Racing Commentary

Email Lew at lewboyd@coastal181.com

(Chaos Photography)

September 4, 2009


It’s hard to get him out of your mind. It’s the toppings that make Chris Prussman stand out – that mop of blonde hair, the laughing dance of his eyes. In a glance, he could be actor Owen Wilson or Timmy McCreadie – or a seventies surfer who happened to glide into the pit area of a dirt track.

What is so memorable about the South Dakotan modified driver, though, is beneath the surface. He is emblematic of hundreds if not thousands of American racers. He is nearing a critical moment in his racing – and his life.

Racing motors played Chris Prussman’s lullabies. His earliest memories are of the commanding white grandstand at Brookings Speedway and the cars his dad worked on. By three, learning to navigate the banking of his bath tub with a toy bar of soap, he already envisioned his future as a professional racer.

Growing up, despite a broken family and serious financial hardship, he found his way onto the seat of four-wheelers, snow mobiles, jet skis – anything with some poke.

By college time, “when I was in class it was As. But I knew too many people, went to too many parties. By 1991 I left school. My heart had already been donated to racing.”

Working construction for his father “whenever I was in town,” Chris was soon touring professionally on the flat track four-wheeler circuit. It was serious, seriously fast, and he was seriously good. His hair back then was mid-back length, waving in all directions, but the partying was over. There was no smoking, no drinking, and he won over 100 times.

(Chris Prussman Collection)

By 1997, idolizing Dale Sr., a slightly more shorn Prussman went straight into modified racing. It didn’t come gift-wrapped. He called over a hundred businesses for support, keeping copious notes, and ignoring the nay-sayers. Eventually he came up with $3200 for the $3500 initial investment.

Over the last 12 years he has run every show that he possibly could. He races three or four WISSOTA shows each week, the big IMCA events – Boone and Talladega, and he takes on the high-horsepower honchos of USMTS whenever he can with his peashooter motor. He estimates he has 60-70 wins to date.

No doubt that, besides his extreme motivation, Chris is a talented wheelman. He excelled instantly on the asphalt at Buck Baker’s driving school, as well as in an asphalt sprinter in Randy Brigg’s class. However, he has never been able to race beyond wallet-empty. His crew and equipment are amazingly meager.

To try to fill the gap beyond his part-time construction work, Prussman has been a darling to his sponsors. They are small, but many. He is consistently attentive, showering them with handouts and grins. That part comes easily to him. His pit is crammed with fans – especially kids – after every feature.

“Working with kids and folks who are hurting just makes me feel good. I do a lot with charities, especially during the off-season.” His website has a whole section on charities.

The issue right now is that Chris is 37, but just as intent on racing 100% for a living as he was 34 years ago back in that bath tub. “I love racing people,” he exudes with some idealism. “I figure the NASCAR family is 1000 times bigger. How I would like to support myself running Cup races on the weekend and doing charity things all week all over the country. I just need to get my stats up, have the right person see me, and attract one big sponsor. Folks tell me I am dreaming, but I haven’t stopped thinking about it for a minute.”

Who knows if Chris can possibly make it to Cup? Other guys like look-alike Timmy McCreadie, despite being several years younger and having enormous talent and exposure, have had trouble getting there. And the economy hardly favors lavish new racing deals these days.

It is hard to get Chris Prussman out of your mind. I do find myself rooting for him, but, to be honest, my wishes for him are a little different than his own. I wish he would land that solid, long-term sponsor, but not for that oh-so commercial, superficial world of Cup. I wish Chris could continue to be the role model he is right now for the next 20 years – sliding around those wonderful dirt tracks in our neighborhoods, befriending the kids, and building up his local charities without fear of that next bottom dollar.

And I wish Chris would take another look at what is really cool. It might not be that far away.

© 2009 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181

(Chaos Photography)

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.: Previous Tearoffs :.

8/15/09 - Facial Exposure

7/31/09 - Dying in the Pits

7/9/09 - Barn Rat's Last Race

6/18/09 - Catching Up With Brad Doty

5/20/09 - Big Boys in The Attic  - rare photos of legends

5/6/09 - Back Up In The Attic - more rare photos

4/22/09 - The Son of Hard Luck - accessible racing
experience for the handicapped

4/3/09 - Racin' In The Attic - Gordon Ross photo collection

3/18/09 - About That Mike Spaulding

3/3/09 - Dick Berggren's First Win - (you had to be there!)

2/11/09 - Peter at the Park - Peter Fiandaca at Riverside Park

1/30/09 - Steve - Steve Arpin

1/4/09 - Racer Speak -cool quotations

12/16/08 - Wimble Power, Will Power - Bill Wimble

11/24/08 - Remembering Chuck Amati - by Joyce Standridge

11/11/08 - That Rick Ferkel

10/24/08 - Beyond Bionic - Bentley Warren

10/6/08 - Fifty Second Classic - Skip and Lois Matczak

9/20/08 - Joey's Dad - Tom Logano

9/1/08 - One Night at The Park - the death of Les Ley

8/20/08 - Transitional Technology - early supermodifieds

8/6/08 - Wallace on Wednesdays - dirt trackin’ Kenny

7/19/08 - Star(ter) of the Show - importance of good flaggers

7/7/08 - McUnderdog - Eddie MacDonald

6/18/08 - The Night Buzz Was Worried - Buzz Rose

6/5/08 - John Richards - Boomer Role Model

5/20/08 - The Spirit of a Racer - the late Al Powell

5/1/08 - Bobby's Blues - Bobby Santos III

4/15/08 - Thinking About Rene Charland

3/26/08 - Carl and Corey - Carl Edwards and Corey Dripps

3/4/08 - A Cool Track with Cool Racers - West Liberty, Iowa

2/14/08 - Doug Wolfgang

1/25/08 - Frankie Schneider

1/7/08 - When Drivers Can't See - cockpit vision

12/21/07 - When Starters Couldn't See - flagstand vision

12/1/07 - Ride Along with Erica Santos - in-car camera midget win

11/15/07 - Tough Drivers

11/1/07 - Cockpit Safety

10/15/07 - That First Race

10/1/07 - Racing Nicknames

9/15/07 - Too Many Officials

9/1/07 - The Look of a Real Driver

8/15/07 - Being Dale Junior

8/1/07 - Armond Holley

7/15/07  -  Red Farmer

© 2009 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181