With his 83rd consecutive start in the Music City 200 Thomas “Moose” Praytor takes over as the ARCA Series Active Ironman. Currently Praytor has more consecutive starts in ARCA than any other active driver.
The Ironman in any sport is usually reserved for throwback style players, Footballs, Jim Marshall, Baseballs Cal Ripken and drivers like Frank Kimmel, Ricky Rudd, Terry Labonte and Mobile’s Rick Crawford, the long time Ironman of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Not only do they play hard, they worked hard in the shop and that work ethic keeps them coming to the racetrack, when others would call it a day.
Rudd taped his eyelids open to race, on 2 occasions Marshall walked out of the hospital to join his team on game day, Crawford left the infield Care Center to win at Daytona and Kimmel made 386 consecutive starts on his way to 10 Championships. Praytor has already experienced his share of tough starts, kidney stones, carbon monoxide poisoning, head dingers, torn muscles and some bones & joints that will tell him the weather forecast for years to come. But the Moose keeps on going.
“The idea that I’m still in the Series, still coming to the track every week is just incredible. We were only supposed to make 3 starts five years ago and well we’re still going. I don’t really think about being the Ironman, I just think about how fortunate I am to have a ride and nothing is going to keep me out of it.”
Climbing into a racecar was not always been a given, in 2003, while racing at Sunny South Raceway, Praytor hit the wall so hard his seat assembly came loose from the car allowing his head to hit the wall on impact.
Lifeflighted from the track, Praytor was in a coma for a week, survival first, racing would have to come second. Once on the mend, the Doctors prescribed one year of no racing or football. Praytor spent the year rehabbing his body and rebuilding his wrecked race car while spotting for his Dad. At the end of the year, the Doctors cleared the Moose to return to action but Mom was a much tougher sell. Eventually she came around and Praytor was back in the saddle.
“I never have remembered the wreck but I’ll never forget that year on the sidelines. I think the year off really made me appreciate the opportunities you have. I look at each start as special, I know there are thousands of other guys who would kill for my spot and I’m not giving up my seat to anybody.”
While the laps continue to pile up (Over 10,000) Praytor and his family owned Max Force Racing are focused on not just starting but improving. Last season Praytor turned in his best season on tour finishing 5th in the Championship Standings. And like the song says “with a little help from my friends.”
“There are so many people that have contributed to me being here. Belmont and Venturini gave me a shot, Hixson really got me going and every major owner in the series has contributed to me staying here. The support we receive in Mobile is just incredible, day and night friends come by the shop, pitch in and help us get our cars prepared for the track. We couldn’t do it without all of our friends.”
Most young drivers look at the ARCA Series as a stepping stone to bigger rides, Praytor has a unique perspective: “If it all ended tomorrow I’ve done more than I ever dreamed I would get to do as a race car driver. Daytona, Talladega, Pocono those were fantasy tracks on my computer not reality for a Super Stock driver from Mobile International Speedway. We still have so much more we want to accomplish.”
Consecutive start #84 is the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 at Salem Speedway on April 30th.