Thomas “Moose Praytor returned to ARCA action at Talladega Superspeedway for the General Tire 200 and ended up needing a little help from his friends. Praytor went into the weekend suffering with flu type symptoms, fever, shakes and body pain. The Moose didn’t become the Ironman of the Series without playing through pain and he pressed forward even after losing feeling in the left side of the body forcing him to steer with his right hand only. A red flag gave the team an opportunity to replace Praytor and the medical staff pulled the ailing driver out of the car taking him to the infield care center. Sean Corr stepped in soldiering home the AIDB Chevy to a 19th place finish. Read for complete recap.
Our Max Force Racing team spent the last year doing a complete makeover of our superspeedway car including a visit with Thomas’s Brother-In-Law, Mike Abram and the gang at Venturini Motorsports. “Mike and the guys did a great job on fixing some of the issues that have plagued us the last couple of races,” said Praytor. “Our guys got it back to Mobile and had a month to work on it and we felt like we were taking our best piece to Talladega.”
The schedule for the weekend allowed for 5 laps of practice, no qualifying, lining up the cars by owner’s points (which the team had none) starting the AIDB Chevy deep in the field in the 30th position. Practice went to plan but still left our team with a lot of unanswered questions without having experienced drafting in a large. Having one of the most experienced ARCA drafters as the driver was a big plus.
On the way to Talladega Praytor starting feeling bad, bad moved to really bad and shivering under stacks of blankets, a Flu Bug had gotten a hold of the Mobile, Alabama driver and it was ugly. The former series Ironman, Praytor had competed under adversity before, feeling like crap at the race track is nothing new, he soldiered through inspection and practice.
On race day the symptoms had not subsided and in some ways were worse than the day before but when you only race a time or two a year you keep digging. With the drop of the green flag the Moose used his years of experience and quickly marched his AIDB Chevy to the front of the field. Long time spotter Tab Boyd was calling the shots in the first 10 laps the Moose had turned the fastest lap of the race.
Even a fast race car couldn’t hold off the sickness and Praytor reported he was losing feeling and strength in his left arm and leg. If you’ve never driven a race car at 180MPH your left arm is important to turn the steering wheel to make left turns. After a couple of cautions the Moose set a faster lap of the race and was rumbling to the front. Under caution Praytor reported he had lost all use of his left arm completely and asked spotter Tab Boyd to put him in the high lane only because he could no longer hold the car on the bottom.
Back under green Praytor was now driving with one hand. The Moose proceeded to put the AIDB Chevy in the top 10 turning a lap over 183 miles per hour setting a new fastest time of the race for the third time and was half a second faster than the leaders drafting his way to the front, right handed.
“Thomas was having a great day and I’m use to him driving with all sorts of problems, kidney stones, viruses, concussion, broken body parts, he just has no quit in him. I was getting worried about losing the use of his left hand and if he was admitting to that he was probably a whole lot worse,” said Dad, Tommy Praytor. “I felt like he would only get out of the car is if we had a replacement he would be happy with. I thought about our friends in the Xfinity garage that would come down and started looking down the list of ARCA drivers who were already out of the race, Sean Corr. Thomas and Sean have drafted together for years and he is one of the only people who has as much experience as Thomas on restrictor plate tracks. I texted Grumpy (Corr’s crew Chief) and ARCA telling them I needed Sean as a standby,” Corr quickly made his way to the pit box.
While the replacement hunt was going on, Praytor was still in the hunt working in and out of the top 10. The race got to the halfway point and a controlled caution allowed the team to get Moose fluids and a little rest. From the grandstands it looked like the Moose was having a great day wheeling the AIDB Chevy to the front and turning fast times. Inside the car was a different story, down to one arm it was all Praytor could do to keep his Chevy pointed in the right direction not to mention the AC hose that was providing a little relief came loose and the effects of the flu was wreaking havoc with the rest of his body in the 140 degree cockpit.
A red flag for a big wreck on the front stretch gave the team the perfect opportunity to swap drivers and Praytor was called to the garage for the swap. The medical staff pulled Thomas out of the car taking him to the infield care center while Corr strapped in.
Corr was handicapped by having to take up the tail of the longest line for pitting during the red flag and it didn’t take him long to get up to speed and he was picking up spots on the track. Corr quickly made his way to the lead draft until a cut right front tire sent him hurtling to the wall. “I felt it shutter just a little bit and it gave me a chance to check up and save the car before it hit the wall,” said Corr. The AIDB Chevy came back to pit road and the team changed the tire but the blown tire took out the fender and part of the nose.
Corr went back on track and with a non-drafting car picked off a couple of spots and rolled the AIDB Chevy to the back of the hauler in the 19th position. While Corr finished the race Praytor spent the afternoon in the infield care center getting an IV and oxygen for elevated carbon monoxide levels.
“We are grateful for all the work Mike and the guys at Venturini put in on our car. Can’t thank Sean Corr enough for filling in, not too many other people Thomas would have given his car too. Really appreciate the Doctors and Nurses in infield care taking care of Thomas. He is on the mend but is still stiff, sore and sick but he’ll get better. We had a good effort this weekend and overcame a lot of adversity, we’ll get our driver healed up and get ready to go again,” offered Tommy Praytor.
Picture: The Moose and his expanding herd, Beau’s first trip to Talladega Superspeedway.