Back in Sweet Home Alabama Thomas “Moose” Praytor and his Mobile based DK-LOK Team were ready to follow up on a solid run in Daytona. The DK-LOK/Realtor Ford qualified 11th for the General Tire 200 and quickly drafted its way in to the top 5. Coming to pit road Praytor was slammed in the right front tire from a spinning competitor. It took the team several stops to repair the damage dropping the Moose all the way back to 25th. Praytor rallied back to 12th, his best Superspeedway finish.
It was a short week in Mobile with the team not getting back from Salem Speedway until Monday afternoon and leaving for Talladega on Wednesday. “We really had a lot of help in North Carolina the week before making it possible for us to be in Mobile for only a day. Really appreciate Tim and Austin Wayne Self for letting us borrow an Ilmore motor for Talladega. We couldn’t have gotten it in without all the help from the guys at WinTron and Empire Racing for helping put it in last week,” said Praytor.
As the Senior member of the Alabama Gang headed to Talladega this year Praytor started his Talladega weekend at 7:30 AM on Thursday with Jim Jacobs from the Alabama Racer. After the TV interview the DK-LOK Team started the long laborious superspeedway tech process. Eight hours later and a couple of trips through the tech line, the team put a car a cover on the DK-LOK Ford.
If Thursday was a long day Friday would be worse, the garage opened at 6:00AM and the team was looking at a busy 14 hour day including, practice, qualifying and the race.
A couple of small issues kept the team from getting the DK-LOK Ford on track as soon as they wanted but when it did, the Moose picked up right where he left off in Daytona.
Joey Logano’s spotter Tab Boyd was on the roof again for Praytor and the pair quickly put the DK-LOK Ford through its paces. “We really had a good car off the truck, Tab does a great job and our DK-LOK Ford was sucking up well high or low, we didn’t make a lot of practice laps we were ready to race.”
ARCA utilizes groups to qualify for Daytona and Talladega and Praytor drew a solid group for qualifying that made a plan and stuck to it. At one point Praytor was at the top of the leader board but would ultimately roll off 11th.
Race day at Talladega is always a whirlwind of friends and supporters coming by the hauler before the race. This year there was a special guest with his Dad taking in Talladega for the first time. “We get to do a lot of cool things and the support we get from Alabama is incredible. Having everyone come by really makes the day before we ever go on the track.”
With the drop of the green flag for General Tire 200, Tab and the Moose were working in tandem to get the DK-LOK/Realtor Ford to the front. The field stayed 2 wide for the first half of the race and the Moose drafted his way up to the 5th spot. The top 10 was in a constant state of flux for the first half of the race and the Moose stayed in the top 10 bouncing back and forth waiting for a pit stop for fuel.
Praytor had been drafting with the Brady Boswell driving the 22 Ford from Cunningham Motorsports and the duo planned to stop on lap 44. When they broke for pit road so did the bulk of the rest of the field. It was a 5 wide dash for pit road.
The car behind the DK-LOK/Realtor Ford was hit from behind and sent spinning into the right front tire of the Moose. The impact crushed the front fender into the tire cutting the tire. Now the team not only needed fuel but it needed a new tire and some body work.
It took 3 stops to get the ailing Ford back out on the track and no one knew how it would react aerodynamically with the repaired front fender. The team kept the DK-LOK/Realtor Ford on the lead lap giving the Moose a fighting chance.
Back under green Boyd was calling the shots and the Moose was hitting them out of the park. The damage made the car a little tight but the Moose was on a mission. With less than 20 to go the word came down from the tower that because of impending weather of there was another caution the race would stop with the caution.
If you had anything left it was time to use it and every driver had the whip out, three and four wide, the race turned into a full fledge donnybrook. “We had a lot of fun out there in the closing laps, Tab was calling the openings and we were bouncing back and forth going with the line that was moving the most.” The DK-LOK/Realtor Ford went from 23rd to 12th before the General Tire 200 stopped with the final caution.
“Really a great day for our race team, we had a fast DK-LOK/Realtor Ford, our guys overcame adversity on pit road, Tab called a great race, a lot of fun. Proud to be a part of the great show our Series put on for our fans in my home state. Really appreciate all the local support, our Realtor family has been with me every Talladega.”
Praytor’s finish at Talladega was his career best Superspeedway finish.
The team has a few weeks off before the Menards 200 presented by Federated Car Care at Toledo Speedway on May22nd. The race will be broadcast on the American Sports Network and will the ARCA Series 75th trip to Toledo Speedway.
Picture: DK-LOK/Realtor Ford racing with winner Gus Dean and Sean Corr.