LOVES PARK, Ill. — Repeating his winning effort of last year, Alex Prunty raced to victory in Sunday afternoon’s 53rd annual National Short Track Championships 200-lap super late model stock car special at the Rockford Speedway.
Prunty, the 25-year old racer from Lomira, Wis., wheeled his Paul Reilly Company-sponsored Chevrolet to the win, picking up $6,000 in addition to additional lap prize money. Scoring his second NSTC win, Prunty became the first driver to win back-to-back victories at the high-banked, quarter-mile, paved oval since Jeremy Lepak did it in 2006 and ’07.
Prunty became the eighth multi-time champion of the traditional Midwestern stock car event, joining the likes of Joe Shear, Steve Carlson, Eddie Hoffman, Dick Trickle, Rich Bickle Jr., Steve Rubeck and Lepak as multi-time winners.
Prunty, this year’s super late model champion at Wisconsin’s Slinger Super Speedway, held off a hard charging Casey Johnson, the race’s 2016 winner, in a late-race, 10-lap dash after the event’s final caution period.
Finishing behind Prunty and Johnson were Brian Johnson Jr., Grant Griesbach, Carson Kvapil and former winner Bickle. Rounding out the top 10 were Josh Nelms, Jeremy Spoonmore, two-time Rockford track champion and 2015 NSTC winner Jon Reynolds Jr. and Mike Beyer with 12 cars running at the finish.
Prunty started sixth in the 20-car field and took the lead from Paul Shafer Jr. by lap 10 and never relinquished the top spot the rest of the way. Shafer, Brian Johnson Jr., Casey Johnson and Kvapil all seemed to be in the “hunt” during the race but didn’t have enough for eventual winner Prunty. Shafer’s day came to an end on lap 134 when he tagged the wall between turns one and two while battling Kvapil for third place.
Fast-qualifier Alex Papini ran strong in the early going only to see him have a bout with the wall which ended his day.
“That was the biggest thing we wanted to do was get to the front and get there fast,” said Prunty. “It’s the safest place to be. I got out front and started saving my stuff. After the restarts, Brian (Johnson Jr.) would push me hard and we had to go. I’d get a five car-length lead and then back it down and save (the tires).
“You know you are going to have cautions. It meant a lot to me to hold off Casey (Johnson) after that late-race caution instead of walking to another one (victory). In the end, it turned out the same.”
Michael Bilderback was the winner of the 88-lap Big 8 Late Model Series event that was originally scheduled for Saturday night until rain canceled most of the evening’s racing. Also winning for the second straight year, Bilderback and his Chevy bested Max Kahler, Dale Nottestad, Jim Olson and Bobby Wilberg.
Veteran Wisconsin racer Bill Prietzel claimed the victory in the 40-lap main event for Mid-American Stock Car Series competitors. Winning for the first time in Mid-American competition during the annual NSTC weekend, the “Franklin Flyer” took the checkered flag in front of early leader Ryan Gutknecht, Matt Clemens, James Swan and Chad Proctor.
Other feature winners on Sunday included Jason Thoma (Great Northern Sportsman Series), Justin Okruhlica (modifieds) and Steve Rubeck (Northern Vintage Series).