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Crash Likely Ends Prusiensky’s Pro Stock Season

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 19 2019
Brittany Force had the fastest pass in Top Fuel in Texas on Friday. (Photos courtesy of the NHRA)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

ENNIS, Texas – Alan Prusiensky walked away from the wreckage of his Pro Stock Dodge Dart last Friday night at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C. But he isn’t racing at Texas Motorplex this weekend, and likely is done for the remainder of the 2019 season.

Prusiensky said he fractured the L4 vertebrae in his back during his qualifying wall-banger (https://www.nhra.com/news/2019/alan-prusiensky-takes-wild-ride-pro-stock-accident-charlotte-qualifying) and has handed over driving duties in the TopCoat Dodge to Pro Stock veteran Richie Stevens Jr. for the 34th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals. The race is Round 4 of the six-event Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

“I couldn’t race here. I couldn’t get in and out of the car,” Prusiensky said during preparations for Round 2 of time trials down the Motorplex’s all-concrete quarter-mile Friday afternoon. “It’ll be a little while. Definitely next year I’ll be back in the car. I’m hoping for Pomona (the season-ender Nov. 14-17) to give myself some kind of incentive, but I don’t think it’s possible. Richie will probably be driving it until the end of the year.

“You just know you can’t drive one of these cars unless you’re healthy. You can’t drive one in pain. And when you’re driving against somebody else, you can’t jeopardize the guy you’re racing.”

Prusiensky was racing Odessa’s Chris McGaha near the end of their quarter-mile passes under the lights when the former’s car crossed the center line in front of McGaha’s Harlow Sammons Chevrolet Camaro. Prusiensky’s 2018 Dart slammed into the left-lane concrete wall head-on and flipped over as a flash fireball erupted. Prusiensky was able to exit the wreckage under his own power, and has spent the rest of the week assessing the damage to his privateer Mopar program.

Matt Smith had the fastest Friday on two wheels.

“It’s a tremendous hit. I mean, we’re financially shocked every weekend so to crash a $100,000 car, it’s terrible,” said Prusiensky, whose ARCraceengines.com Dart is among a handful of Dodge and Ford Mustang entries regularly competing against the dominant Chevy Camaro camp.

Prusiensky, whose car is tuned by crew chief Gary Chominski, confirmed his Dodge receives no factory support.  “Nothing. They don’t even know I’m here, which is fine with me,” said Prusiensky, a 46-year-old resident of Rockaway, N.J. “I don’t race for them. I’m a Dodge guy my whole life and I watched them race Dodges in Pro Stock in 2000 and I always dreamed to do it. I showed up at one race, planned to go four or five and I’ve been to 90 or 95 races over five years.

“I’ve run Mopar (products) my whole life. I don’t have anything against Chevys…it’s just I don’t know how to work on ‘em. It doesn’t really matter to me because I like the (Dodge) engines.”

The 2015 Dart Stevens qualified 15th in a 16-car field after two passes was driven at zMAX during the NTK Carolina Nationals by Jeremy Martorella. “This is not my car. This is (fielded by) eCarMover.com, a sponsor of mine,” Prusiensky said. “We were going to put two cars together to get more information, but in the end I’m the one working on everything and it’s too much work for me. So we’ll probably go back to one car. I’ve got no fulltime employees and it’s too much work.

“I shut down my engine shop to outside work over the past six months to just work on this stuff, so it’s financially shocking me there. But you can’t work on somebody’s 383 (CID) stroker for a Muscle Car and then come out here and race (multiple world champions) Greg Anderson and Jason Line. You’ve got to be working on your stuff all day, all night, all the time improving it, right? We show up at the racetrack when we’re 100 percent; our 100 percent still isn’t good enough.”

Stevens, the winner of six Pro Stock races during his career, was sitting at home last Sunday when Prusiensky called. “I was watching the Saints game and he asked me if I could come race this weekend,” said Stevens, a 41-year-old resident of Slidell, La. “That was nice. I think when Alan called me I had a couple drinks in me…so I was excited. I haven’t been in a Pro Stock car since 2017 at the Houston race (in Baytown). It was a little nerve-wracking, leading up to (Friday’s first) run. I’ve just got to get a feel for the car and it’ll get better and better.”

