Almost every race car driver says they race to win races. Winning championships might be a distant goal, but certainly an attainable one especially if you win enough races. Sunday afternoon at the Slinger Super Speedway was the culmination of both the season long points chase, as well as the three race Pepsi Challenge Series.
Dennis Prunty took advantage of restarting on the outside and held off Mike Egan to capture his seventh feature win of the season.
“We were looking for (win number) 7,” said Prunty. “Actually if we had won last week we weren’t going to race this week. We just want 7. We didn’t want 8 this year, we were just going to go with 7.”
Despite the wry sense of humor, Prunty seemed almost lucky to get that 7th win.
“I didn’t think we had it until that last caution came out,” Prunty said. “I think I might have caused the caution with that lapped car. Actually it was caused when his hood came up but it was a very interesting race. I love the outside some days and today was one of them.”
Brad Dahmer and Austin Luedtke led the field to the final green flag of 2010 with Dahmer getting the early advantage after Luedtke led the opening lap. His advantage would be temporarily slowed when the caution came out for the spin by Mike Gunderson on lap 4.
Dahmer would again get the jump on the restart and cleared Luedtke quickly. Mike Egan would also slip by Luedtke and set his sights on Dahmer.
Egan would make his move around Dahmer on the high side on lap 11. Just four laps later Dahmer’s good run was derailed when Luedtke bumped his way past Dahmer in turn two. Dahmer had to back out of the gas to keep from hitting the turn two wall, and this allowed Dennis Prunty and fast qualifier Conrad Morgan to get around. Dahmer was then caught on the high side and would be freight-trained back to tenth place.
Meanwhile, back up front, Egan began to pull away from the pack. Egan would stretch his lead to several car lengths. Scott Schoeni spun into the infield on lap 19, but the race stayed green. A lap later Prunty would go back to the outside and worked his way past Luedtke and into second place. Morgan would also get around Luedtke and, as he and Prunty began to reel in Egan.
By lap 38 Prunty caught Egan’s rear bumper. Prunty momentarily changed his tactics and dove to the inside and pulled alongside Egan. However, as the pair came upon the lapped car of Mike Gunderson, Egan was able to use him as a pick and clear Prunty to hold his lead.
Egan would continue to hold the advantage over Prunty, something that would pay dividends later.
The duo encountered heavy traffic, and both got through it flawlessly. That is until lap 54 when they came upon the lapped car of Tanner Berryhill. Egan got past Berryhill cleanly, but Berryhill washed up the track just in front of Prunty in turn three. Prunty nudged Berryhill just enough to cause Berryhill to loop it. The caution came out when the hood flew off of Berryhill’s car and landed in the racing groove.
Egan may have made a mistake by choosing the inside lane for the restart. Prunty would capitalize on that decision and move past Egan for the lead on lap 55. Lowell Bennett would make his presence felt by getting around Morgan, just before the engine on Morgan’s car began to sputter.
Prunty held a slight advantage as the leaders encountered lapped traffic once again. The yellow would fly again on lap 75 when Berryhill tried to payback Prunty for the previous yellow. AS Prunty went around Berryhill on the outside of turn three, Berryhill appeared to turn right into Prunty’s left rear in an attempt to spin him out. However, the move back fired as Prunty was able to save it and Berryhill was the one to spin out.
This set up a five lap shootout between Prunty and Egan, with Prunty electing to take the outside on the double file restart. When the green flag came back out, Prunty easily got around Egan and would pull away over the final laps to capture the victory.
“When tires get soft I push,” explained Prunty. “I know if I am on the inside you have to let off. On the outside it’s just you and the wall and you can do whatever you want. I rolled up right to the wall and it was fast.”
Egan reluctantly agreed with Prunty’s assessment.
“The car unfortunately got a little tight there at the end with the restarts,” explained Egan. “We didn’t need those restarts. Dennis always takes the outside. Actually, I should’ve taken the outside on the earlier restart and shoved him downstairs. I would have again if I had a chance. His car was just better than ours today. The deal is you’re always tight on the inside. You have to take some stagger out of the car to make it run in the high groove and he knows that. He’s just messing with everybody. You have to be able to run the high groove to get around people. You’re tight on the inside and when you go in the corner if you give it too much you just push up and hit the guy and we don’t want that happening.”
Prunty won the race battle, but by leading the most laps in this event, Egan captured the three race Pepsi Challenge Series championship.
“That’s pretty awesome,” exclaimed Egan. “I’ve never won a championship. I’ve been racing thirty years almost and this is the first championship I’ve won.”
Initially Prunty thought that with the win that he had captured the title.
