Dennis Prunty finishes strong
at the Slinger Nationals
Dennis Prunty climbs from his car after a dominating performance.
Slinger— Dennis Prunty got the second chance to win the SuperSeal Slinger Nationals he feared he never would.
Perhaps Ty Majeski will someday, too.
Prunty dominated the 199-lap feature Tuesday night just as he had a year earlier, and he ended up standing in victory lane rather than alongside a stalled car in the pits. Doused in water and holding a freshly opened Miller Lite, Prunty thrust an oversized check in the air and then explained how he kept himself from thinking he might be disappointed again.
"Here's the deal," Prunty said. "I had that in the back of my head; I'm like, I just want to lead laps. Lead laps and if you lead the last one you win. If you don't lead the last one, there's still a lot of lap money, so I got to the front as I could and just tried to be smart about it."
With the $10,000 winner's share and about another $5,000 in money put up by individual sponsors for the leader, Prunty and his team went home with their biggest payday.
"It's not just the name on the wall, it's also the big check," said Prunty, the 2012 track champion. "I've always wanted to walk out of a racetrack with a big check.
"That thing's going in the backseat of the truck, and I'm going to haul it around for two weeks."
Prunty needed just nine laps to get to the front from his fifth starting position and gave up the lead only in side-by-side battles after restarts. Within 3½ laps of any of those he was gone again. Overall he led 189, including the final 128.
Majeski, a hotshot from Seymour quickly building a national reputation, came on late to become Prunty's biggest challenger. Majeski cut a 3-second lead to seven-tenths before they came upon lapped traffic and Prunty got through it more quickly.
Trapped behind a battle of lapped cars, Majeski hit Gary LaMonte and spun him with six laps to go. The yellow would have allowed him to pull alongside Prunty, but instead he was penalized and sent to the end of the lead lap.
"I was going for the win there," Majeski said as he stood stone-faced in front of his car in the pits, a group of fans keeping a respectful distance.
"I tried to get to the outside of the 63 in Turns 1 and 2. He never gave me a lane. I went down into 3 and 4, he parked it in the center and I wasn't expecting him to park it."
Elsewhere, Majeski said, he believed he'd have kept his position, "but that's the way it goes. It could be a lot worse. I could be sitting here with a wrecked race car, so we'll take P4 (fourth)."
With Majeski gone, 67-year-old Conrad Morgan was alongside Prunty for what should have been the final restart. It was aborted, though, when Morgan hit the kill switch while shifting. He was fortunate to avoid being run over and got another chance.
He finished second, and two-time defending track champion Steve Apel was third.
"I played it the whole night," said Morgan, the seven-time track champion who won the Nationals in 1999. "I didn't want to burn the car up, I didn't want to burn the brakes up, I didn't want to burn the tires up. I didn't want to wear myself out.
"With about 10 laps to go I had the opportunity. I tried. But Dennis just had a really good car. He's been good all year."
Ross Kenseth's best chance to win the Nationals evaporated in 11 laps. The 22-year-old son of six-time Nationals winner and NASCAR champion Matt Kenseth dropped out with a failure in the rear end of the car of Prunty's he drove.
"I'm still bummed about Ross," Prunty said in victory lane. "I gave him a really good car, and something broke. I'm just glad I wasn't in that car this year. I was going to drive that one."
Others out of contention or out completely before halfway included NASCAR Camping World Truck Series frontrunner Johnny Sauter, making a rare Nationals appearance, and John DeAngelis, a two-time feature winner already this season. Both had suspension problems.
Rich Bickle, who won the his fourth Nationals in 2013 and then took last year off, dropped out after he and five-time champ Lowell Bennett tangled early.