For Thomas “Moose” Praytor and his Mobile, Alabama based Max Force Race Team Talladega is more than just a race, it’s a Homecoming filled with family, friends, fans, sponsors, special guest and an opportunity for the Moose to put on a show in front of the home state fans.
A short week after the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 in Salem had Praytor and his team hopping back at the shop in Mobile. The Super Speedway car was delivered from the paint booth at Rettigs Auto on Monday and the team put the finishing touches on the Alabama Institute for Deaf & Blind (AIDB) Ford for Talladega.
What was already a long weekend got longer when the team pulled out of Mobile Thursday night to only make it 13 miles up the interstate before coming to a dead stop for 5 hours for an accident. A little late for Tech Day on Thursday but the team got to Talladega just in time for the rain.
A long tech day and a lot of rain on Thursday led to a lot of rain on Friday morning causing the schedule to be turned upside down. At just after lunch the ARCA teams got a 30 minute practice session to shake down their cars.
Praytor made a quick 4 laps on the race track, the team took care of a wheel rub and the car cover was put back over the AIDB Ford Fusion for the General Tire 200 slated for later in the day.
All of the work to the AIDB Ford had been done in Mobile after the car was wrecked in Daytona. “We felt really good about our car, we’ve learned a lot over the years about air and the guys at Rettigs worked really hard slicking our car back up for Talladega. We didn’t see any need to put laps on our car or take a chance drafting.”
Mother Nature refused to cooperate on Friday for racing but it gave Praytor a lot of time to talk with the crowd gathering at the Max Force Hauler including the team’s special guest from AIDB. “We have always participated in the AIDB Race Fever Auction and spending time with the kids is what it’s all about. They are reworking the Auction this year so we had a couple of the kids come out to the track so we could spend some time with them and what a blast!” (DeKendrick Graves & Jeffrey Oliver)
While the rain dragged on, Associate Sponsor, AQUASALT had a suite loaded with guests and the Moose gathered up his new buddies from AIDB and went visiting. “Suite visits are so much fun. The people in the suite are having a good time, they are pulling for you and they just get you pumped up. Of course I had my two straight men with me Dee and Jeff and they can put a smile on anybody’s face.”
Unfortunately the Suite visit ran longer than expected because the rain never let up, racing was cancelled for Friday afternoon and moved to Saturday afternoon. A special shout out to Talladega Superspeedway for making room for our AQUASALT folks to stay for Saturday.
After another long day of doing nothing other than waiting for 5:00PM Praytor and his team were beyond ready to race. “You get your mind set to go on Friday, you do all these things that you do on a normal race day, then you don’t race, then it’s another 24 hours and you go through the whole process again.”
The AIDB Ford would finally roll off 10th, Praytor and his Spotter Tab Boyd (Playing hooky from Joey Logano) were ready to go. With the drop of the green flag, the Moose guided by Boyd rumbled to the front and made his way up to the 6th spot before the General Tire 200 would finally settle down.
“Tab was doing an awesome job from the roof and we had a really fast car, a little darty but fast.”
At lap 25 the caution flag was out for debris on the track. Team calculations before the race said they needed to get to lap 30 before they were good to the end. This was the same predicament the team found itself in Daytona.
In Daytona the team stayed out while the rest of the field gambled and came in for fuel. In Talladega the AIDB Ford was called to pit road for a fuel only stop. “We let it all hang out in Talladega.”
With the ARCA Series racing in companion with the NASCARs Xfinity Series and the Monster Cup Series a lot of teams opted for pit road help from the NASCAR garage, we stuck with our all UNOH crew and they held serve with the best in the business only giving up 2 spots on pit road.
Back under green Boyd and Praytor were moving in unison as the Moose rumbled up to 4th. “Tab does such a good job, he sees stuff before it happens and helps us get the runs we need it in the draft.”
The AIDB Ford settled in to the 5th spot and started logging laps, setting up how to take on the finish.
Praytor dodge the big one (pic at top of story) but a new problem was developing for the Alabama native, 3rd gear was gone. The problem with losing 3rd gear is each restart bogged Praytor down until he could get up to speed allowing cars to drop down in front of him pushing him back in the running order.
“It was really frustrating, we had such a great car and the motor was still going but our car just wouldn’t go.” With each late caution the transmission started to rattle in every gear as the missing pieces off 3rd gear started bouncing around inside.
As the final laps wore down Praytor slipped all the way back to 16th and under one of the cautions the AIDB Ford came to pit road and topped off with fuel to eliminate the fuel gamble. The move gave Praytor breathing room when the race went to over time.
A caution on the final lap set the field, for a one lap dash for cash. Boyd and Praytor put together a restart plan that catapulted the AIDB Ford forward on the final restart picking up 4 spots on the final lap coming home 12th, a career best at Talladega.
“We had a great weekend at Talladega. Twelfth was a little disappointing after running in the top 5 all day but we continue to show speed everywhere we go. It was really a great weekend, so many friends, a lot of support from Mobile. Thanks to AIDB for letting us be a part of their tremendous program.”
After a big weekend there was only one thing left to do on Saturday night, well it is Talladega!
A week off and the Series heads to Toledo for the Menards 200 on Sunday May 21st, live on Fox Sports 1.