Stevens stood 12th on the 16-car ladder after Round 1 after a lap in 6.648-seconds and 209.14 mph. His only previous racing experience this year was in a Pro Mod car in an event staged in Qatar during January. “Since then I haven’t driven anything except the fork lift at my shop,” Stevens said. “Anytime I can help somebody out, I’m glad to be here and it gives me the opportunity to get back behind the wheel and get some rust off my bones. I honestly just want to go out there and have some fun and give Alan and his team some good runs to build data off of for future races.”

John Force leaves the line in Funny Car qualifying at the Texas Motorplex on Friday.

Jeg Coughlin Jr. paced both rounds of Pro Stock qualifying with a best lap of 6.509-seconds at 210.41 mph in his JEGS.com/Elite Performance Camaro set during the night session. Coughlin, a five-time world champion, said Prusiensky continues to prove he’s a determined competitor.

“He’s been hard at it the last couple of years on their engine program and looks like they’ve been making some headway,” said Coughlin, a 49-year-old resident of Delaware, Ohio. “To see a tragic event like that _ fortunately he wasn’t injured too, too badly. The car did what it was supposed to do and he’ll race another day.  He was right back at the track helping his teammates the next morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed…well, I don’t know about bright-eyed part.”

Prusiensky agreed the fact he walked away from a wreck that tore the front end off his Dart was a testament to the cars and NHRA’s rules package for the “Factory Hot Rod” class.

“The cars are safe but still, something could have come through the windshield,” said Prusiensky, winless in a Pro Stock career that began at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway in 2015. “You think you’re not lucky because you crashed but you’re really lucky to be alive. I’ve got a little girl (Natalie) to take care of, I’ve got a wife (car-owner Christine) to take care of. That’s what I live for. Driving these cars is fun, but in the end you’ve got to take care of your family.”

Professional qualifying is scheduled to continue Saturday at 12:15 and 3:45 p.m. (CDT). Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, with FOX Sports 2 (FS2) set to begin its live coverage at 1 p.m. That is a change from the originally announced schedule on FS1.

To purchase tickets, call 800-668-6775. Military and first responders can save 20 percent on adult single day tickets at NHRA.com/govx. Tickets also are available online at www.texasmotorplex.com. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.

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Matt Smith added another line to The Plex’s record book when he became the first Pro Stock Motorcycle rider to break the 200 mph barrier here during second-round qualifying.

The three-time/reigning world champion, Smith covered the quarter-mile in 6.776-seconds at 200.26 mph aboard his Elite Performance/Denso Spark Plugs EBR. That pass bumped three-time world champ Angelle Sampey and her Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson FXDR out of the provisional P1.

“To go 200 mph…I know we’re not going to be (racing) here next year,” said Smith, a 46-year-old resident of King, N.C. “I’ve always come here my whole life and never won this race and would like to put it on my bucket list. But at least we’ve got the speed record.

“Two hundred hadn’t gotten broken until last year. You got to make a lot of power and you got to have the right conditions to go 200. It was cool today, and we got that run.”

The former Motorplex PSM speed record of 198.99 mph was set by Jerry Savoie in October 2015.

In Funny Car, 16-time world champion John Force recorded the fastest 1,000-foot pass of his iconic career at 337.33 mph via an elapsed time of 3.834-seconds. “Am I excited? You bet!” said Force, a 70-year-old resident of Yorba Linda, Calif., and driver of his Chevrolet Camaro SS. “But I’m not going to stand here and brag about it. I’ve done everything you can do _ except die _ and that’s coming any day. I’m just having a ball at 70. The fun days are now.”

In Top Fuel, Brittany Force, John’s daughter, has the provisional pole after setting both end of the track’s records during the night session. Force covered the 1,000-foot distance in 3.651-seconds at 331.28 mph to displace Terry McMillen from P1.

