Prauner tops all expectations, earns IMCA Sunoco Late Model rookie award

Dennis Meyer/Daily News * * Norfolk Late Model driver Kyle Prauner (5k) races in his heat race Saturday night at Off Road Speedway. Prauner later won the feature.

NORFOLK, Neb.  – A top five finish here and there would have convinced Kyle Prauner that his first IMCA Sunoco Late Model season was a success. 

Prauner far exceeded those aspirations, winning five features along with the track championship at hometown Off Road Speedway and the national rookie of the year award. 

“Any expectations we had were blown out of the water,” Prauner said following his 19th season on the track. “We were hoping for a handful of top five’s but the season went way better than we thought it would.”

A long-time IMCA Karl Kustoms Northern SportMod driver – he is still fourth on the career wins list for that division with 141 – Prauner had both a growing family and a new job to consider when making his 2021 race plans.

“There was some discussion of retirement. I had always wanted to race a Late Model but never felt I would be able to afford it,” he said. “Then IMCA came to town with Late Models and the crate motor. I started perusing ads on the internet and Facebook and found this car, a 2012 Swartz Chassis, for $7,000.”

Prauner stretched his racing budget buying used, with Exeter’s Cory Dumpert, stepping up to serve as a mentor.

“If I was losing a step and wasn’t going to be competitive, we didn’t want to spend a lot of money,” Prauner said. “I have to give a lot of credit to Cory. My dad (Jerry, a former IMCA Modified and Late Model driver) and I have a lot of experience racing and it’s not that we didn’t know what we were doing, but there’s a lot of technology in a Late Model and it could have taken us a while longer to figure out.” 

Three of his feature wins, including his career first on May 1, came at Off Road. Prauner ended sixth in national point standings. 

“We did a lot of our racing a couple miles away, at the old Riviera Speedway, but we’ve got a lot of laps at Off Road Speedway in its short existence, too,” Prauner said. “We’ve won here in a SportMod and Stock Car, and now in a Late Model.” 

Starts-31                            Wins-5                                Additional Top Fives-16

His Crew: Father Jerry, Nate Canham, Greg Berry and Roger Bowers.

His Sponsors: Deitz Well and Pump, Big Daddy Race Cars, Dr. Nate Stender, Waste Connections, Wilson Tool Service and Norfolk Auto Center, all of Norfolk; Roth Racing Performance of Platte Center; Nebraska Powder Coating, Henn House Dairy and T & D Storage, all of Battle Creek; Steve Zimola of Weston; Cole Haddix of Elgin; and Gary Kucera of Montana.