In a Pro Stock sea of bowties peppered with a handful of blue ovals, Alan Prusiensky's Dodge Dart is difficult to miss. As the lone Dodge campaigner, the New Jersey-based privateer has shown a level of perseverance worthy of respect, and although he hasn't yet experienced the results that he desires on NHRA's Camping World Drag Racing Series tour, Prusiensky remains dedicated and optimistic.
"My first car that I drove on the streets was a '69 Charger," he said. "I've just always had Dodges, and I truly don't believe anything is wrong with the Dodge. We do the best we can, but if a big team took over my program, I'm sure we'd run faster."
For engine builder Prusiensky, who was an avid bracket racer from 1993 until 2015, the fact that he continues to run a Dodge in a field dominated by Chevrolets mostly comes down to practicality.
"It wouldn't be cost-effective to change now," explained Prusiensky, who owns and operates A.R.C. Race Engines in Rockaway, N.J., and makes all the calls on his Pro Stocker at the track. "I have six motors, I have the parts. To start over — you're talking half a million dollars, and who even knows if I'd run faster?
"Every year we get a little better and a little smarter, but these guys I'm racing against have been out here 20 and 30 years doing this. They know things and have seen things; it's like they know what's going to happen before it happens. It takes more than just horsepower to run these cars, and that isn't going to change if I have Chevy or Dodge on the valve cover. Would a Chevy be easier? I don't know if it would be for me. I'd have to start all over to figure out that program, and that would take years."
Prusiensky's first start in Pro Stock came in Gainesville in 2015, but he'd long been a follower of the class, showing up at Englishtown's historic Old Bridge Township Raceway Park to hang out behind the trailers of Darrell Alderman and Scott Geoffrion. In later years, Prusiensky got the chance to break in tires for Mopar veteran Allen Johnson.
The opportunity to drive came when Matt Hartford put his Dodge Avenger up for sale. Although Prusiensky had a Top Sportsman car at the time, he couldn't help himself. He bought the Avenger and was immediately enamored.
"I thought I'd come to, like, five races, just to say I did it," he said. "I thought it would be pretty cool to just mess around with it on the dyno, but then I started going to every race I could go to. I went to 50 in a row at one point, just me and my wife, Christine, and daughter, Natalie. It was weird that I was just a bracket guy from Englishtown and then showed up at the racetrack and started racing against these guys and girls. Now, it's like we have friends and family out here. I like to work on the car, but my wife is Chatty Cathy."
Daughter Natalie, now 16, has become increasingly interested in following in her father's footsteps. Prusiensky remembers her as a kid content to play hula hoop in the pits, but in recent years, Natalie has taken a more active role in working on the car and tracking the results of competitors — whether she's at home due to school and softball commitments or with her dad at the track.
"It's a little scary to think about putting your daughter behind the wheel of a Pro Stock car," shared Prusiensky. "I'm not sure what the future holds. I look at all of this one race at a time. If I can go to the next race, I'll go to the next race. If I don't have an engine to go to the next race, I don't. My wife and I work really hard to come out here and do this — it's not cheap, but if we qualify, we almost break even. It's close enough that we go to the next one, anyway. I do wait for that check to come on Thursday, though."
Prusiensky's tenacity is admirable, particularly as he knows what it's like to win. As a bracket racer, he claimed somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 victories, and so far in his Pro Stock career, he has yet to see the inside of a semifinal round.
He knows that can turn around, though, and after seeing gains on the A.R.C. Race Engines dyno during the winter and adopting a new clutch program, he was particularly eager to start the 2023 season in Gainesville. Unfortunately for Prusiensky, with 20 cars vying for one of 18 positions, he was turned away by .045-second.
The next three stops on the tour were out west with events in Phoenix, Pomona, and Las Vegas. Many expected the East Coast racer to turn tail back to New Jersey and wait until Charlotte or even Chicago, but Prusiensky simply couldn't do it.
"In Florida, I was working on some things and got behind the eight ball, and before you know it, it's Q4 and you don't qualify," he said. "I was like, 'I have to go to Phoenix.' I just wanted to race."
Prusiensky made the field at the NHRA Arizona Nationals, but he said that most of that was luck falling on his side — something that hasn't happened a lot lately and did not last long. On Sunday, he nabbed a sizable starting-line advantage over young Cristian Cuadra in their first-round meeting, but a two-dollar part failure in the throttle linkage quelled his surge.
"This year, things I haven't seen happen before are happening," he said. "It's not tremendously bad, but just stupid things. Usually, you get one a month — but I'm getting two a race. I just have to put that behind me and make some decent runs. It's harder out here now. KB [Titan] has six cars that are great, Elite has eight cars that are great, and the McGahas have two cars that are great — that doesn’t leave many spots for me.
"But I just want to get better myself. I want to make better runs and put the pressure on them to be great. If I can get in on Sunday and get in halfway decent, I can win some rounds. This is a tough way to race, but I see it, I know it's in there. I just have to make a good couple of runs and get the snowball rolling down the hill."