By: Eric Huenefeld
24 year old Alex Prunty was always a step ahead of the rest Sunday afternoon at Rockford Speedway.
The Lomira Wisconsin native led all 200 laps of the 52nd Annual National Short Track Championship (NSTC) Super Late Model race presented by Stanley Steemer, jumping to the lead from his outside front row starting position and never looking back en route to the biggest victory of his young career.
The front of the field was the place to be during the 2017 version of the 200 lap race, with eight yellow flags slowing the pace, including two red flags. The most notable of the yellow flags waved on lap 112, when LPT Auto ‘Faster Than a Speeding Bullet’ Award winner Austin Nason and Brian Johnson Jr got together in the first corner while racing inside the top five. When both Johnson and Nason collected each other, they also collected contenders Dennis Prunty and Michael Bilderback. All four drivers would eventually retire from the race.
Even with multiple incidents which affected contender after contender, the final 63 laps of the 200 lap event ran without a stoppage.
Alex Prunty won the race by a margin of 1.892 seconds and collected a total of $7,100 for his efforts. He becomes the fourth youngest winner in the history of the 52 year old event. NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin was 17 years old when he won the 1977 National Short Track Championship, while 1989 winner Tim Fedewa was 22 years old. Short track racing legend Dick Trickle won the first ever NSTC at age 24, nearly three weeks before his 25th birthday, while Prunty turns 25 next week.
The rest of the top finishers in the 200 lap race featured several tales of survival, starting with runner up finisher Rob Braun, who climbed from his 14th starting position to claim second place. 2015 National Short Track Champion Jon Reynolds Jr suffered moderate right rear damage to his car during the first yellow of the race on lap 7, following a collision with Chris Blawat and then received a one-lap penalty early in the race’s second half, only to fight back and finish on the lead lap in third position.
2015 Rockford Speedway Track Champion Jake Gille was the race’s “Hard Charger,’ starting dead last in the 22 car starting field while climbing as high as second place, before settling for fourth in the final running order. 2009 National Short Track Champion Josh Nelms ran a steady race and was rewarded with a top five finish.
Ten of the twenty-two drivers who started the race crossed the finish line at the end of 200 laps.
52nd National Short Track Championship 200 lap race
presented by Stanley Steemer
1. Alex Prunty Lomira, WI 200 laps
2. Rob Braun Wales, WI 200 laps
3. Jon Reynolds Jr Rockford, IL 200 laps
4. Jake Gille Winnebago, IL 200 laps
5. Josh Nelms Lockport, IL 199 laps
6. Jeremy Spoonmore Leland, IL 199 laps
7. Dana Czach West Chicago, IL 197 laps
8. Matt Berger Loves Park, IL 197 laps
9. Chris Blawat Palmyra, WI 181 laps
10. Adam Peschek Oconomowoc, WI 165 laps
11. Michael Bilderback South Beloit, IL 142 laps
12. Tom Gille Winnebago, IL 134 laps
13. Grant Greisbach Waukesha, WI 124 laps
14. Rich Bickle Edgerton, WI 122 laps
15. Brian Johnson Jr Machesney Park, IL 112 laps
16. Austin Nason Roscoe, IL 112 laps
17. Dennis Prunty Knowles, WI 112 laps
18. Jim Olson Harvard, IL 18 laps
19. James Swan Pell Lake, WI 18 laps
20. Tyler Hromadka Brookfield, WI 12 laps
21. Alex Papini Rockford, IL 7 laps
22. Brad Mueller Random Lake, WI 0 laps
Fast Qualifier: Nason (12.836 seconds)
Prelim Winners: Nelms, D. Prunty, Olson
Entries: 22 Super Late Models