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Thomas "Moose" Praytor

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2002 Race Recaps

November 2, 2002 Mobile World 200-With an extra day of practice for the World 200 weekend we unloaded with some special ideas on set up. The car was very fast off the trailer and I didn't tweak it much because I was scared to screw it up. The weather changed for Saturday and the car just wouldn't respond so the guys started making some changes and it came around very quickly. We posted a record qualifying effort for our team and what could be the fastest lap recorded by a stock Camaro/Firebird at Mobile International Speedway. The feature started great with the front 5 cars breaking away nose to tail and leaving the rest of the field 15 car lengths behind us. The race pace was faster than our qualifying run and our car was really rolling. A caution 10 laps in bunched the field back up but the laps after we restarted were faster than the first 10 and the first 5 quickly checked out on again. Another caution bunched the field back up again and one of the guys decided to use me instead of his brake peddle, we spun, then got hit and a great run started to come unraveled. The front of the car was messed up pretty bad and the guys got everything pulled out and we went back out, on the first turn of the restart our right rear tire went down. I came back in, they fixed it and we were back out with a caution helping us stay on the lead lap. We were working our way back up with 2 to go and the car decided it didn't want to turn left anymore. The brake duct hose had been pushed in from the first wreck and got caught in the fan blade, it then proceeded to tear up every moving part in front of the motor, hoses, belts, radiator you name it was gone. The car wouldn't turn left because the power steering was gone. Luckily, we only had 2 laps to go and we limped home with a 10th place finish. It's too bad, we had our best car and it didn't work out. We'll spend the next few weeks getting ready for the Snowball Derby and putting on a special Derby Paint scheme.

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Our string of top 10's came to an end.

October 12, 2002 Pensacola-Saturday was a busy day for our race team. We were at the Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting for the newest ALLTEL store on Schillingers Road at noon. We quickly changed out our show car for the race car and traveled to Pensacola. This was our first race at Pensacola with the new car and we had a lot of questions that needed to be answered. Off the trailer we were slow, over 1.5 seconds off the pace. The guys started making changes and we started to get better. Another round of changes and we went out to qualify and held the pole for the first half of the field and ended up starting 8th, in a field of close to 30 cars. The guys made another round of changes and on the first lap I knew we had a very good race car. Starting on the outside of the 4th row I got hung out and dropped back a few spots on the first lap. Once we settled in, we started picking off the field one by one. A few cautions and 21 laps later we were 4th. On the final restart I thought we had a chance to improve a spot or 2 but our tires were gone and we ended up 4th for our 8th top 5 in a row. It was a good night for our team, we met all 3 of our objectives on Saturday night, a top 5, a base line for the Snow Ball Derby in December and the car came back in one piece.

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Racing lost a big supporter and freind this week.  We'll run this sticker for the rest of the year in honor of Bill Smith.

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Grand Opening in the morning top 5 at night! How many new stores are we bringing on line?

September 28, 2002 Mobile Night of Heroes-Team ALLTEL turned in another solid performance with a 4th place finish Saturday night at Mobile International Speedway. Our car was tight off the trailer and the guys worked hard to get it loosened up, each change made us faster and we felt like we had a solid car going into the feature. We rolled off 7th and early on the 94 and I got tangled up over a small piece of real estate that he thought was his and I thought was mine. He ended up spinning and the track officials apparently thought it was his piece of real estate too and they invited me to take up the tail end of the field. With the car the guys gave me it didn't take long for us to work our way back up through the field and we ended up with a 4th place finish. Another solid run and our 7th top 5 finish in row. We fell short on our NO BULL 500 challenge but we'll have another shot in 2 weeks in Pensacola on October 11th. With our travel schedule and Thomas's race schedule, this will be our first race of the year at Five Flags Speedway.

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After going to the back we had to use everything to get back up front.

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Our weight transfer and distribution specialist hard at work.

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We get advice from everybody.

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Tommy trying to explain to some of the other teams crew how he got back up front.

September 21, 2002 Mobile-This time of year the condition of the race track changes by the hour. Off the trailer our car was tight on a hot track that didn't have any rubber on it. We loosened the car up for qualifying and went just a little too far, but we were still able to start 7th. With more rubber being laid down by the other classes and the sun going down we felt like the track would tighten up even more so we decided to leave it a little loose. As it turned out we should have made it a lot loose. The cooler temperature and the added rubber made the car push or not turn in the center of the corners. However, with a little luck and busting up the nose piece again we were able to post our 6th straight top 5 finish.

