After a year layoff Thomas “Moose” Praytor returned to Talladega Superspeedway looking to return to restrictor plate form and have a little fun in front of his home state fans.
It didn’t take long for Praytor to send a message to the assembled garage area and the assembled media by topping the early speed charts for the General Tire 200, the “Moose” was back!
“It felt great to be back behind the wheel, Talladega is such a fun place and we had a fast racecar,” offered Praytor.
After a quick couple of turns on the track motor issues cropped up ending practice early. The crew from Ilmor went to work on the problem and after throwing everyone and everything at it for several hours buttoned up the AIDB Chevy for qualifying.
“The guys at Ilmor really worked their butts off to get us ready to race. I think just about every Ilmor tuner at the track was working on our car at one point. Really appreciate all their hard work.”
The Moose draw a dud group for qualifying, led the pack wire to wire and would roll off 18th.
It only took 10 laps for Praytor to draft his way from 18th into the top 10. “Tab (Boyd) was making great calls from the roof and our AIDB Chevy was awesome in the draft.”
The General Tire 200 opened with an unusually long green flag run with Praytor moving up to 3rd at the first caution just past the halfway point.
Praytor brought the AIDB Chevy to pit road for a load of Sunoco Fuel only and was back out.
Under green the AIDB Chevy was drafting and working its way in and around the top 10 until the next caution, the Moose had a tire going down.
Having to pit while the pits were closed sent the Mobile native to the tail end of the longest line for the restart. “The tire really took us out of contention for a top 10. The new restart rules say we can’t pass until the start finish line and we were sunk only being able to catch the second pack spotting the leaders that much room.”
Even with the bad luck Praytor was able to draft his way back up to 13th. With just 3 laps to go the cover over the transmission fill was knocked off by debris sending a plume of smoke from the AIDB Chevy.
“With our engine problems earlier in the day I just shut it off when I saw the smoke.” Praytor coasted into the pits as the race came to a close, finishing 20th.
“A really good day for our race team. After having been off a year, we showed we can still get the job done and run up front. I had a lot of fun, thanks to Tab Boyd for the great calls from the roof, we have a great deal of confidence in each other and it shows on the racetrack. So many people helped either financially or with their time or both to get us to Talladega really can’t thank everyone enough. My son, Hugh made his first race and that was pretty cool. I don’t know how many more there are going to be but I hope Hugh and Elizabeth make them all.”
PRIMARY SPONSOR: Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB) aidb.org, Max Force Trucking
ASSOCIATE SPONSORS: Golden Flake, the official chip of Talladega Supespeedway, Wade Distributors, Rettigs Auto Body, APS-Automotive Painters Supply, Dueitt’s Battery Supply, Airgas, Judy’s Place, Ainsworth Racing, Greer’s Food Market, Southern Culture and American Legion Post 88.
Top Picture: Students from Alabama Institute of Deaf & Blind (AIDB) Dkendrickc Graves, (York, AL), Jeffrey Oliver,(Talladega, AL) Denzel Robinson, (Demopolis, AL)