The unfortunate sequence of events was just part of what was once a promising day for the Prunty family, but to only end in disappointment.
Earlier in the evening, Alex Prunty, Dennis’ nephew, led the first 30 of the 35-lap limited late model race. His night ended when he and Danny Church made contact while battling for the lead, only to end up crashing hard into the turn one wall.
In the super late model 199-lap main event, Prunty led 170 of 199 laps before the engine cut off on him.
In all, the Prunty’s led 200 of 234 laps (85 percent). And it would’ve been an inspirational moment if either could’ve held on for the victory.
Earlier this year, Dan Prunty, Alex’s father and Dennis’ brother, was hospitalized, stemming from symptoms of a heart attack.
It would’ve given a family with more than 20 track championships just its second triumph at Slinger Nationals. For now, David Prunty’s victory in 2001 is the only Nationals champions for the family.
But they’ve been close to adding to the list, specifically Dennis Prunty.
Going into Tuesday night’s event, Prunty had finished in the top-five in three of the last four Nationals, including runner-up finishes in 2010 and 2013.
Prunty is one of many drivers who have enjoyed success at Slinger, but has never broken through with what most of the drivers in the region call a short-track racers’ Daytona 500.
And for many veteran drivers, it feels like the Daytona 500 just because of how hard it is to win.
Prunty knew he was close.
“I stopped pressuring lapped cars,” he said. “I didn’t want to them to start hitting each other and spin out. I just sat where I was and I was good.
“But I knew at any time if anybody started to catch me, I’d just fly by them lapped cars and go. It just never got to that point I guess.”
After the break at lap 99, the race went wire-to-wire without a caution. With about 40 laps to go, Wimmer said he began to feel discomfort in his leg.
“In those last 10 laps I didn’t even know when I was pushing (the gas pedal),” Wimmer said. “I was just going on momentum. I was just glad the race was over.
“I was just sitting there trying to remember how to do it,” he added. “When you lose feeling, it’s hard to judge where the gas pedal is. I’m just glad we got through it and ended up winning.”
To Wimmer, winning Slinger Nationals was special. But it was for more than just the $9,999 paycheck and getting his name etched alongside some of the greatest drivers to ever grace race tracks in the Midwest, like Dick Trickle, Kenseth, Joe Shear, Bickle, etc.
Wimmer’s uncle is the late Larry Detjens, who won the inaugural Slinger Nationals in 1980. On Tuesday night, Wimmer had the trophy Detjens won in 1980 in the pit area. Afterward, he posed with the original trophy and his new piece of hardware for a photo.
And by the way, the name of the Slinger Nationals trophy? The Larry Detjens Memorial trophy.
“To come here and win it is honestly unbelievable,” Wimmer said. “It’s definitely a surreal feeling.”
The Wimmer family has enjoyed success for many years in Wisconsin racing. The family owns State Park Speedway in Wausau, located in central Wisconsin, Wimmer’s hometown.
On July 26, the track will host the annual Larry Detjens Memorial, which has been held annually since 1981. Detjens died Aug. 1, 1981, after he crashed in a guard rail during a feature race at Wisconsin International Raceway in Kaukauna, Wisconsin. Detjens was on a roll with his career when he died, having won 22 races that year before his death at the age of 37.
Wimmer won the Larry Detjens Memorial in 2000 and his brother, Scott, has won it in 2001 and 2002.
“I don’t want to think about that kind of stuff,” Chris Wimmer said about a possible Slinger Nationals and Larry Detjens Memorial sweep. “I just like going to races and try to win them.
“That would be definitely a good year, though.”