Tommy Praytor Photo's
2001 Snowball Derby (Pensacola)-To
say the Snowball Gods have not been kind to us over the years would be an understatement.
Every year I seem to find a new way to tear up a perfectly good race car.
Last year, the left quarter, drivers door, left & right front fender and nose
piece were all off the car by the end of the race. This year we vowed it would be
different, I grew what is now known as the Derbee Goatee and we had a new format for move
in and practice that made the weekend a lot more relaxed and enjoyable. Mark Davis,
hereinafter known as the tire doctor, and his team moved in next door, we erected a huge
tent from Blue Rents and we were quickly the envy of the garage. The Doctor
immediately began work on soaking the tires. Tire soaking is illegal at most tracks
but not at the Derby and since the Doctor won last years race by a long shot he had a lot
of patients looking for advice. While everyone else was just now making an
appointment for the Doctor I had been in a week earlier and already had my prescription
September 15th Cooley Barnett Mobile-After the terrorist attacks we went to Mobile with a heavy heart but felt like it was what we needed to be doing. Bill Roth put together a stirring Patriotic salute in the prerace ceremonies. Since we were the first guys to race, we were strapping in during the prayer and the National Anthem, for the first time in a while I caught myself stopping, taking time to pray and sing the National Anthem. I hope as the events of the week fade in my memory I'll remember to make this a part of my regular routine. The guys gave me a very good race car off the trailer, we made a few changes but not many and had a very good qualifying time with a 6th place starting spot. Two laps into the race I got together with the pole sitter and cut down the left rear tire. the guys did a great job of changing it, we stayed on the lead lap but a long way from the front. We needed a caution in the worst way but the race went green the rest of the way and we had to settle for an 8th place finish. The good news, it was the first time ever that we didn't need a wrecker for the Cooley Barnett.
Tommy was part of The Outdoor
Channel Fishing Team for The Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament in Kona Hawaii in
August. On the last day Wade Sherman and Tommy caught 2 Blue Marlin at the same
time on the last day of the tournament for a 9th place finish.
Everybody wants to drive the
truck---Tommy drove the truck, at Sunny South Raceway in a test session on Friday 7-27-01.
July 28th ALLTEL Meet the Driver Night-ALLTEL
Meet the Driver Night was a mixed bag for our race team. The not so good side was on the
track. After our first practice session we were suprised with a mandatory engine
inspection of our car. To have your motor inspected you have to remove all the spark
plugs, the right side valve cover and the rockers arms on 2 cylinders. Then the motor is
tested and sealed. Unfortunately, we did not find out until after 5:15 that we would have
to have it inspected, so we missed our last practice session and we weren't able to get
the motor put back together in time for qualifying and we missed that too. The suprise
inspection of our car really set us back because we had a new, very aggressive setup under
the car and we really needed a chance to check it out. We also didn't have a qualifying
time so we had to take up the tail end in both races. Since we didn't have any real
practice on the setup we used the first race as a practice to get ready for the second.
Needless to say we really stunk the joint up in our first race and we realized we needed
to make some really big changes to get ready for the second race. The guys went to work
and changed out what normally takes half a day in the shop in an hour. Man these guys are
awesome. We started dead last in the second race and were able to make our way up to a 7th
place finish. Its really too bad because with just a little tweaking we could have had a
great race car.
July 7th 2001 Mobile-After
Friday Night in Pensacola we had a lot of work ahead of us and the guys responded to the
call. We had some things that still needed to be fixed and we had to change our set up
from Pensacola to Mobile. They worked all day and we were running late to the track again
and we missed the first practice session. We got a little practice and qualified. The car
still wasn't right and the guys went back to work again, changed just about everything and
we rolled out to race. It took a little over a lap for me to get use to the changes and we
set sail. The only time the other guys even got close, was when I over drove the car into
the last turn and one of them got a bumper on me but not enough to take us out. As I rode
around the track on the cool down lap, I just couldn't believe the guys were able to give
me another winner. Last week the Press had us totaled and here we were back in a week with
a winner. You'll get tired of hearing me say this but, Patrick Holliway, Thomas, Tom
Claxton and John Phelps make it happen every week for us. This week we added Shane Wilson
and he is already making big contributions.
