On March 10th, 2012, Mobile, Alabama’s Thomas “Moose” Praytor climbed into Andy Belmont’s #5 Ford sponsored by G-Force Racing Gear for the first ARCA Mobile 200 and his first ARCA start. Six years later and 99 races down Praytor’s 100th ARCA start is in his sights at Road America.
“Eight years ago Thomas came up to our shop to work on cars when he wasn’t racing late models in Mobile. He lived at the house worked his butt of every day, in the shop, on the road goes home to race, back and forth. You could just see the desire in this kid. I’ve enjoyed watching him continue to grow and learn about our sport and as a person. I’ll always be proud he got his first shot in one of our cars,” Andy Belmont.
“Mr. Andy taught me so much about racing as a profession. Then he let me take one of his cars to Mobile for the first ARCA Mobile 200. I remember we just made the field, there were 42 cars at Mobile trying to get in the race and I was the last one in 35th. Seven teams went home seems crazy now,” Thomas Praytor.
After working and making a few races with Belmont, Venturini asked Praytor to make a couple of races in 2012. “Thomas started a few races for us 6 years ago. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him, despite his Dad and I’m looking forward to being with him for 100 more races,” Bill Venturini.
“I’ll never forget we were in Madison, Wisconsin and I took out one of Mr. Bills dirt cars to get it in the show, that was my only job. I made a few laps in practice and we were in the top 15. Next thing I know Mr. Bill is jacking up my car and crawling under it by himself to make changes. My Dad was spotting, Mr. Bill was my crew chief and crew, we were faster than a lot of other high dollar teams. Really a fun day!”
While Praytor was making hit and miss starts for other teams back in Mobile his team was working on a deal for the first 3 races of the next season, Daytona, Mobile and Talladega.
With Belmont leaving the sport he made Praytor a sweet heart deal on a superspeedway car. The team made a deal with Wayne Hixson to run the Hixson number at Daytona and Talladega and the three race plan was coming together.
In February of 2013 Praytor raced for Hixson at Daytona and it looked like there would not be a Mobile because he didn’t have a car.
“After Daytona, Mr. Wayne called and told me he had a car and we should come and get it to get it ready for Mobile. I couldn’t believe it. We had a good run at Mobile and we were 6th in the points. After Mobile Mr. Wayne said, you know I got plenty of cars if you’ll get them going and keep them going we can run the whole thing.”
For the next two years Praytor moved in with Hixson in Soddy Daisy, Tennessee while racing and preparing cars from Hixson’s shop.
“I can’t say enough good about Thomas. He basically lived with us for the 2 years while he was racing with us,” offered Hixson. “He still helps me anyway he can and I would do anything in the world for him. He’s learned so much and does such a great job with what he has to work with, people don’t understand how good of a driver he is. I hope one day they can figure out how to get him the new body and an Ilmor he would be tough to handle.”
Since making that first start with Hixson in Daytona Praytor has not missed an ARCA Race and is the current Ironman of the ARCA Series as he closes in on his 100th start.
“As a racer there are just way too many people to thank for helping you get where you are but there is no doubt Wayne and Pam Hixson were my big break. They took me in when we really didn’t have anything to offer. Mr. Wayne loves to race and he has been racing for a long time. I learned so much about cars, motors and all the nuts and bolts of this business I learned in Soddy Daisy. I hope when I get to be Mr. Wayne’s age I can still get after it like he does.”
After two years under Hixson’s tutelage, Praytor moved back to Mobile where he and his family struck out on their own. In their second year of competition the team finished 5th in the Championship standings and keeps on rolling.
“Like so many other young drivers working so hard just to race weekly at their local track, Thomas Praytor took an opportunity to make his ARCA debut 6 years ago with a very limited pathway forward. He’s forged that into his 100th career start, and is an example of perseverance and making the very most of resources and desire,” offered ARCA President, Ron Drager.
“100 starts is still hard to believe, 6 years ago I never thought I would get one much less two but here we are. I get asked all the time what my next move is and my answer is always the same. I’ve done more than I ever thought I would get to do. I’ve raced at some of the coolest racetracks in the world with some of the best drivers, Pocono, Kansas, Salem, Toledo, Michigan the list just keeps going. I’ve dreamed about drafting at Daytona and at Talladega, now I’m a veteran as comfortable there as Mobile International Speedway.”
“I get asked how many more, how much longer? I don’t know I was just supposed to make three races and now I’m at 100. I don’t see myself making 500 like Frank Kimmel but he probably didn’t either in 1996 (1996 was when Kimmel hit race 100).”
“I think about all the great drivers I raced with in Mobile and Pensacola that never had this opportunity and I wish they could. It’s been a real honor getting to do this. I couldn’t have gotten here without my family, everybody contributes.”
A special 100th logo and sticker has been created for this weekend’s race at Road America. If you would like a 100th sticker email us your address.