(TOLEDO, Ohio – March 3, 2015) – Keeping up with two full-time gigs, sometimes three, is no simple thing, as many in the motorsports industry already understand. Mobile, Alabama’s Tommy Praytor, like a lot of people out there trying to move and shake the world, knows this as much as anyone.
“There are days when I think we do a really good job of keeping up with most everything, and there are days when we don’t,” Praytor said. “Our secret is the great people that work with us. Most of the crew understands what we’re trying to accomplish with Thomas (Praytor).”
On this particular day, Praytor was managing a press conference regarding the upcoming ARCA Mobile 200 at Mobile Int’l Speedway. His son, Thomas “Moose” Praytor, was testing their DK-LOK Ford Fusion at Mobile on the same day, as was Mason Mitchell Motorsports with drivers Mason Mitchell and Austin Wayne Self.
That all seems like a lot, and it is, but we haven’t mentioned the two full-time gigs yet.
Praytor is the owner of Praytor Realty, a full-service realty company in Mobile.
“Praytor Realty is every day. I’m responsible for every transaction that goes through this building. That can be more than a hundred transactions a year.”
He’s also responsible for a full-time ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards race team, which he fields out of his shop in Mobile. But before he and his mob of volunteers can get to the shop in the evenings, there’s that family business to run.
“It’s always been a family-owned business with a built-in sense of community, you could say. My family’s been here in Mobile for a hundred years. My mom and dad were very successful in this community. My dad was a banker for 40 years and mom had the real estate company. They were both heavily involved with the community, charities, you name it. That sense of community was instilled in me right from the start…that you need to give back as much as you can.
“For us, everything’s here (in Mobile). Thomas went to the same high school I did. When I went to college, it was at the University of Southern Alabama here in Mobile…same place Grant (Enfinger) went.”
Praytor graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
“Out of college, my mom finally convinced me to get into commercial real estate. At that time, her company was all residential. Didn’t know a lot about it at the start, but I had a lot of help from a lot of people and the business really grew. I’m a Certified Commercial Investment Member and I’ve served as President of the Board of Realtors. I probably served on every committee there is to serve on around here…it was that sense of community that my parents instilled in me…you gotta give back.
“Once I got more comfortable with the business, we started a bunch of side businesses that did really well…had one of the largest art distributor companies in the world. Our company sold art from San Francisco to New York…overseas to England…all over the world.”
Then, just for grins, Praytor added the racing category to the mix.
“As the story goes, then we start racing.”
The racing actually started with Tommy, who raced for years before he put his son behind the wheel. Thomas, as the next generation, has been racing since he was 12 in go-karts, Bandolero cars, super stocks and eventually late models, all prior to his budding ARCA career.
“Then, seven, eight years ago, mom gets sick with cancer. We were going to focus on racing full-time when she got better, but she doesn’t get better…so I stayed with the real estate business ever since.
“We continued to race here locally with Thomas, then I got involved with the PR side of the business…started doing all of Rick Crawford’s PR work right up until he finished racing. Then I had the opportunity to do TV, so we went in that direction for a while.”
Praytor was the host of ARCA Racing This Week, which ran on the Outdoor Channel for four seasons. During that time, he also spotted for ARCA driver Dan Pardus as Pardus moved from ARCA to the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and eventually, Cup.
“Most fun I ever had in racing is when we started the TV show. I remember my very first interviews in ARCA were with Shawna Robinson and Bill Baird…that would have been in ’99, when Baird won the championship.”
Then the opportunity to go ARCA racing with his son seemed to come out of nowhere.
“We never made a conscious decision to go ARCA racing…never felt like we’d ever have the resources to do that. Then Andy Belmont called back in 2102, the year of the inaugural ARCA Mobile 200. Belmont said that Thomas needs to be in that race, and we couldn’t disagree, so we made a deal with him to start the race. Then we made a deal to go to Talladega. Then we took Andy’s speedway car to Daytona and made the race. Then Wayne Hixson called and said that he had plenty of equipment. If we’d make ’em go, we could go racing with him, which is what we did for two years.”
In those two years, Thomas went from ninth in national champion point standings in his first full season in 2013, to seventh overall in 2014.
“I think driving for Mr. Hixson did more for Thomas than anything could. Thomas went down to Soddy Daisy…to Hixson’s shop and worked right alongside his guys. Thomas learned these cars inside and out, and how much work and effort it really takes to get one ready to go racing at the national level. It was the very best learning experience he could have ever had. Wayne taught him a lot about so many things he could not have gotten here. Thomas and I both will always be grateful for Wayne, and all he taught Thomas. The experience was invaluable.