July 6th 2001 Pensacola-The guys were finally able to get the car finished @ 5:30 while practice started at @ 5:00. We ran into more things that needed to be fixed in our prerace check out than what we expected. We didn't get to the track until 7:30 so we weren't able turn any pracitce laps and we missed the draw for position so we had to take up the tail end of a 22 car field. As the driver I sure would have liked to made a few laps before racing but I have a great deal of confidence in the cars the guys give me. We made 2 laps and had a caution and we used it as our opportunity to make some air pressure adjustments without giving up a lot of spots. The race then went green almost all the way without a caution, which is not what we needed with so many cars to get by. We ended up 10th and some ideas on what still needed to be worked on to get the car ready to go tonight.
June 30th Mobile-The
changes and repairs from Friday night in Pensacola made us extremely late getting to
Mobile on Saturday night. We were so late, I dressed in the shop before we left and we
still missed the first practice session. When we did get to practice the car was awful. We
just didn't have enough time to get everything checked out. We made some minor changes to
qualify and it was still bad. With a little time after qualifying and before we raced the
guys went to work making wholesale changes trying to loosen the car up. We got a little
help from Mark Davis who also helped spot for us and we rolled it out for the first race.
Basically, we led almost every lap and took our second win of the season. In the
second race we were at the tail end of the field and had a long way to go. By lap 5 we
were up to 5th and going into the last turn of the last lap we were 3rd. The 3 of us were
having a great race and then for some still unknown reason to me, a car that was 2 laps
down decided to try and pass all 3 of us. The ensuing wreck collected all of us and the
4th place car letting the 5th place car take the win and we settled for 6th with the left
front torn off the car. After the race I went down to talk to the driver about the move
and before I left chewed out his entire crew. I worked on them so hard some of them came
down to my pit area later to apologize and chewed them out again. The last few weeks I've
been the lucky guy who gets to drive these great cars but our runs are a direct result of
the hard work of the guys, Patrick Holliway, Thomas, Tom Claxton and John Phelps. The guys
have a lot of work to do this week, there are not many moving parts that don't need to be
fixed on the front suspension, but I know they'll have us ready for Pensacola on Friday
June 29th, 2001 Pensacola-To say the guys gave me a great race car would be an understatement. We went out and scuffed some tires and I made 1 lap at 80% speed and it would have put us in the top 10 qualifying for the Snow Ball Derby. We parked the car, made 1 small change and got ready to race. Since we missed the previous week that was rained out, we had to take up the tail end because the field had already been set. Starting 24th was going to make for a long night. We took the green and I was in a rocket ship, the car was really flying by the time we made lap 5 we had moved up from 24th to 10th. As the race went on the car kept getting better and we kept passing cars up to the 6th spot, when with 7 laps to go the right rear tire blew coming out of 4 and I took wild ride without hitting anything. Unfortunately the tire knocked the shock housing off and the guys tried hard to get us back out, but there just wasn't enough time and we were done for the night. What we do this weekend is a direct result of what the guys had done at the shop all week, Patrick Holliway, Thomas, Tom Claxton and John Phelps all worked over time and its paying big dividends.
June 16th, 2001-It has been a rough two weeks around our shop and it was nice to concentrate on the car. During our pre-race setup on Thursday night we found some measurements that just weren't right on the car and we uncovered some more damage done to the frame from our previous outing. I made the decision to go ahead and race because sometimes a bend here or there can actually make you faster, well it didn't work for us. We unloaded medium to bad and stayed that way most of the night. We qualified 7th worked our way up to 4th. I ran the car off the track coming out of turn 2 and cost us 2 spots and then went to the top of the track to avoid 2 cars that were sideways and that cost us 2 spots for an 8th place finish. The car is at the frame shop and we'll have it back in time to race June 30th in Mobile.
