Not known as a road course ringer, Thomas “Moose” Praytor wasn’t exactly thrilled with Road America being start 100. As the rain fell on race day and the rain tires were being bolted on his DK-LOK Ford something happened to the Ironman of the ARCA Series that hasn’t happened in a long time, nervousness.
“Racing has become second nature and I really don’t get nervous or anxious before we race but Sunday morning, staring at a 4 mile road course, 10 Xfinity drivers and racing in the rain, well let’s just say I was paying attention and talking to every road racer I could find,” said Thomas.
Prior to Sunday the weekend had gone as planned with the anticipation of reaching the 100 start milestone while surviving the 4 miles of Road America. The early practice went so well Praytor didn’t go out for the second.
“I told the guys the place is so big and I’m so bad I could stay out here all day and I would still be trying new stuff. We really wanted to conserve our equipment for the race and make all 100 miles.”
After the practices sessions on Saturday, with the stream of motors, transmissions and gears going up and down pit road to replace the broken ones, conservation seemed like a good idea.
As the rain fell all the way up until the decision time for rain tires or slicks the team opted for rain tires and it never really rained again but the Moose was in good company the entire top 20 had changed.
With the drop of the green flag Praytor and his treaded rain tires weren’t getting along like the he did with the slicks on Saturday.
“It was just a completely different feel I couldn’t get them to hook up at all and I may have done a little agricultural racing back around turn 7. There was no TV back there so it’s my word against there’s!” But radio did bust him.
The first batch of leaders came in around lap 4 or 5 and Praytor was headed to pit road when rain started to fall on the carousel. The team opted to stay out, driving on rain tires may be hard but driving on slicks in the rain is impossible.
As quickly as it came the rain went away and now Praytor was hung out to dry with the rain tires. Looking for a caution that never came, the team brought him down pit road on lap 10 under green for 4 tires and fuel, 2 laps later the caution came out. The move put Praytor down a lap.
“It’s pretty frustrating, just about every call we made on Sunday did not go our way.”
With slicks on Praytor was picking back up spots and was now faster than he had been in practice on Saturday.
A late caution sent the race in to overtime and a single lap to decide the winner. The pushing and shoving was on before the field even turned the sharp right hander to the front stretch and by the time they reached turn 1 it was happening.
“We picked off the cars we could on that last lap and it got us in the top 20, not too bad for the way everything went.”
“The whole 100 start deal is still just surreal. I appreciate all the ARCA officials taking time to congratulate me. The other drivers, crew guys just everyone, it was really cool to have people recognizes you for your accomplishments. Frank Kimmel was one of the first guys to congratulate me, the guy has over 500 starts and a truck load of wins and championships. We talked for a while it’s pretty awesome that a guy like that considers you to be a driver and making a contribution.”
Back to the dirt on Labor Day!