Is Virden ready to embrace sprint cars?

When Lance Prystenski was a kid growing up in Steinbach, he admired the sprint racing car in a neighbour’s yard every day on his way to school. Later, he grew up watching sprint cars at the racetrack in Winnipeg.

Now in his 50s, Prystenski finally has the car of his dreams. Two of them, in fact.

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And he wants to persuade you to get one, too.

The Virden businessman / eavestrough installer bought his first sprint car in 2017 and the second just this year, both second hand.

So far, he just uses them around his property south of Virden and has done a few demonstrations at the Souris stock car track to generate interest. But he says if he could attract a few more drivers to the sport, a racetrack might be in Virden’s future.

“I’d like to see the sport grow, more guys buying cars around here,” he says. “Then we can get a racetrack going.

“Once you have that, people will come out of the woodwork. And we can go and compete in other places, too.”

Lightning sprints, as they’re called, are smaller, cheaper versions of full-size sprint cars and are considered a starter car for racing enthusiasts. But make no mistake, they’re no slouch on the track.

“They’re smaller and less costly but far faster than most stock cars you see on local tracks,” Prystenski says as he wriggles feet first into the cockpit for a demo drive.

These lightweight speedsters can hit up to 225 kph with their 750cc Suzuki motorcycle engines, and models with larger engines can go even faster.

Lots of looks

Prystenski’s machines tend to get a lot of double takes when he shows them in parades or at tracks with their distinctive aluminum wings mounted above the rollbars.

The wings create a downforce of air that gives the cars better traction and stability as they skid around corners on the dirt track. They can also help absorb some of the energy from high speed wipeouts, something Prystenski luckily hasn’t had.

But he is interested in competing once he has enough experience behind the wheel. For this summer, his plans include taking his cars to tracks in Souris, Swan River, Yorkton, Swift Current and Tisdale to practice and show them.

Huge in the US

Winged sprint car racing goes back about 50 years and has a huge following in the US. In the 1970s, drivers first started putting wings with sideboards on the top and front of their sprint cars for the stability, which pumped up their speed and reduced the risk of going airborne and crashing.

There are now sprint car clubs across most of the US, parts of Canada and Australia. The Northern Outlaw Sprint Association represents drivers in North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Manitoba.

The cost to buy a new lightning sprint car, says Prystenski, is about $16,000 but can be bought used for much less.

The nearest track to see them race is the Devils Lake Speedway in ND.

(You can also see a short video of Prystenski racing his sprint car around his front yard on the Virden Empire-Advance Facebook page!)

© Virden Empire-Advance

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