Model ranks, it’s hard to be fully confident because there’s so many good drivers,” Prunty said. “You get these guys behind you and it’s kind of a stay-out-of-their-way mentality. You don’t want to screw anything up for them. I think now we’re to the point where we’ve earned their respect. I can go out there and race with them and know that we’re not in the way; we’re competing for a win too and we can do it.”
-Melissa Strahley, Speed51.com Gulf Coast Editor
-Photo credit: Eric Huenefeld