Slinger Speedway Championships Near
by Fay Hendricks
Kids lined up for rides in race cars at Slinger on Sunday to start off their racing experience. We are reminded that soon they will be back in school and the race season will be over in four more weeks. This makes the championship points even more valuable for the title contenders. Several of them set their goals and achieved them Sunday.
After last week's expensive collision, super late model championship contenders Dennis Prunty and Steve Apel returned with repairs complete and ready for action. Prunty was the first to qualify, setting a quick time eclipsed later by Lowell Bennett, then Apel lowered the mark to claim top honors. The dash was taken by Conrad Morgan, with Mike Graczkowski and Jake Vanoskey posting heat wins. The feature inversion placed Prunty in the fourth row and Apel behind him. Rookies Mike Borchardt Jr. and Nick Wagner began in the front row with Chris Blawat and Rob Braun following. Borchardt got ahead of Wagner to lead the 50-lap contest for five circuits before Blawat charged ahead for the top spot. Wagner and Graczkowski sat sideways in the corner two laps later, bringing out the first caution of the race.
The pace picked up quickly, the realignment helping as the pack remained in tight formation. Prunty and Apel were very noticeably progressing to the front, and Prunty gained the lead in ten more laps. Zooming around the high banks at a pace of five laps a minute, the field roared along until Tommy Hromadka's car slowed with a flat tire shortly before the halfway mark. From that point on, it was a race to the finish with Prunty ahead of Apel through lapped cars to the checkered flag. Blawat hung for third place, while Mike Egan came from tenth to fourth and Jeff Holtz stayed in fifth. Posting his fifth win of the year, Prunty began by apologizing to his daughter for scuffing up the car, referring to an incident with Holtz earlier. Asked about seeing Apel in his mirror, Prunty quipped, "I looked in my rear view mirror and all I saw was yellow. I thought it was Mike Egan." We know Prunty recognized who was behind him. Apel did not respond to the remark, stating, "Those fifty-lappers are hard. I had the car to win. Our car's really good in the long run," adding, "Last week I had something break, it wasn't intentional."
If James Swan didn't win in the sportsman class it would be news, as Swan started off by posting the fastest lap right away. His car owner, Brian Holtz, won the dash and Aaron Cain won the heat. Dustin Krebs began in the front row of the heat, only to be flagged off the track with a leak, and returned without leaving a trail. The 30-lap feature started Jimmy Wilson and Dennis Eickhorst in front of Carl Benn and Holtz. Chris Ratajczyk piloted the Jeff Holtz car, starting in the third row with Ryan Farrell. The race went from the green flag to the checkered in a hurry. Wilson led the opening laps as the field remained side by side, then Farrell found an opening and took the lead on the sixth lap. In no time Swan was right behind, then alongside Farrell, and the two staged another classic battle.
This week Farrell faltered a bit and Swan eased his car ahead before a dozen circuits were complete. Ratajczyk joined the top pair as they began lapping the field and got far ahead of the others. The race came to the final laps when Ratajczyk surprised us all by getting past Farrell at the checkered flag. Holtz and Jack Stern rounded out the top five finishers. This was Swan's tenth win at Slinger, a perfect way to celebrate his engagement to Katie Kostka, who is also his crew. The sportsman title will come down to the final night as good friends Farrell and Swan happily compete against each other for the crown.
Alex Prunty neared the track record in qualifying, topping the limited late model field Sunday. Danny Church won the dash and Braison Bennett won the heat. The 35-lap feature began with five cars ahead of Prunty, but the closely-matched machines made things challenging. Justin Poenitsch got ahead of Church from the front row at the start, leaving the rest behind until a car spun shortly after a dozen circuits. The restart ended with the yellow banner the following circuit after Church got into Poenitsch, sending both to the back of the pack. Prunty happily took the point for the next green flag.
Six laps later Church and Jerry Mueller made contact to slow the pace again. The double file restart resulted in Johnny DeAngelis getting ahead for one lap before Prunty took the point back for the final dozen circuits. DeAngelis was soon stranded in the high groove, several getting past before he could get back inside. Prunty, just like his uncle in the super late model, posted his fifth win of the season. Ryan DeStefano was close behind, along with Casey Johnson, Bennett, and DeAngelis. Asked about his race later, Prunty gleefully remarked, "I was just following along, and they took themselves out." The standings show Prunty and DeStefano far ahead of the rest, but anything can happen.
Point leader Brad Hetzel was fasted of the Thunderstocks and Joe Shelby won the heat race. The feature started Shelby and Rick Schaefer in front of Nick Egan and Tyler Schley. The 18-lap contest was over in a hurry, Shelby and Schaefer trading the top spot as they ran in tandem for the first ten circuits.
Finally Schaefer drifted back and allowed breathing room between cars. Ken Schraufnagel had waited patiently for his chance and took it with six laps to spare. Close followed by Hetzel, Shelby, Schley, and John Daley, Schraufnagel crossed the final stripe to post another win at Slinger. The top three in points are Hetzel, Schley, and Daley, with Schraufnagel strengthening his fourth place in the rankings.
Brandon Tackes did not set a new track record this week in the Slinger Bees, but he again had the fastest lap. The heats were won by Jake Schraufnagel and Bill Ostovich Jr., and when the feature field gathered we noticed Marty Tackes had taken the Ryan Savage car to start in the back of the pack along with son Brandon. The 18-lap contest was led by front-row starters Allen Maher Jr. and Dave Lembke until the sole caution flew when several cars were barely crawling along and threatened to block the track. The slowpokes remained on the oval, getting lapped in no time as the race restarted.
Soon Schraufnagel worked up from sixth to take the lead, with Rick Schmidt zooming past the next lap. Schmidt was set to win the race when Tackes completed his mission from the back of the pack to the front with two laps to spare. Ten-year-old Grant Griesbach moved into the runner-up position at the checkered flag, ahead of Schmidt and Schraufnagel. This division also tightens up the points at the top.
The spectator events were watched with interest, and the show ended with the Figure 8 race to give the crowd their final thrills of the night. Defending champion Scott Goetzke stayed ahead of Willy Van Camp and Shane Becker as others dodged cars in the intersection. It was all over shortly after nine o'clock, leaving plenty of time to visit in the pits afterwards. The crash and burn fans will take over Saturday for the annual Slinger Slamfest, and we will hear their stories when we return.
Dennis Prunty won his fifth Slinger Super Late Model feature. [Fay Hendricks Photo]
Alex Prunty gets his fifth Slinger Late Model win. [Fay Hendricks Photo]
Brandon Tackes won his second Slinger Bees feature in two weeks. [Fay Hendricks Photo]
Newly engaged James Swan and Katie Kostka celebrate Swan's tenth Slinger Sportsman win. [Fay Hendricks Photo]
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