“I thought I had it. I didn’t realize Egan led the most laps,” Prunty said. “I would have liked to have won of course but I like to win things and it pays pretty good, but second is ok too. We got second in everything this year.”
Not only did Prunty finish second in this title chase, he finished second in the overall track championship despite winning a season high seven features. Lowell Bennett captured his seventh Slinger track championship.
Bennett finished third in the race with Steve Apel and Randy Schuler rounding out the top five. The ageless wonder years young Jerry Eckhardt finished in sixth. It was the veteran’s best finish in a Super Late Model in several years. Eckhardt recently damaged his primary car and bought Mike Egan’s back up. A move that is apparently paying off.
Wayne Freimund picked up his second Late Model win of the season with a daring pass late in the event. Dave McCardle Jr. and Chris Blawat were battling side by side for a few laps. As the pair entered turn one, they both broke loose and allowed Freimund to close ground. When they got to turn three, both cars once again got loose and turned sideways in perfect synchronization. Freimund dove to the inside and got past both to take the lead. Coming to the checkers, Blawat nudged Freimund off turn two, but Freimund was able to save it and make it to the line first. Pat McIntee slipped past Blawat for second place. Dan Lensing finished in fourth, while new track champion Rob Braun rounded out the top five.
Mike Lange notched his third Mid-American Sportsman feature win by holding off Scott Shambeau. Lange got the lead when fast qualifier Andy Haver tried to go three wide and clipped the rear of Shambeau’s car. Shambeau was able to hold onto the car, but Lange secured the lead. A late race caution set up a brief shootout, but Lange got the jump on the restart. Coming to the checkers, Shambeau attempted a bon sai run into turn three, but Lange moved down thwarting the effort. Jay Shambeau snuck past Haver to take third. Brad Keith, subbing for the injured Jack Stern, finished fifth. James Swan, who clinched the track championship several weeks ago, watched from the infield as his car suffered damage in an earlier incident.
The Thunderstock division had the tightest points battle, and this one was going to come down to the final lap of the season to decide. Eric Lingford led Al Stippich by eight points heading into today’s race. Stippich not only took the fast qualifying time, he took over the points lead by one point. Whoever finished higher would take the title as well.
Nathan Fick got the jump at the drop of the green flag getting around Rick Schaefer. Despite the action up front, the focus was shifted to the two battling for the championship. Lingford started right in front of Stippich. However it was Stippich who got through traffic a bit better and got around Lingford early on. Stippich then got around his teammate and car owner, Ken Schraufnagel and had a brief cushion between him and Lingford.
Lingford was able to get around both Stippich and Schraugnagel on lap 7. A lap later, both title contenders avoided disaster as they went three wide in passing the car of Carl Benn. However, that brush with disaster was just a glimpse of the near disaster to come.
Lingford might have been a bit impatient in his efforts to stay in front of Stippich as he came up on the car of Rick Schaefer. Lingford bumped Schaefer in turn three causing Schaefer to spin out bringing out the yellow. Since track rules say the cars involved in causing the yellow are sent to the rear, Lingford was sent to the rear.
While that could have certainly ended his quest for the title, Lingford wasn’t about to give up.
On the restart he quickly moved his way back towards the front and soon found himself right back on Stippich’s bumper.
While the focus may have been on the points battle, John Daley was making his move towards the lead. Daley was able to get around Fick for the lead on lap 15. Meanwhile, Lingford and Stippich continued to battle each other as well as the other cars. Schraufnagel and Stippich were able to get around Fick, and now there was a car between Lingford and Stippich. Stippich used the car of Fick as a pick and was able to keep Lingford behind him at the checkers and claim the championship.
Daley picked up his fourth win of the season holding off Schraufnagel at the line. Stippich’s third place finish coupled with Lingford’s fifth place finish was enough to give Stippich a fifteen point victory for the championship. Nathan Fick was sandwiched between the two in fourth place.
Nick Wagner picked up his fifth win of the year in the 4 Cylinder Slinger Bees division with a dramatic last lap pass on David Prunty. Prunty, who is a two time Super Late Model track champion, led from the drop of the green flag and nearly led every lap. However, lapped traffic played a role, allowing Wagner to get by for the win. Prunty’s nephew, and new track champion Alex Prunty finished in third place, while Shane Westphal and Brandon Tackes rounded out the top five.
Darren Woolfeldt won the Speedway Guest Cars.
Luke Hilgendorf won the Spectator Eliminators.
Scott Goetzke punctuated his Figure 8 track championship by winning his sixth feature of the year. Shane “The Shark” Becker finished in second place, with Brandon Wolf in third. Justin Poenitsch finished in fourth place with Rick Bruskiewicz completing the top five.