Ross Kenseth hoping to outrun Dennis Prunty at Slinger Nationals
Slinger — Maybe Ross Kenseth got the wrong impression when Dennis Prunty offered him a car to race in the Slinger Nationals.
"He's been real fast the last couple of years and has won a lot of races, so there's a good a chance as any to get that done," the son of NASCAR champion and six-time Nationals winner Matt Kenseth said recently.
"And it never hurts to be running one of Dennis' cars because I know if I'm leading he won't wreck me."
Maybe. Maybe not.
Prunty clarified his position on team orders Monday, on the eve of the 36th running of the biggest event of the year at Slinger Speedway.
"It's whoever wins, wins," Prunty said, "and if I've got to hit him, I'll hit him and I'm sure he's going to do the same to me. I've just got to talk to him about how we're going to fix my car if he wrecks it. We haven't talked about that yet.
"We're both here to win. I have no reason to finish second, and I think he feels the same. This is a win-or-nothing race."
The 199-lap feature will pay more than $10,000 to the winner. Qualifying is set for 4 p.m. and the feature shortly after 8 p.m.
Prunty was in a playful mood after he and Kenseth parked their black Nos. 22 and 42 cars, respectively, after a short practice session that left both of them pleased. But the 42-year-old, a champion at Slinger and at the Dells Motor Speedway, has shown when his window net goes up, he won't be pushed around.
Plus, last year still hurts.
Prunty had the race in control with the white flag in sight when a fried ignition wire shut down his car just as quickly as if he'd have flipped the switch. Each time Prunty has led since, he has wondered what might go wrong.
"It bothers me that it happened, having a car so good," Prunty said. "To me, I might only get that one chance (in the Nationals). Hopefully we get another chance at it this time and everything goes good."
If Prunty doesn't get it done as a driver, he still has a shot for the victory as Kenseth's car owner. Prunty has won a season-best four features at Slinger, including three of the past four. In two outings in the car Kenseth will drive, Prunty finished first and third.
The two struck up friendship in 2009 while pitting side by side at the Snowball Derby in Pensacola, Fla. — "I think we fed him that year," Prunty said — and they have raced against each other and worked together numerous times.
"I think he was joking around with me when he brought it up to me last year and he said, 'Hey, if you want to run my car sometime, let me know.' And I took him up on the offer," Kenseth said. "I wanted to get Slinger on my schedule early. I wanted to have a good shot at winning. That's one race I do put a lot of effort into for the last, gosh, six years now."
Kenseth has a top finish of third in the event.
The 22-year-old said his confidence on the track has been boosted by a victory in the ARCA series at Michigan International Speedway and a sixth place in his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Chicagoland Speedway last month. Those runs also have helped in Kenseth's quest for a regular NASCAR ride.
"On paper, you kind of get rid of the speculation," he said. "You've got something to show, rather than saying, 'Oh, no, I'll get the job done for you.'
"It just comes down to finding the money to put it all together. It's the time of year now that I've kind of got ahead of the game in starting to talk about next year for something full time or even a handful of races to go do because I'm ready to get back in the seat again."
Ideally without having to rebuild Prunty's car first.