WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. (September 9, 2012) – When Dennis Prunty started the Advanced Engine Concepts 80-lap feature event Saturday Night for TUNDRA Super Late Model Series Round Five he knew there was only so much he could control. Prunty took care of his business; fate took care of the rest.
The veteran from Knowles, Wis. claimed his first ever Super Late Model title at DRP by seizing control of the feature on lap 21 and holding off a hungry Steve Rubeck in heavy lapped traffic for the win.
Prunty entered the night three points back of Dalton Zehr. After Zehr gained four more points in qualifying, the deficit was seven heading into the main. However, with an invert of 13, Prunty was given a favorable starting spot inside row three.
“After qualifying I figured I didn’t have much of a chance unless (Rich Bickle) and (Zehr) had a bad night,” Prunty said. “I knew all I could do was just win the race, and the rest was out of my hands. It happened to work out for me.”
Both Zehr and Bickle suffered off nights leaving Prunty with a five point advantage over Zehr in the final TUNDRA standings.
Working his way through the field early, Prunty showed every indication of a man on a mission. Prunty started alongside Dan Lensing, who later in the evening went on to claim the DRP Late Model title. Lensing and Prunty waited for front row starters Josh Wallace and Steve Rubeck to sort out before they both attacked the outside line.
On lap four Lensing jumped to the top to take second from Wallace and carried on past Rubeck to the top spot one lap later. Mimicking the move Prunty jumped to the outside of Wallace on lap four and cruised past Rubeck on the next circuit.
Lensing’s healthy advantage began to wither as Prunty caught him within three laps of taking second. Just as he was prepared to challenge Lensing, Prunty’s advances were cut off by a caution when Ross Zumbach spun in turn two on lap eleven.
The restart was short-lived as Mike Egan was sent spinning through the grass right at the outset. When the line up sorted out Michael Bilderback had made a strong move. On the cone Bilderback hopped to the outside line and claimed a spot in the top five.
The field quickly sorted back into single file and drivers started to plot their moves. With Prunty running in the second spot, all eyes were on Dalton Zehr. Needing only a top ten finish, Zehr had exercised patience in the past. He was in familiar territory deep in traffic in the early going.
However, the DRP outside wall claimed Zehr’s title chances victim on lap fifteen when he tagged the front stretch wall. Zehr started to fall back through the field with obvious damage to his right front. He nursed his machine to a 12th place finish.
Zehr’s hard luck was not the only bad-for-him-good-for-me situation Prunty would encounter on this fateful evening. Trailing Lensing closely for ten laps after the restart Prunty had again closed the gap and was ready to strike for the lead. Just as he closed in Lensing lost control and spun out exiting turn four. Lensing spun to the infield, kept his machine fired, and kept rolling which allowed the green flag to stay out.
The situation was a near-miss in many ways for Prunty.
“I was about a car length behind him and I’m not sure what happened. I saw him start to get sideways and I thought, ‘should I go inside or outside,’” I’m glad I went to the outside,” he said of the potential contact.
However, he wasn’t sure if he was out of the woods. “I was thinking to myself, ‘I hope they don’t think I did that,’ because I was nowhere near him. It was cool that it stayed green. I feel bad for him, but it was good for me.”
With Prunty in the lead, and Zehr starting to fade, attention then turned to Bickle who had the opportunity to close in on Prunty with passing points. Bickle started his move on lap 29 as he started to work the outside and creep toward the top ten. The run was disrupted when Bickle started to fade backward in what looked to be a means to conserve equipment.
Falling just back outside of the top ten Bickle was caught by Corey Jankowski. With a little bad blood still spilling over from a previous TUNDRA event, Jankowski and Bickle connected out of turn four, resulting in Jankowski going airborne over the left rear of Bickle. Jankowski retired with damage to his machine and Bickle was forced to change a flat left rear.
On the lap 36 restart Prunty broke away from Rubeck and Bilderback. Stretching out his lead, spots in the top five seemed secure until the final ten circuits.
As Rubeck started to reel in Prunty slightly for the top spot, James Swan closed the gap on Bilderback for third. Coming off a second-place finish in TUNDRA Round Four, Swan jousted with Bilderback over the final ten circuits for the final podium spot. Behind them, Terry Schoppenhorst and fast qualifier Bobby Kendall closed the gap.
While the stunning side-by-side display between Swan and Bilderback raged on, Rubeck crept in on Prunty. With just seven laps remaining, Prunty had some difficulty with lapped traffic and Rubeck had closed to a car length.
“The first car I caught up to stayed high,” Prunty said of the lapped traffic. “The next car didn’t want to go a lap down. It was a fight and Rubeck was behind me, but when I cleared thankfully there were only three laps to go.”
Over the final three trips, Prunty stretched out his advantage. With both Zehr and Bickle outside the top ten, Prunty cruised to putting an exclamation point on his first title. Rubeck, who had struggled mightily, was pleased to have luck on his side with a second-place finish. Swan beat Bilderback to the line by a nose to claim third and Schoppenhorst rounded out the top five.
In victory lane Prunty took the microphone to begin thanking all of those involved in his first ever title run. To claim his second Super Late Title, Prunty needed less than 24 hours. On Sunday afternoon Prunty claimed a 10-point victory for his first title at Slinger Speedway.
“This Championship means a lot to me,” Prunty said of his TUNDRA title Saturday. “I can’t wait to see what we (TUNDRA) do next year. I’d like to see if we get some other tracks involved, or if we just do this again. It was awesome.”
The TUNDRA Super Late Model Series would like to thank its supporters for the 2012 season including: Dells Raceway Park, Advanced Engine Concepts, Waterfurnace, Super Star Motorsports, Barricade Flasher Service, Bonafide Security Solutions, Coleman Racing Products, The Country Plumber, Tiry’s Race Engines, Five Star Race Car Bodies, TD Graphics, Wegner Automotive Research, Leo’s Upper Dells Bar and all the sponsors who made it possible for their teams/drivers to compete.
This offseason brings a lot of excitement as TUNDRA hopes to grow on its success of 2012 and parlay it into an even bigger 2013 season. Expect to see announcements through the DRP web site and facebook.com/tundrasuperlatemodels. TUNDRA hopes to launch its own web site within the coming months.
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 http://www.dellsracewaypark.com.