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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Teen overcomes odds to fulfill need for speed

Monday, July 18, 2011

Just warming up. Colt Pruente, of Verona, warms up his car at the Monett Speedway. Pruente, who turned 16 in May, is entering his second full season of racing. [Times Photo by Jared Lankford]
A fourth place finish in the Legends division of the Tony Roper Memorial race at Monett Speedway Memorial Day weekend was not what Colt Pruente, of Verona, had in mind.

"I want to win," said Pruente. "I just need to work harder."

Pruente has come far in just a short time. He just turned 16 the first week of May and celebrated his first complete year of racing.

"It's infectious," Pruente said about racing. "It gets in your system; the adrenaline rush is hard to define. You get to go fast. It is pure excitement."

The idea of racing for Pruente was a foreign thought four years ago.

While helping clean up after the 2007 ice storm, Colt was driving his father's all-terrain vehicle when it crashed causing Colt to severely injure his back.

"I was scared," said Pruente. "I have always loved playing sports, and I didn't even know if I could walk again. I thought my days of participating in any type of sport were over. The doctors inserted a two-millemeter rod the length of my back. I had to go through a lot of physical therapy. I consider myself fortunate, because today I can walk and run with no pain."

While on the mend from back surgery, Colt's father began sponsoring a race car driven by Shane Essary.

"Shane is a great guy," said Pruente. "He invited me to travel with him and be a part of his pit crew. I loved every minute of it. A couple of years later I started thinking that racing might be a sport that I could participate in."

Convincing his mother to let him race proved to be his biggest obstacle.

"My dad has always been a pretty easy going guy, he was on board with the idea of me racing from the beginning," explained Pruente. "My mother, she took a lot of convincing. In order to ease her mind, my dad and I had a special seat manufactured that prevents me from sliding around. A doctor had to sign off on my health, and I put an "I Love Mom" sticker on the car. The sticker was the clincher."

A year later Pruente was turning laps at the Monett Speedway, and he chose to race in the legends division.

According to Pruente, Legends cars are a type of race car that is designed to promote exciting racing and to keep costs down. The bodyshells are five-eighths-scale replicas of American automobiles from the 1930s and 1940s, powered by a motorcycle engine. Legends cars are a "spec" series, meaning all cars are mechanically identical, and generally designed in three types or styles: standard coupe, 34 coupe and sedan.

"My dad is my biggest fan and biggest sponsor," said Pruente. "Racing allows me to spend quality time with my family. On evenings, during the week, my dad and I are working on my car. On the weekends, my family and I are traveling to races."

Entering his second full season of racing, Pruente knows he still has much to learn.

"I try to be a sponge and soak up as much information as I can," said Pruente. "I have learned that I need to hit the turns harder and be more aggressive on the track. It is a big responsibility to sit behind the wheel of any type of race car. The first year I raced I was more worried about not wrecking anyone else. This season I am out to win."

Pruente's ultimate goal is to eventually race in the late-model series and then switch to asphalt track racing.

"Right now, I consider myself lucky to get to race," said Pruente. "I have a great family who is really supportive. Now all I need to do is win."

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