Prunty Escapes Nail-Biter In Tundra Round Two
Jeff Blaser Photography
WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. (June 17, 2012) – It was smooth sailing through the first 74 laps of TUNDRA Super Late Model Series Round Two at Dells Raceway Park Saturday night for Dennis Prunty. However, a caution with six laps remaining brought a squall threatening to sink his chances of a first DRP win.
Prunty grabbed the lead just six laps into the Advanced Engine Concepts 80-lap feature event and built his advantage to over five seconds until a caution with six to go brought challenges from Frank Kreyer and Tanner Whitten. Prunty was able to turn back both.
Before the caution Prunty began to foreshadow his fate. “With 20 to go I was starting to think, ‘when is something going to happen?’ I definitely didn’t want to see (the caution),” Prunty said.
“I knew that Tanner Whitten was going to be fast. He was able to get alongside me, but we held him off. It felt good.”
Prunty built his enormous advantage by streaking to the front of the field from his fifth-place starting spot. After the green fell Terry Schoppenhorst grabbed an early lead from Dennis’ brother Dale Prunty. Quickly after Schoppenhorst took the top spot, Kenny Reiser and Dennis Prunty moved past Dale Prunty into second and third.
Schoppenhorst’s lead was short-lived as Reiser took to the lead on lap two. Right behind, Prunty was lurking and waiting for his opportunity to pounce. Prunty found his chance on lap six when he swooped to the inside and left Reiser to deal with the rest of the pack.
Just past the ten-lap mark Reiser fell into the clutches of Dalton Zehr, Whitten and fast qualifier Bobby Kendall. Zehr worked furiously in an attempt to move past Schoppenhorst and Reiser, but found no room to grab the runner-up spot.
As second spot on back stayed in heavy dispute, Prunty worked calmly through lapped traffic and built his lead to over four seconds. The pack finally broke open on lap 36 when Whitten was able to negotiate his line around Reiser. Reiser began to reel backward with Dalton Zehr stuck on the outside line, as well. In a matter of just five laps they fell to the tail end of the top ten.
Sour luck for Reiser and Zehr opened up room for two of the stars of TUNDRA Round One. As the field clicked past the midway point Kreyer and Round One winner Rich Bickle made an appearance in the top five. The duo locked into a tussle for the next ten laps in hopes to settle a dispute for third. Kreyer emerged with on lap 54 and began to chase down his teammate Whitten.
Over the next 20 laps, Prunty kept picking off lapped traffic and got as near to the top ten as 13th place John Zimmerman.
When things seemed to be completely in Prunty’s favor, the caution fell for a Derek Childs spin. With a brand new script to write over the final six circuits, Prunty was set to face off against a driver he chased in title standings last year in Kreyer.
The cone was placed leaving Prunty all alone in the front row. Kreyer, who just six laps before the yellow had taken second from Whitten, chose the inside line. Whitten swung to the outside with Bickle being flanked by Kendall in the third row.
Initially Prunty broke away on the restart. However, Kreyer caught him quickly and provided a challenge to the inside. Sealing off the bottom Prunty turned back Kreyer. However, the outside line was left wide open for Whitten. Whitten got side-by-side with Prunty and on some occasions appeared to have the advantage. However, Prunty proved too strong in the bottom groove.
Whitten, who earlier in the evening upset Bickle in the five-for-five dash, tucked back into line hoping to shake Prunty off the bottom. Prunty kept his composure and held on to win by less than a car length. Bickle grabbed third from Kreyer with three laps to go and secured his point lead. Zehr made a late run back into the top five and stole fourth from Kreyer on the final circuit.
After challenging Bickle, and his 14-race winning streak since 1989, in Round One, Prunty was satisfied to be the one who ended the tremendous feat.
“It’s not that you want to go out and be the one that ruins people’s streaks, but I wanted to be the one to do it,” he said.
Bickle, racing with a heavy heart after the passing of his mother on Friday, was first to congratulate Prunty on the win.
“I’m not really that much of a points racer, I just like to win,” said Prunty who now trails Bickle by four points in TUNDRA standings. “If I can win races the points will be there at the end. It would be really cool to win two championships this year. That would be quite an amazing season.”
Earlier in the night TUNDRA preliminaries provided excitement, as well. Tom Lichtfeld made his return after missing Round One and turned back Tim Lampman to win the Waterfurnace Shootout.
Kelsey Bauer was victorious in the Leo’s Upper Dells Bar Gong Show, a six-car, six-lap last chance race with only two transfers. The race dazzled as Corey Jankowski made a late move to the second and final transfer spot. Jankowski later cruised through the feature field, finishing seventh. His passing points helped locked him into a tie with Prunty for second behind Bickle.
The next Round of TUNDRA action at Dells Raceway Park is on Saturday, July 21. TUNDRA will be joined by the DRP Late Models, Sportsman and Pure Stocks. Racing is slated for 6:30 p.m.
Dells Raceway Park is located at N1070 Smith Road, five minutes north of downtown Wisconsin Dells, Wis., off highway 12-16. For more information including the latest news, the 2012 schedule and more visit www.dellsracewaypark.com.