Mobile, Alabama’s Thomas “Moose” Praytor turned in a career performance in 2016 earning his first top 5 in the ARCA Series presented by Menards National Championship.
“There was a point this season we didn’t think we could stay in the top 10 but our guys kept working, never gave up and the finishes started to fall our way,” said Praytor.
On the way to his 4th consecutive top 10 finish in the Season Standings Praytor posted career best finishes at; Daytona, Talladega, Toledo, Madison, Iowa, IRP, Berlin, Springfield, DuQuoin, Chicago, Kentucky and Kansas.
“The quality of our equipment was better in 2017 and we work hard on preparing them to go the distance, you can’t finish if parts are falling off. We may not have the fastest cars but we take a great deal of pride in our cars being ready.”
While all of the teams in the top 5 have paid crews preparing cars for race weekend, Praytor’s team at the shop is himself and whatever friends he can convince to come by after work. Each week the team painstakingly prepares for each race while their equipment is second generation compared to the Champions. The top 4 teams utilized the new composite body and the new ARCA Ilmore engine in 2016, Praytor’s 5th place team used the older steel body cars and the Legacy Roush D3 motor.
“We were down on horsepower, heavy on bodies and down on aero. Basically, we were behind the eight ball in almost every competitive category except one, our people. When you are an underfunded team you can either complain or make the best of what you have. We’ve learned a lot about what it takes to make these cars go and we’ll keep adding the parts and pieces we need to run up front.”
Praytor and his team not only had to overcome competitive disadvantages but the Mobile, Alabama based team had the longest commute of any ARCA team, logging over 50,000 miles in 2016. After the cars are loaded most drivers fly to the race, not Praytor he can be found behind the wheel sharing driving duties with his Dad getting the teams equipment to the track.
“Some of our turnaround times were so short we might as well have slept in the hauler at the shop between races. We had some close calls this year, I think we blew out 5 trailer tires going to Winchester and barely got there in time to race. The water lines on the motor broke in Michigan and we blew tires so often we got quicker than the pit crew replacing trailer tires.”
The 5th place team in the Championship standings also utilizes an unusual pit crew, all volunteer students from the University Of Northwestern Ohio (UNOH). Each week the crew finishes their classes and like the driver hustles through the night to get to the races. Crew Chief Adam Lowe, UNOH student, even finished 8th in the Cometic Crew Chief of the Year Award.
“I wouldn’t trade our guys for a crew from Hendrick, they work their butts off. Not only do they care about what they are doing they have gotten pretty quick too. Adam Lowe has been with us from the first lap and most of the other guys joined us last year, Tevin Bair, Kyle Warner, Angelo Callabrese and, Andy Ball. They all get what we are trying to do.”
Primary sponsor DK-LOK Fittings and Valves allows Praytor and his team to be able to give back by making appearances, running special paint schemes for Project Semicolon, The Chive Charities, GoodBookey.com and a special AJ McCarron race helmet for the Alabama Institute of the Deaf and Blind.
“We are very lucky and privileged to be able to do what we do, giving back is important to my family. This year we have been fortunate to work with some really cool organizations and I hope we can build on those relationships in the future.”
While racking up Championship points Praytor and his team were also scoring in every special ARCA Award category;
CGS Hard Charger Award 2nd
S & S Volvo Laps Completed 3rd
Bill France Four Crown Award 4th
Fast Track Driving Award 6th
Racing Electronics Lightning Challenge 7th
Short Track Challenge by Protect Plus 6th
“We have had an incredible season and I couldn’t begin to thank everyone who has had a hand in our success. My family has been with me all the way and we couldn’t be here without DK-LOK. There isn’t much of an off season in our shop we are already working on next season.”
The ARCA Championship Banquet will be in Indianapolis on December 10th