June 1, 2001 Pensacola-We unloaded at Pensacola and we were very good right off. We made a few changes after practice and started 6th on the draw. By the end of the first lap we were 3rd and riding while first and second raced side by side. We had a better car and were waiting for them to sort it out. Unfortunately, one of the guys behind us got impatient and turned us around sending us to the back. On the restart I got black flagged for passing too many cars on the start and had to take a stop and go penalty that put us a lap down and at the back again. We ran the leader down under green but couldn't get a caution to help get us back our lap back. It was a good night, we still finished in the top 10, and we are continuing to work on the right setup for the Snow Ball Derby. On to Mobile.
May 12, 2001-After a strong
run in Pensacola we had high hopes for Mobile. We unloaded the car and it was junk.
The harder I tried to drive it the worse it got. We qualified bad and then
started making some serious changes. They paid off and we picked up our first win of
the year in the heat race. Since we qualified so bad we had to start at the back of
the feature and would have a long race in front of us. We started picking our way
through the field, dodging wrecks and had worked our way up to 6th when some cars got
together in front of us. I went high to miss 1 of the cars and went for a short
flight off of turn 3. For only the second time in a race car I scared myself.
The angle and trajectory was not good and it looked like I was going to start flipping
when the car came down. I made hard impact on the right front and instead of
sticking the car skidded and I came to rest at the bottom of the hill. I guess
when I landed it knocked the wire off the starter because the car wouldn't start.
The safety guys pushed the car back on the track, popped the clutch and we started right
up. I tried to shake the car down to see how bad it was hurt before we started
racing again and it felt like I had a tire going down. Being the smart guy I am told
myself it wasn't happening and took up our spot at the tail end of the line. The
first few laps the car felt different but pretty good. We got another caution and then let
it go the restart, passed a few cars and ended up with a an 8th place finish. After
the race I couldn't get the car to turn into the pit stall, the wheel just wouldn't turn
that far. When we opened the hood we found the right front shock snapped in half.
Don't know we how we ran as good as we did without a shock, the book says it can't
be done. I'm really happy for all the people who help us with our car on our
first win of the year. They've worked hard to make us better and it was great to
take Patrick Holliway to victory lane for the first time.
Fortunately, instead fo sticking the car made hard impact on the right front
May 11, 2001-Pensacola-Our
first trip to 5 Flags and we had a lot of questions about setup with the new tire.
For years Pensacola used a Goodyear tire while Mobile used Hoosier. The tires are
very different and we like each tire at both tracks but the Hoosiers are too soft for
Pensacola and we were concerned as to what would happen to them on long runs, it made for
a real learning experience. The setup the guys put under the car was good right out
of the trailer, so good we only used the first practice session and saved our tires for
the race. At Pensacola, for these shows, we don't qualify we draw for position,
Patrick drew 13 for us with an 18 car field. In an effort to make a good car at the
end I made a bad call on set up for the beginning and we fell back a few spots at the
start. We patiently worked our way back through the pack, stayed out of trouble and
ended up with a 6th place finish. As we leave Pensacola we answered some of our tire
questions but have a lot more as we get ready for the 43rd Annual Snowball Derby in
May 7, 2001-Our schedule is finally letting us put together back to back weeks of racing and its starting to show. The car has been really good off the trailer and we are fine tuning to get the best lap times we can. Last week was our fastest qualifying time of the year on only 1 lap. The driver saw his first lap time and decided to do a lot better and drove the car off in the turn too fast and spun out. Both the heat race and the feature were really clean races with few cautions and we were able to gain a few spots in both with 7th and 10th place finishes. Next week we will be in Pensacola on Friday night and Mobile on Saturday.
April 28, 2001-After Opening
Night we had a lot to work on, tore up car and one that wouldn't handle we had a mess.
Thanks to my TV Schedule the guys had a couple of weeks to get it back together and
man did they ever. They changed all the set up, rebuilt the front end and we
unrolled a pretty good race car. During practice we fought an oil leak problem and
loosened the car up some. During qualifying the accelerator hung and I nearly put it
in the wall. The poor qualifying put us at the back of the field (18th) and we had a
lot of work to do. Going in to the last lap we had worked our way all the way to 6th
and lost 3 spots trying to avoid hitting the 2 cars in front of us. Our second
outing was much better and we really have something to build on for next week.
Opening Night MIS 4-8-01
ALLTEL Mobile 200