The ARCA Series rolled into Salem Speedway making its 94th stop at the storied half-mile for the Kentuckiana Ford Dealer Fall Classic presented by Federated Car. For Scott’s Rookie of the Year Candidate Thomas “Moose” Praytor making his 3rd start at Salem would also make Salem his most visited ARCA track.
Off the trailer, the Realtor car was solid, pacing inside the top 20 in the first practice session.
A round of changes and another set of tires found the team struggling, “We went from good to just horrible and thought something was wrong with the car. After a couple more rounds of changes we realized we had a bad set of tires, changed them out for another set and “Mickie” came back to life.” The Realtor car would qualify 19th
Before the start of the Kentuckian Ford Dealers Fall Classic the track held and autograph session for the fans. “Salem is the most challenging track on the tour and the fans are passionate about their racing. As if the track isn’t enough to get you going, the fans at the autograph session before the race really get you jacked up.”
With the drop of the green flag the Realtor car was holding its own amongst a stout field of cars while maintaining a spot in the top 20. With the first caution a good day would start to go bad.
Praytor said, “Our Realtor car brakes had been good under green but when the caution came out the pedal just went to the floor. The guys checked out the normal brake problems under caution but it felt like something broke under the dash. A post race inspection found the brake bias bar was broken keeping the brakes from getting any real or consistent pressure. Going in to the corner one lap and there would be no brakes, the next time the left front would lock up smoking the tire.Salem with a good car is a long day, Salem with no brakes is just brutal."
Ranked 8th in the ARCA Championship standings with just 3 races remaining, an early exit on lap 20 could have dropped Praytor out of the top 10. And with the press of a brake pedal the mission changed from racing to surviving.
The toughest part of the balancing act for the ARCA rookie was to race the car hard enough to maintain the minimum speed while not locking up the left front. If Praytor had not been able to keep up the required minimum speed he would be forced to park.
“You feel like an idiot out there riding around getting lapped every 10 laps by the leaders but our team has worked too hard and we’ve come too far to give up,” he said.
After alternating from locking up the left front or no brakes for a 175 laps the left front tire couldn’t stand anymore and it blew out with 3 laps to go. And the Moose brought his ailing Realtor Chevy to pit road one final time.
He said, “A blow out with 3 laps to go on a car that’s 30 laps down would seem like a good time to quit but our guys never missed a beat. They changed the left front and we were back out in time to take the checkered flag. I realize we don’t have the equipment the other big teams have but our all volunteer group has as much heart as anybody in this business.”
Keeping the Realtor car rolling until the end would garner Praytor a 17th place finish instead of 30th earning precious Championship points that not only kept the team in the top 10 but able to hold on to the 8th position.
With just 2 races in the 2013 season the Hixson Motorsports/Max Force Racing team has a short week prepping for the Zloop 150 at Kentucky Speedway on Friday night under the lights, live on SPEED.