“That was an awesome run for this Advance Auto Parts team,” said Force, a 33-year-old resident of Yorba Linda, Calif. “David Grubnic (crew chief) is known for coming out Friday night and hitting that No. 1 spot. We did it. He told me we were going to do it. He said, ‘We’re going to steal that No. 1 spot _ hang on.’ It’s three bonus points for the team but (Saturday) is going to be what’s really important because what we’re looking at more than No. 1 qualifier is winning on race day. That’ll come down on how we run tomorrow. If we get two decent runs going into race day we should be pretty good.”

Top Fuel point-leader Steve Torrence of Kilgore is fourth after a best lap of 3.689-seconds at 329.18 mph. Torrence, the reigning world champ in his Capco Contractors dragster, began the day with a 30-point lead over runnerup Doug Kalitta in his Mac Tools dragster. Kalitta sits ninth at 3.724-seconds and 330.63 mph after two of four rounds.

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Alexis DeJoria will return to nitro Funny Car competition after a two-year hiatus in 2020, when she plans to run the full 24-race NHRA schedule beginning with the prestigious Winternationals in Pomona, Calif.

DeJoria made her NHRA debut in 2011 at Texas Motorplex during the NHRA FallNationals and went on to win five races, including the famed U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis in 2014, before hanging up her helmet at the conclusion of the 2017 season.

“I honestly knew deep down when I made the announcement to retire at the end of the 2017 NHRA season that it was going to be sort of an open-ended retirement,” DeJoria said in a statement. “I’m beyond excited to get back out there. I’ve been blessed spending time with my family these past two years off. This was a decision I made with their support, and we are all looking forward to my return to the driver’s seat.”

Leading DeJoria’s return will be Nicky Boninfante and Del Worsham. The threesome has formed an independent team with Boninfante and Worsham serving as co-crew chiefs on DeJoria’s car. DeJoria’s history with Boninfante and Worsham extends back nearly a decade. Worsham signed-off on DeJoria’s Funny Car paperwork when she licensed in his car in 2010 before taking the lead as her crew chief during her rookie season in 2012. Boninfante worked alongside DeJoria during her tenure at Kalitta Motorsports before taking over the tuning duties on her car in 2017.

“I now have this incredible opportunity to build a team with two of the people who were by my side when I started my nitro Funny Car career,” said DeJoria, a resident of Austin whose goal is to become the first female Funny Car world champion. “Del is my mentor and the person whose car I licensed with in the first place, and Nicky was one of the first people at Kalitta who I talked to when I made the transition from Top Alcohol Funny Car to nitro Funny Car. Del and Nicky, they’re the ‘dream team’ for me, and I’m eager to embark on this new adventure with them.”

DeJoria’s partners, including her primary sponsor, will be announced at a later date.

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Dallas Gardner, NHRA board chairman, recently announced his retirement after 46 years of dedicated service to the California-based sanctioning body and the sport of drag racing. Gardner has handed over his duties to current NHRA Chief Executive Officer Peter Clifford but will continue to work with NHRA as a consultant.

Gardner joined NHRA as treasurer in 1973 and was promoted to vice president and general manager in 1978. On Jan. 1, 1984, he was promoted to NHRA president, becoming just the second person to hold that position in NHRA history. 

Gardner spent 15 years as president, pushing forward a wide range of initiatives including the modernization of racing facilities, improved television programming and cornerstone programs such as NHRA’s Youth and Education Services and the Jr. Drag Racing League, before becoming chairman of the board in January 2000.

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2019 NHRA Countdown to the Championship Playoffs Results/Schedule

Sept. 12-15 _ Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil, Maple Grove Raceway, Reading, Pa. Richie Crampton (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock), Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Sept. 27-29 _ AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, World Wide Technology Raceway, Madison, Ill. Billy Torrence (Top Fuel), Shawn Langdon (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock), Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Oct. 11-14 _NTK NHRA Carolina Nationals, zMAX Dragway, Concord, N.C. Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Deric Kramer (Pro Stock), Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Oct. 17-20 _ AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, Texas Motorplex, Ennis.

Oct. 31-Nov. 3 _ Dodge NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Nov. 14-17 _ Auto Club NHRA Finals, Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 19 2019
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