CONCORD, N.C. — Heading into last weekend, current 2016 Kulwicki Driver Development Program (KDDP) national points leader Alex Prunty had experienced plenty of near misses this season. Finishing second four times this year — including seeing a couple of wins slip away in the closing laps — Prunty was as hungry as ever. What the promising young Lomira, Wisconsin driver was able to accomplish in a two-day period was quite amazing.
Not only did the 23-year-old Prunty claim his first career super late model victory on Saturday night at the one-third-mile Dells Raceway Park, he backed it up by taking the SLM win at the quarter-mile Slinger Speedway on Sunday night.
“It still hasn’t sunk in yet; I think I’m dreaming,” Prunty said on Tuesday morning. “Yes, I felt like we had been so close to victory that I could almost taste it, but I never would have believed I’d be able to pick up my first two super late models wins on the same weekend at two different tracks.”
In his first full season racing the lightning-fast supers, Prunty has established himself as one of the top runners at both the Dells and Slinger, challenging for quick times, heat wins and feature wins every week. Something, though, always seemed to get in the way of scoring a win: an ill-timed caution, worn tires or wrecks not of his own making. Prunty finally had a little bit of luck on his side last Saturday night at the Dells as the two leaders came together about 20 laps from the finish, putting him in the lead for good.
“We qualified well, made the fast dash and while racing for the lead, nearly crashed,” said Prunty, who prevailed over veterans like former NASCAR Xfinity driver Tim Schendel, Skylar Holzhausen and Bobby Kendall for the Dells feature win. “Even after some contact in the feature and getting sent to the back, the car was so good that we were able to be in the right place at the right time. It felt so good to finally get the breakthrough win.”
After making the two-plus-hour drive back to his shop in Lomira, Prunty and his team switched the car over for Slinger. He headed to the go-kart track on Sunday morning to support the drivers that race his Alan Kulwicki Memorial go-kart. The wins kept coming as both drivers (12-year old Collin and 14-year old Luke) found Victory Lane. Perhaps that was an omen for what was in store on Sunday night.
While Prunty needed some luck to win on Saturday night at the Dells, he was the man to beat on Sunday night at Slinger.
“We were very good in practice, but I didn’t scuff in the tires well enough for qualifying,” said Prunty. “We had to start pretty far back in the heat race. We went from sixth to first in less than 10 laps and picked up the win. After that, I knew we had a pretty good shot to get to Victory Lane.” In the feature, Prunty started on the outside of the front row, took the lead on the fourth lap and drove away from the field. He won his initial Slinger race by nearly a straightaway over three-time track champion and 2015 Kulwicki Cup runner-up Steve Apel.
“I can’t believe how far we have come since the beginning of the year,” said Prunty, the 2015 Slinger Speedway limited late model series champion. “Slinger is so tough mentally and physically that it’s just hard to get used to the pace you have to run. Once I slowed down mentally and just relaxed, the results have come our way.” With three points races remaining, Prunty is third in the standings, trailing leader Apel by 103 points, but only a scant six points behind second-place Chris Blawat.
Winning is not just a tradition in the Prunty family; it’s a requirement. “Growing up in this family, where all my uncles — Dale, David, and Dennis — were all big-time super late model winners, I always felt like the limited late model guy,” said the youngest Prunty racer. “Honestly, I started to doubt myself, despite our success. But, after making the top-14 in the 2015 KDDP and getting the encouragement they gave us all last year, we were ready to make the leap. Now a year later, we are as confident as ever.”
As the 2016 KDDP competition begins to wind down, Prunty is in prime position to pick up the $54,439 check as this year’s Kulwicki Cup champion. “As Alan said, ‘If you don’t believe, you don’t belong,’ and we definitely believe in our team and are proving that we belong,” said Prunty. “The KDDP competition is so tough. They’re all such great guys and they all work hard on and off the track. It’s going to be quite a battle coming down the stretch, but we are ready for it.”
Prunty will be back on track this Sunday for “Fan Appreciation Night” at Slinger Speedway. Qualifying begins at 5:00 p.m. CDT, with five divisions of racing starting at 6:30 p.m. Admission prices are $14 for adults, $8 for seniors and students 12-17, $2 for kids 6-11 and children 5 & under are admitted free. The concession stands will offer $1 hot dogs and draft beers from 5:30 p.m. till 6:30 p.m.
The KDDP urges you to keep up with all of the organization’s news and activities by regularly visiting Speed51.com, the official media partner. Speed51.com is active on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/speed51/ and you can follow them on Twitter at @speed51dotcom.
-Kulwicki Driver Development Program Press Release
-Photo Credit: Alex Prunty Facebook