August 31, 2002 Mobile-Not leaving well enough alone, I made the guys make some more changes to the car before we went to the track. Of course the car was bad off the trailer and it looked like I was headed the wrong way again. The guys didn't give up and they made changes at every opportunity all the way up to the heat race. We started on the outside of the last row of the heat race and after the first corner I new the guys were headed in the right direction. Within 2 laps we had the lead and stretched out a healthy lead for the win. In the last 3 weeks the guys have produced an awesome record, with 5 top 5s and a win. Too bad the season is winding down, we seem to be hitting our stride.

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An extra special birthday present.

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Last minute advice from Donnie Ward. Of course once I get my ear plugs in I can't hear him.

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Strapping into the ALLTEL Pontiac.

August 24, 2002 Mobile-After a good test on Thursday we came back to the shop and I made the guys make some major changes to the car to try and make us better. To say I went the wrong way was an understatement. The car was tight off the trailer and we never could get it freed up. Even with the problems we had, the car qualified 7th. Because of the invert, we took up the tail end of the heat race and made our way up to second and pressured Jason Johnson for the win but came up just a little short. Congratulations to Jason and his team for their first win! The feature was a 3 car break away with us working our way into the top five squeezing out Jessie Reid for fourth. The guys worked hard at the track all night to overcome the handling problems I created at the shop.

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Adam Crawford tried to help me but I screwed the car up to much even for his help.

Somehow everybody got a Pollman's cup cake but Fatboy!

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August 17, 2002 Mobile-Kia 150 Night-Tommy made an appearance at Gulf Link Wireless in the morning and Christy and Mark Skipper joined us at the track Saturday night for the KIA 150. We tested on Thursday and found a little more speed.  In our pre-race inspection we found some problems in the front end.  The guys completely rebuilt the front end of the car Saturday afternoon and it paid off with a solid top 5 performance.

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At Gulf Link Wireless with Christy and Mark Skipper in the morning.

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Christy and Mark with us at the track for the KIA 150.

August 13, 2002-G-Force Racing, a leader in safety racing safety equipment, has developed a new head and neck restraint system, SRS-1 (Supplemental Restraint System). SRS-1 has been put through a rigorous batch of sled crash testing with test results equal to or better than the HANS device and the Hutchens device which is currently being used by NASCAR and the ARCA/Re/Max Series. The system was designed for NASCAR use but will be affordable and available for local racers.
It's a pretty big responsibility for me to be the first to test this device in a racing application. The feedback we give G-Force will help them tune the device for launch to the general public in December. We fitted the device in the car and I had one of the guys push on the back of my head to try and get it to go forward and it just wouldn't. At a projected retail cost under $300 the device could revolutionize head and neck restraints for local drivers. Of course it did occur to me that it made sense for G-Force to go from dummy testing to me.

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July 27, 2002 Mobile-We went into the night with high hopes of it being a great night and WOW! The fans turned out in force and during the intermission I signed over 500 pictures, not to mention hats, T-shirts, flags, cushions, you name it and we signed it. We have some of the most avid fans in racing and they proved it again Saturday night. I want to take a second and thank all the drivers that participated Saturday night. They came to the stands with pictures and gifts for the fans and they really went over board to show their appreciation to our fans. Thanks guys!

The team worked hard all week, but I always feel uneasy taking a car that hasn't been tested to the track. We were lose off the trailer, we made some adjustments and the car came to life. We qualified 5th, which landed us outside the front row for the heat race. With the top 6 cars behind us I knew I had to win the race to the first corner and I didn't make it. I was hung out to dry and there was no help in sight. Then the leader blew a motor and we found ourselves in his oil sliding up the race track headed towards a t-bone. The car finally found some traction and we were able to keep from wrecking but a win was gone. We started 5th in the feature and ran side by side for the 5th spot and finally took it after a few laps. Going into turn 3 the right rear brake caliper stuck and it was all I could do to stay on the track. That cost us 2 spots and we finished the night in 7th for another top 10. A solid effort for a car that couldn't roll just 7 days earlier.

