Since entering the ARCA Series five years ago, Mobile, Alabama based Max Force Racing has utilized University of Northwestern Ohio (UNOH) interns as over the wall crew. The first few years the team was able to build from UNOH with little attention but with a 5th place finish in the Championship standings in 2016 NASCAR teams have been taking and using crew members.
“For us, it is the ultimately complement to our program that NASCAR teams think enough about what we do and how we do it to take guys of our team and put them to work,” said driver Thomas “Moose” Praytor.
Every returning UNOH team member from 2016 has worked in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series or Xfinity Series Garage in 2017. Along with moonlighting in the NASCAR garage at companion races some have already moved to full time over the wall status in NASCAR.
“For our UNOH guys, it’s what they are here for. For us we’re happy for them but it also means we have to reload crew members and that can be tough,” offered Thomas.
No one knows that better than crew chief, Adam Lowe. Lowe was the first UNOH student assigned to Max Force Racing, has made every race with the team and now lives in Mobile working in the shop every day.
Lowe helps recruit new students and makes sure there are enough people to pit the car on race day.
“It’s never ending, we started with 10 people this season and now we have 4. This business is hard, plus we have one of the most demanding owners in racing,” offered Lowe.
That owner is Tommy Praytor. Praytor is part Drill Sergeant, part Bobby Knight and part Billy Martin, that’s on a good day. One fan even said, “if you need to learn some new cuss words just listen to Tommy on the radio.”
“Everyone thinks Tommy is hard to work for but it’s pretty simple you do what he says, his way and you’re good. Deviate from that and hang on,” Lowe.
Third year UNOH intern, tire specialist and over the wall tire changer Tevin Bair, who is still with the team while moonlighting on companion weekends in the NASCAR garage, offered the following; “Tommy will take the time to teach you anything you want to know about in racing, especially how to do your assigned position, like tires. I know what I’m supposed to be doing but when I hear where is the *&%$* tire guy? I know I have screwed up. But I can tell you the butt chewings I’ve gotten have saved me from making the same mistake and maybe losing my job in the NASCAR garage.”
With 20 years in the racing business Tommy Praytor has worked at almost every level of the sport. NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, Trucks, ARCA and local short tracks.
Praytor is one of the most “colorful” and vocal owners in the ARCA garage having spent more time in the ARCA penalty box the last couple of years than any other owner in the Series. His passion for racing, his race team and the Series comes through in every conversation, sometimes a little too much.
While some may take issue with his methods there a few that can deny the success the Mobile, Alabama team is having.
“The fact is I’m very hard on our UNOH kids. They all come in here 18, 19 20 years old thinking they have it all figured out and they don’t know jack crap. Our number one job is to keep them safe. Fact is this is a dangerous business, you make a mistake people get hurt and you tear up equipment,” said Tommy.
“Once we get them past not killing themselves we start working on what they know and don’t know. I usually have a project I work with them on or ask one of the new guys to do. I’ve actually had one of them ask me how to put a drill bit in a drill before. Some of our guys start with no knowledge but are always learning and then there are others that have it figured out and don’t listen, they don’t work with us very long.”
The attrition rate for UNOH students at Max Force Racing is extremely high but the success rate for those that stick it out and work hard is even higher.
“Several years ago Thomas came to my hotel room in Nashville and said;”
“Dad I’m having to talk people off the cliff from quitting every week, you have to ease up on them.”
“Do you always want to have a crappy team or do you want to build a Championship team?”
A few weeks later Tommy let go all but 2 UNOH Interns.
A year later Praytor finished 5th in the Championship standings with UNOH student Adam Lowe as crew chief, an all UNOH crew and not one paid employee.
“We feel like we still have a long way to go to be a Championship caliber team but everyone that works with us understands where we are going and wants to be a part of it,” offered Thomas. “Our team is a lot like our UNOH guys it’s not about what we are today but what we want to become tomorrow.”
Obviously the NASCAR garage has taken notice.