“In the meantime, we were accumulating equipment of our own so we could eventually do our own thing back in our hometown. And for us, that meant moving our team back to Mobile, which is what we did for the 2015 season. We’ve got six cars we’re working with…a superspeedway car, an intermediate-specific car, some short track cars and one car that could go either way – short track or intermediate. We’re working out of my shop…same shop we’ve been working out of the last 18 years.”
And there you have it – the two full-time gigs – realtor by day and full-time ARCA race team owner by night, weekends, and/or whatever it takes to make it all happen. There is also Tommy Praytor the promoter, which, this time of year, is yet another full-time adventure. Praytor, as he has been from the start, is the Promoter of the ARCA Mobile 200 since its inception in 2012.
“Our goal is to make the ARCA Mobile 200 another signature event in Mobile, and it’s rapidly becoming that. We want to get it on the same level as the Senior Bowl and the Go Daddy Bowl…where the community takes it as seriously as we do, and we’re getting there…but it takes the community and a lot of work to do that.”
So while Praytor works to promote the race, he’s got those other two full-time gigs that need his attention.
“When we’re done with the real estate part of our day, we all go to the shop at night after work. Our normal work day ends about 10 (at night). It’s all volunteers that come over and help…a lot of the same cast of characters that have been coming around for 20 years…mostly Thomas’s friends from high school…basically his late model team that he grew up with. They all have their jobs they work all day, then they head over here and help. Like last night in the shop…we had a mechanic, an engineer and a Marine…quite a cast. I’ll tell you…there is nothing on Thomas’s racecars that happens that he doesn’t know about. I’d say no one knows more about his cars right now than Thomas.
“Then the UNOH kids show up and take over at the race track. Pretty cool deal all the way around.”
It was a “pretty cool deal” that almost never happened.
“Back in 2003, Thomas was 13…he won 44 races in Bandoleros that year. One of the last races he was running, he hit the wall so hard the seat became detached. Thomas’s head hit the wall. He got life-flighted out in a coma. He sat out the entire next season…football and racing. In that year, I made him rebuild the car. I told him that when he got done, if he still wants to do it, I’d put him back in the racecar. I guess the answer was yes…ever since then, he picked up right where he left off.”
NOTE: One of Thomas Praytor’s high school friends is two-time University of Alabama national champion quarterback AJ McCarron. McCarron is now on the active roster of the Cincinnati Bengals. Praytor, during his senior year of high school, hiked footballs to McCarron as the team’s starting center. The team won the championship that season.
ARCA raceweek schedule of events at Mobile; starts with Fan Fest at USS Alabama’
The ARCA Mobile 200 gets underway with the ARCA Fan Fest at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile Thursday, March 12. The USS Alabama Fan Fest is from 4:00-6:00 p.m. and features an ARCA driver autograph session from 5:00-6:00. From there, haulers will cast off from the Battleship in a hauler parade to Mobile Int’l Speedway to prepare for Friday’s on-track activity. The hauler parade will mark the beginning of the Causeway Seafood Jubilee as ARCA fans, teams, and drivers enjoy the great seafood offered by restaurants on the Causeway.
The Home Mortgage of America Green Flag Party will follow Thursday night with headliner Holli Mosley of Mobile. The venue has been changed to Holiday Inn Tillman’s Corner, the host hotel for the ARCA Mobile 200. Fans can expect to hear from Ronnie Bowman and fellow hit maker Mark Collie on Thursday night also. Bowman has written No. 1 songs for country music stars like Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Chesney and Lee Ann Womack.
New Green Flag Corporate Partners, Mobile Shoe Hospital, Intertek and Shoreline Communication joined the ARCA Mobile 200 family.
It was also announced that a partnership between Venturini Motorsports and So Good Entertainment will bring songwriter Bowman to sing the National Anthem before the race at 2 p.m. Saturday.
On-track activities begin Friday with the first practice session from 2:30-3:15 p.m., followed by the second and final practice session from 4:15-5:00. Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell will take place at 7:00 Friday night. Raceday, Saturday, March 14 features an on-track autograph session from 12 noon-1:00 with driver introductions following at 1:30. The ARCA Mobile 200 is set to get the green flag at 2:00.
-ARCA Racing Series Press Release & Photo