ALLTEL Meet the Drivers Night

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July 20, 2002 Mobile-The night started on a positive note with a solid car and a top 10 qualifying effort. We had a good run going until lap 10, the car in front of me got together with the car in front of him. I went low and I thought I was by it, but I didn't make it. The other car hit me in the right front tire, crushed the right front fender and collapsed the fire wall and right side of the car about a foot and a half into the cock pit. The other car then spun back around and hit the right rear of the car taking out the right rear quarter, bumper and spoiler. It's going to be a long week.  Congratulations to Dale Little on winning the KIA 150 at Mobile International Speedway. Hayley Praytor was at the track so we have an extra patch of pictures this week..

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Buddy Peoples making sure I know to take a left.

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Making our way through a crowded garage.

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Getting a push back because I can't find 2nd gear.

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Leaving the pit area for hot laps.

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Last known side shot before I rearranged the body.

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Buddy telling me to bring it back in 1 piece.

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Of course I didn't listen.

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I showed real talent, not only did I mess up the front I got the back too!

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Mike Walker at Walker's Frame and body did a heck of job getting us back together. 

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A long week at the shop and the guys had us ready to go for ALLTEL Meet the Drivers Night. See Above

June 29, 2002 Mobile-It was the first night for Gulf Link Wireless to be a part of Team ALLTEL and we were able to pick up their first win! Early rain looked like we were facing another rain out but it was only a delay. We took the lead quickly but had a tough time hanging on with a slippery race track and a loose race car. With 2 to go the 78 got in to the back of us (he could have turned me around but he was nice enough to let me go) and had our car turned completely sideways. Somehow the car righted itself, and we were able to keep everybody behind us to hang on for the win. For the second year the track was nice enough to have fireworks after our win, somebody said it was for the Fourth or something, but I know it was for us. The guys have continued to improve on a good race car every week and we keep getting better.

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Our second win of the season.

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Once again Bill was nice enough to have fireworks to help celebrate.

May 18, 2002 Mobile-An appearance at the new super Wal-Mart during the week was good and bad.  The opening was great but I broke my foot unloading the show car. With the progress the guys are making on the car it would have taken a big cast to keep me from racing.  The doctors didn't give me one so we were ready to go.  After our last race and test the guys made more changes and off the trailer the car was good.  We overcame some obstacles early on, a gust of win blew the hood all the way up and over onto the roof breaking the hood hinges, then a mislaid screwdriver hit the fan blade and poked a hole in the radiator.  The guys fixed the hood and replaced the radiator made some changes and we turned in our fastest qualifying time of my career.  We started on the outside row in the heat race and quickly went straight to the back.  I knew we had a good car so we saved it for the feature.  We started 8th and the car was on a rail, we quickly moved up into the top 5 and I tried to pass a car on the outside.  The move didn't work and the guys were all lined up on the inside and I quickly went back out of the top 10.   We passed our way back up to the top 5 or 6.  The 2 cars in front of us got into each other and were sideways I, checked up and the guy behind me didn't see it and waxed the back end of the car and sent me into the infield grass.  The back end of the car was crushed but we were still rolling however we had to take up the tail end.   The car was still good and we started making our way back to the front.  I guess along the way I kinda messed up the front of the car. OK, I nearly ripped it off too!  We ended up 7th but the guys had given me a much better car and maybe the next time I can get the finish out of it they deserve.  Even with the beating, banging and the 56 laps it took to get the race in the foot survived and we had a good night.

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A cold front has the crew looking for a place to hide.

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They keep giving me better cars each week.

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By the end of the race I wasn't the only one beat up.

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May 11, 2002 Mobile-After all of our mechanical problems the last time we were at the track we tested the ALLTEL Pontiac on Thursday.  It looks like we have our mechanical items fixed and we picked up some speed.  It was a busy day for our team with Thomas testing The Outdoor Channel Bandolero at Sunny South Raceway.  Thomas test ran late so we didn't get any practice time on the car, we unloaded rolled through tech and qualified the car.  One of our best times with no practice I was fired up.  The heat race had us hung out on the outside lane  but we had the fastest car and we were able to make our way back to 3rd.  Man I wish we had a few more laps.  The feature started the same way and we went green flag from beginning to end without a caution and we managed an 8th place finish.  The guys keep giving me a better car each week.

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Ward & Evan back at the track for the first time this year.

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The guys keep giving me better cars each week.

