Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Wisconsin Asphalt Racing News Article

Dennis Prunty And West Bend Dyno Tuning Team Up For Optima Challenge

Written By: Gregg Paul
Photos By: Emily Heisler

2012 was a breakthrough season for Dennis Prunty. He won not just one, but two track championships in a Super Late Model. One at the Slinger Super Speedway, and one in the TUNDRA series at Dells Raceway Park. In recent years, Prunty has been expanding his repertoire by racing at multiple race tracks around Wisconsin, as well as making numerous attempts at the Snowball Derby in Florida.

For the 2013 racing season, Prunty is embarking on a new and unique racing challenge, one that is completely different from the world of oval racing in his Super Late Model. Prunty will be teaming up with West Bend Dyno Tuning to drive a 1981 Pontiac Trans Am in the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational at Road America on June 23rd.

According to Brad Riekkoff from West Bend Dyno Tuning, the Optima events are a unique style of racing.

“The car has to be street legal and they do a street stock challenge,” said Riekkoff. “Basically you are running down a line of cones, spinning around the end of the cones, then slaloming back through on the way back. Then you have to stop within a contained area that’s coned off. Then the next step would be the autocross, which is basically running a go-kart track with the car, and then the full out road course. At the end of the season you can win and get invited to the finals, which is in Las Vegas along with the SEMA show. This is the one we really want to contend in, so Dennis is going to run that one on June 22nd-23rd and that is in conjunction with our open house.”

It is quite a departure from what Prunty normally has done in racing, yet it is something that he is looking forward to doing.

“Brad asked me last April if I would do this for last year,” said Prunty. “I was just getting so busy and we really didn’t have the car ready. With me leading the points at the race track it was hard to take off, but I said I would do it this year. I am still going to be doing some circle track stuff. I haven’t committed to a whole lot but I did commit to Madison’s four races because they don’t conflict with this. I was talking to Todd Thelen with Slinger Speedway and there are some good things happening there, and I hope to be there often but I don’t know how often. I will not be there for the whole season because this is something I am really looking forward to. It’s a great opportunity. If we’re good, Speed TV is supposed to be here and cover the whole event.”

When you consider how much of a radical departure this is from what Prunty is used to driving, one has to ask just how this idea all came about.

“A lot of the cars that we work on and a couple of customers are involved in this,” said Riekkoff. “One of the customers that we work on his car is actually part of the marketing for that so we’d seen some of the cars we had worked on. Then we were asked if we could have part of the event held at our shop and that is kind of how it started to get the ball rolling.”

In his typical amusing style, Dennis Prunty had an amusing take on the way it happened.

“Brad wants me to beat a lot of people so they come to West Bend Dyno and spend some money,” said Prunty. “That’s the whole idea.”

Money is always the key factor if not exactly an incentive, but there are prizes to be had for competing well.

“In the wheel to wheel stuff that we want to get into, you can win money,” said Riekkoff. “This type of stuff every year they have something different. They have different type of awards, whether it’s going to be money, or a trip, or it’s going to be batteries, they have different stuff all the time.”

Dennis chimed in with another example of why they are racing this event.

“For Brad it’s having a car with West Bend Dyno on it,” said Prunty. “It’s good marketing. There are a lot of people that go to this.”  

This car is not exactly your standard street car, but it is indeed a street legal car. It starts off with a 950 horsepower engine, and adds other racing parts such as shocks, brakes, and suspension. There is a roll cage for added safety for when the car is competing on the race track.

“The car is basically because we had it,” joked Riekkoff. “It was actually my high school car and still has the Kewaskum Indians parking sticker in the back window. It’s a platform that works well on the track. It’s a heavy car so the biggest feat is trying to get the car to be light and still be street legal and still have all the amenities of a street car. They don’t want these cars to be all out race cars. We have a roll cage in ours, but it is still going to have everything operating in the cab. It’s going to have air conditioning, it’ll have windows that go up and down. We’re not going to have Lexan windows that are stationary. So everything about the car will be street legal and licensed and insured.”

The racer that is Dennis Prunty was a little apprehensive about the lack of some safety features.

“The main thing is that we want the car to be safe,” said Prunty. “Last year he actually had the motor in the car without the roll cage, and knowing the kind of speeds we’re going to get to I said I don’t know if I am real comfortable without the roll cage. So now this year they put one in and I cannot say no. This year we’re going to be driving it and it will definitely be a lot of fun.”

Not only was the car a thing from high school, but both Dennis and Brad went to high school together.

“Brad and I went to high school together, so that’s how we know each other,” said Prunty. “Then he started his own business, West Bend Dyno Tuning. It’s been going really good and he sponsors my circle track car and it’s going to be a fun deal.”

It’s a deal where two good friends share a passion for racing as well as the technological side of the sport and cars in general. Yet despite this, it is not only a labor of love, there is a method to the madness that prize money and trophies can’t exactly replace the time and money spent on this car.

“It’s nothing more than trying to market the car and market the business,” said Riekkoff. “I think Dennis is the perfect driver to make the car perform up to the standards of what we should as a shop.”

If Dennis is the perfect driver, that could put a lot of pressure on him to perform as expected.

“With my car I can crash it and just go to Five Star and buy new body parts,” said Prunty. “This is a little more expensive of a car than what I am used to. In the end this thing is worth almost $200,000 I’d say with the drive train the way it is. The pressure is on me, but it’s a little different racing for me too. I like to bump and bang a little bit, but we don’t do that in this. You have to pass clean and you don’t rub fenders. I’m sure I can handle that. I might still come out to the race track just to take out my aggressions on someone else for fun, but I wouldn’t do that.”

Still, the end result of this venture is to grow the business that is West Bend Dyno Tuning. While every business can always use additional avenues of attracting revenue, there are always extra ways to do so in racing and in many different forms.

“If this does take off we do have plans to have a track support side of our business to take off,” said Riekkoff. “We would maybe like to build another car that you could bang into stuff and scratch it and it wouldn’t
be such a big deal.”

For Prunty this could be a step in a new direction for his racing career. Something that perhaps is out of his comfort zone, but still remains a challenge nonetheless.  

“If I really enjoy this like I think I am going to, I might convert one of my cars into a road course car,” said Prunty. “I do have three circle track cars and you can only race them one at a time anyways. There’s a lot of stuff at Road America that I have never been to, and I want to do a lot of stuff with my daughter. Something with the go-kart track and see what I can get her into. She will be twelve this summer so I want to focus a little more on her too and just have some fun this year.”

Along with the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational, Dennis and Brad plan on running this car in several SCCA road course events. These will be a combination of time trial type of events along with a traditional full field race. Among the events are several races at the Milwaukee Mile on their road course, as well as Road America.

Thanks to Gregg Paul!  For more Wisconsin Asphalt Racing News, Click Here