Kent Prather is the proprietor of Prather Racing, Inc. in Wakarusa, Ks. (south Topeka). The business was started in 1975 and began as an import repair service. Kent became known for excellent workmanship, honesty and a knack for achieving the customer’s goals. The shop first got into racing with a Formula Vee and became very active in SCCA activities.
However, since Kent’s first car in high school, a ground-up restoration of an MGA in 1968, production cars were the way to go. Kent entered G Production in 1980 with his MGA, winning numerous regional races along with the 1983 Regional series, MARRS series and the NORRDIC Championship. He went National racing in 1984 with a 10th place finish at his first Runoffs National Championship event (Road Atlanta). Kent’s first National Championship came in 1986 followed by number two in 1990.
The Valvoline Runoffs’ move to Mid-Ohio in 1994 didn’t stop the two-time Champion, with Kent taking his third title in 1995. Kent had a perfect season in 2002, taking the pole and win in each of the six Nationals he entered, culminating in a record-tying fourth Runoff National Championship.
2003 became a season to do more development in an effort to go faster and keep up with the increasing pressure in G Production, despite holding every track record in the Midwest Division. The results were back-to-back National Championships, thus becoming the first-ever five-time G Production SCCA National Champion.
The 2004 G Production Runoffs started off positively, with Kent taking his second career Runoffs pole. While fighting in the top three on lap three another competitor tried an ambitious move and eliminated all hope of a three peat.
In 2005 Kent won his record sixth SCCA National Championship in G Production in the venerable MGA. For his efforts he also earned the SCCA President’s Cup – the highest bestowed on an SCCA racing driver. He built a 1964 MGB for Vintage events and took a number of wins.
2006 brought the Runoffs to the Prather’s back yard? Heartland Park Topeka. Coming off his record-setting Runoffs win at Mid-Ohio Kent was not one to rest on his laurels, completely redesigning the suspension on the MGA. He had a good season, working out the kinks in the new design leading up to the Runoffs. While Kent improved the MGA his competitors got faster as well and Kent faced the challenge of competition that had finally approached the level of prep the Prather Racing had put on the MGA for years. Kent qualified fifth and recovered from an early spin (due to contact with another competitor) and battled rain slicks to finish sixth.
Kent’s son Jesse was going to take the season off before building a new F Production Miata for 2007 but when a car he’d built for a customer a couple years earlier became available he acquired it in July. With only four races remaining in the schedule Jesse hit all of them, winning three and taking the Divisional Championship. He qualified second on the grid and took his first ever National Championship at the Runoffs after a race long battle with four time champ Steve Sargis. Jesse received the Road Racing Driver’s Club Mark Donohue award for his success and sportsmanship, helping competitors throughout the week at the Prather Racing shop. He also received the Dave Tabor award.
In addition to their SCCA activities, Prather Racing ran a full season of vintage events in its MGB and had acquired vintage Lola and Chevron Can-Am cars for a customer to campaign in 2007.
Jesse added another National Championship in 2007 in his Miata. He had only one second place finish all season. Prather Racing had 4 cars finish in the top 10 in F Production. Eric Prill 4th, Bob Bramlage 8th and Andy Hauck 9th.
Kent had some great runs during the 2007 season as well and his third place qualifying effort at the Runoffs was spoiled by a bad spark plug during the race.
With G Production not making the numbers in 2007, it was eliminated for 2008 and Kent’s MGA was moved to F Production. Making the car run with the frontrunners in FP was a tall task but Kent made the best of it and finished sixth at the Runoffs. Jesse moved to E Production with his Miata putting the later 1.8 liter engine in. He had a great race with Tom Thrash at the Runoffs eventually taking the lead and scoring his third straight National Championship.
In 2009 the MGA went through a complete restoration over the winter and was moved to Vintage Racing, where it continued to be a fan favorite. Additionally, the shop welcomed a couple of new projects from Bob Bramlage, a vintage Pontiac Trans Am and a Ginetta G4.
In SCCA racing in 2009 Jesse and Kent shared the Miata with Jesse running in E Production and Kent in GT-Lite with a restrictor. It was a busy season but both drivers won their Divisional Championships. At the Runoffs, which had moved to Road America, Jesse qualified second but was caught out on the grid with slicks when rain began to fall. He led briefly before spinning and after pitting for rain tires and falling to 30th he fought back up to a sixth place finish.
The 2010 season was one of change. Jesse branched out to start Jesse Prather Motorsports taking the year off of serious racing to focus on his new venture. Kent spent the season developing the Miata into a GT-Lite front-runner, scoring a win in the regular season and finishing third in Divisional points. The lessons learned through the season paid off big time at the Runoffs. Battling challenging weather conditions, Kent fought his way to a third place finish – his 13th podium at the Runoffs, which ranks eighth all-time.
On the vintage front the MGA had another stellar year and is as popular as ever in the paddock. Bob Bramlage had a great season running the Ginetta and the Trans Am (nick named Bubba). Other Prather Racing customers had good season as well, including Scott Schmidt in the Schmidt Box Sprite and Eric Prill’s fast F Production SCCA Lotus Super 7.
In 2011 Kent began and unprecedented run in GT-Lite winning all five races he entered with the Miata at Hallett, Mid-America, Heartland Park and a double at High Plains. At the Runoffs he captured his third career Runoffs pole position and captured his seventh National Championship with a dominating victory. The win was the first Championship for Kent outside of the G Production class.
Kent’s encore to the perfect season of 2011 was another perfect season in 2012. He drove to regular season victories in each of the Hallett and High Plains doubleheaders and took that momentum to the Runoffs where he scored his fourth career pole. The race was with, with early rain forcing to tip-toe around Road America. After leading early, Kent spun on the wet track but rebounded to charge back to the lead. In the final corner of the final lap Kent was in a fierce battle with Bobby Lentz’s Nissan, and Kent was able to edge out the victory by 0.023 second. It was the third closest measured victory in Runoffs history.
While racing with SCCA the vintage program continued with Kent’s MGA and a variety of customer cars.
In 2013 the season started with a trip to the spectacular Circuit of the Americas, where Kent scored a pair of wins. He added two more at Hallett and Heartland Park bringing the GT-Lite win streak to 17 straight dating back to the start of 2011! The streak winded at the Runoffs though. Kent was up to as high as second before falling back to 11th in the end.
2014 included races at Hallett and Heartland Park then the trip out to historic Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, Calif. After getting hit in a major crash in one of the qualifying sessions Kent was very happy to finish 5th at the Runoffs.
2015 is another full year of races at Hallett, Blackhawk Farms and the Kansas Speedway in his MGA. The Miata was sold so he’ll take the MGA to Daytona Speedway for the SCCA Runoffs.
An appearance at the Brain Redman Hawk Vintage race at Road America will be the only vintage race in the MGA this year. Jesse will be driving Rick Fiske’s Elva Courier and Bob Bramlage his Ginetta.