April 27, 2002 Mobile-We were excited about the changes we made during the week to the ALLTEL Pontiac and in the few laps we were able to make, the car seemed better. During our last practice session the car shut down coming down the front straight away. From the horrible noise we were making the only thing I could tell the guys was, "Something broke!" With the car back in the pits, we found a weight inside the distributor broke and demolished our distributor. With a lot of help from Mike Woodson and Kevin Rehwinkle we put a new distributor in and made qualifying. With the work that had been done and as fast as it was done, I was a little hesitant to go all out on our qualifying run but the car seemed good. When the green flag flew on the heat race we were biding our time with the guys in front of us running 2 wide. On the 5th lap something broke again! I coasted in and the guys went to work under the hood and found another distributor destroyed. That was it, for us the night. While I really wanted to race, it was fun to watch a Super Stock feature race, from outside the car, it's the first one I've seen in a long time and a I hope the last.

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Buddy & I try to figure out what went wrong.

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At least Susan had the car looking good.

 

April 6, 2002 Mobile-A sour motor kept the Busch Team from making the Busch Race in Texas.  A call to the guys from the Dallas on Thursday and they were hard at work getting us ready for Saturday night.   We unloaded off the trailer with a test agenda for the 2 practice session.   One worked and one didn't so we felt like we would be a little better and we were with a 21.30 qualifying effort hitting the mark we set for ourselves before the night started.  We rolled off 12th for the race and with a little racing luck we found ourselves in 3rd place.  With 2 to go it looked like we would have another solid run but the car behind us got a little brain dead and hit me in turn 1.  I thought I had the car saved but then he hit us again turning us around and cutting down the left front tire.  The guys did a great job changing the tire and getting us back out, but there wasn't enough time to make much head way and we had to settle for 11th place.  The guys are continuing to make us better each week and they have some more tricks in store for our return in 3 weeks.

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After a great first week the car still looked good.

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Buddy checking the car over before hot laps.

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The team had an agenda for testing new ideas during hot laps.

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The end of a long night, I had gone from the penthouse with an opening night win to the outhouse.

March 30, 2002 Opening Night Mobile-We went to the track with an untested, brand new ALLTEL Pontiac.   Not only had this car never been tested but, the style and design of the chassis had never been tested.  Off the trailer we were good and kept getting better.   To start the year we would start inside the second row in the 3rd spot.  It didn't take long for me to realize we had a very good car and we were quickly challenging for the lead.  We got underneath Freddie Tanner and for the next several laps we were side by side, door to door without either of us giving an inch.  Racing side by side gave Paul Riels and Jessie Reid, the 3rd and 4th place cars a chance to catch up to us.  The four of us raced side by side 2 by 2 for what seemed like an eternity from my seat.  Finally, with 1 lap to go we cleared Freddie Tanner and held of Paul Riels by a car length for the win!

There are a lot of people that help make our team possible but after our first win my first thanks go to Freddie Tanner, Paul Riels and Jessie Reid.  All of these guys did a great job with some tight racing that with a mistake by any of them could have been a disaster for all of us.  The guys at the shop Tom Claxton, Tom Dabney, Charlie Harris, John Phelps, Thomas and many more spent many long hours these past few weeks getting us ready to go.  Big John Claxton has given us some serious horses to work with on our new Mike Walker chassis.  Last but not least we all want to thank all of the great folks that work with ALLTEL that make our team possible.

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The Brain Trust checking the car over, L-R Buddy, Charlie and Tom.

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With a new car there a lot of variables that can only be solved on the track.  The guys cut away some of the body to make room for tire travel.

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Tom Claxton sweats every detail, we're off the track but another one of his motors is contending for the win.

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Even with all the hours of preparation the guys check all the moving parts on the car after our practice.

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Charlie Harris is one of our new guys that brings years of experience to the track.

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Hard to believe, a win the first time out.

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Even harder to believe, along night of racing and the car is in one piece.

Testing March 24, 2002-Mobile-A lot of hard work went into getting the car ready to test.   since this was the first car we've built we all were anxious to see what we had.   We made a few easy laps to set the car checked it over and went back out to see what we had. Two laps into the run the motor turned lose and our test day was done.   We'll have long week ahead of us getting the new motor in and going to opening night blind.

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M & M ready to test.

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28A

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Tom Dabney giving me a few pointers before taking the car out.

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Tom Claxton checking out the motor