NHRA Pro Stock driver Alan Prusiensky makes his return to the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series next weekend in the 2020 season-opener. But will he race much after that?
Prusiensky, who suffered a fracture to his L5 vertebra in a grinding crash at Charlotte last October, said he plans to race the entire season. That, however, could change.
“I would say I’m going to race the whole season,” Prusiensky said. “I’m just going to start the season off and see how it goes performance-wise. Performance-wise is the most important thing right now. See how it runs and see how competitive I can be.”
For Pomona, Prusiensky will race the TopCoat Dodge Dart that is on loan from eCarMover.com. It’s the same car Richie Stevens Jr. drove in Prusiensky’s absence late last year. The wrecked car still sits in Prusiensky’s shop as the driver/owner decides how to proceed.
“I don’t really know what I want to do with my car,” Prusiensky said. “It’s just sitting there from the crash. If I like this (eCarMovers.com) car, I’ll probably drive this car. I don’t know. I don’t know what my future holds. One step at a time. (First), get going down the race track with this one.”
Surprisingly, the wrecked car isn’t a mangled heap. Prusiensky was in the right lane last October when the car darted left after the chutes didn’t open past the finish line. The Dodge crossed in front of Chris McGaha and hit the wall nose first, then flipped once back on its wheels.
“It hit the wall, and if you watch the video, flipped right back up on the back tires and rolled down the race track,” Prusiensky said. “It never really hit anything else going down the race track. The nose, there wasn’t a piece the size of a square inch left. But from the firewall back, the body didn’t really take that much abuse. (Noted car builder) Jerry Haas is pretty confident it can be fixed. I haven’t sent it to him so he can put it on a jig, but he looked it over and he said it could be fixed.
“I don’t know if I want to. I really just don’t know what I want to do. I’ve done this for five years now and I’ve kinda gotten my butt whooped out here. I like working on my own stuff, my own engines. But to keep up with Elite and KB, it’s not easy to do with a (small) engine shop.”
Sponsor TopCoat is behind any decision Prusiensky makes, he said. If qualifying and race runs early in the season show the car is an issue, Prusiensky will continue to race as he works out the tuneup. If his car is down on horsepower, he’ll be forced to stay home and work on his engines.
“I like working on it,” Prusiensky. “But I also don’t want to get my butt whipped any more. It’s been five years. I just don’t know what I want to do, really. I worked hard on the engines over the winter, and hopefully, I can see some kind of improvement and get closer to the pack where I could be competitive. But that’s a tall order when financially you don’t have the budget; you don’t have the manpower.”
Getting competitive is foremost on his mind as the 2020 season opens in Pomona, Calif. Returning from a broken back is almost an afterthought.
“It’s been day and night really since October,” Prusiensky said. “We’re working on a lot of things, and hopefully things will show some promise. I’m not sure if I’ll be 100 percent at Pomona, but I’m hoping for some move in the right direction.”
Note: He’s talking about his race car, not his body.
“I feel good,” Prusiensky said. “I really feel good. I’ve broken my back before, like 15 years ago, so I’ve always had soreness. I’ve never really had a great back – not to the point where I’m incapacitated. At the end of the day, you’re like, ‘Oh, I’m ready to lay down a little bit.’
“But I really, really feel good over the past month. I’m surprised at how good I feel right now.” Prusiensky fractured his L4 vertebra 15 years ago in a freak accident. While working in a shop, Prusiensky was somehow hit with 50 amperes of direct current. Fortunately a co-worked noticed that Prusiensky was unable to talk or move and grabbed him away from a battery box.
“It’s probably like a one-in-a-million shot,” Prusiensky said. “When I got unhooked from the 50 amps of DC, my back was broken, and my shoulder was out of the socket. It was crazy, intense pain, and I was pounded with it for like 15 seconds. It felt like it was hours, but it ended up only being 15 seconds.
“We never really figured it out. We had a big, jumper box battery charging on 50 amps. We think the ground was bad on it, and 110 was flowing through me on a metal bench from an old drill press. Something made it start charging me instead of the battery. I just touched the battery charger and got glued to it; it was like a magnet.
“I literally just touched it with my calf. It was a hot day, so I was sweaty. I don’t really know.” Prusiensky could barely move for nearly two months after that accident before slowly healing.
“I’ve gotta believe the break was a lot worse that time,” Prusiensky said. “The shoulder hurt more than anything. Once I popped the shoulder back in the socket, then I realized my back was hurting. I thought that day that I was lucky to be alive.”
This time, the pain wasn’t nearly as intense. But Prusiensky knew it would take time to heal, and physical therapy wouldn’t help much. Instead, his form of physical therapy was simply working: Bending over to pick up a socket, moving to get a bolt. About a month ago, Prusiensky started feeling much better. He plans to test his car at Bakersfield, Calif., next Monday and Tuesday.
“I don’t know how I’ll feel when I go test, if I’ll be nervous,” Prusiensky said. “I haven’t really thought, ‘Oh, I’ll be nervous,’ but it’ll be interesting. When you buckle it, it’ll be different. When I buckle up and do a burnout, it’ll be interesting to see what I’m feeling.”
Prusiensky said he’s been in and out of the race car countless times, including about 50 times one day this week while working on the interior – all without any pain.
“If I had driven this car in the past, I wouldn’t be too worried about it,” Prusiensky said. “If I had my car, I’d go right to Pomona if I had to. I just want to get a couple test hits on it and kinda get a feel for it.”