Moose and Mullins, Two Small Teams Making a Big Splash
When Thomas Praytor and Willie Mullins teamed up as drafting partners during last Saturday’s General Tire 200 at Talladega Superspeedway, it was actually just the latest collaboration between the pair of low-budget racers.
Praytor and Mullins have been helping each other since 2015 when Mullins Racing fielded a car for J.J. Pack in the season opening event at Daytona Int’l Speedway. Praytor let Mullins enter the car with Praytor’s 2014 ARCA Racing Series owner points, which allowed Pack to make the race via provisional.
“Coming up to Daytona we didn’t have a number with any kind of points,” Mullins recalled. “Our crew chief Andy Belmont put us together with Thomas Praytor and we got their points from the previous year. Inevitably that is what got J.J. Pack into the show that first year. By using their points we were able to get that 40th-place starting position at Daytona in 2015.”
Praytor, a veteran racer who has 89 ARCA starts under his belt, said the friendship with Mullins grew quickly following that weekend at Daytona in 2015.
“Ever since then we both realized we were small teams and we needed to help each other because that is how racing is these days,” Praytor said. “Now we’re three or four years down the road and we’re still good friends.”
Since then Praytor and Mullins have helped each other out many times. In fact, Praytor once let Mullins borrow a sway bar from him for more than nine months. Mullins eventually returned it, but not without a bit of harmless ribbing from Praytor.
“He came walking in the trailer at the end of last year with that sway bar and I said, ‘Oh…the infamous sway bar,’” Praytor recalled between laughs. “There it was coming back in to my possession.”
As a show of support, and admittedly a bit of a joke, Praytor even wore one of Mullins’ t-shirts under his driving suit during the General Tire 200. Mullins admitted when he saw Praytor before the race wearing his shirt, he couldn’t help but smile.
“The story behind that is it started off with my girlfriend giving his girlfriend a t-shirt just because of some friendly kidding back and forth,” Mullins explained. “Well when we were getting ready to get in the cars he came up to me and said, ‘Oh, by the way…’ and it was just too funny.
“It actually made my day that someone would go out of their way to make me laugh and it made us feel good and appreciated a little bit. After the race I wanted to make sure I got a picture with him.”
Praytor said that picture, taken by Mullins’ fiancee Dinah Thompson, is much more than just two racers having a good laugh. It’s a pair of friends and competitors who have each other’s back.
“When I showed him that I was wearing it and saw the look on his face, I said I guess this does mean a little something,” Praytor said. “All I’m sure anybody see’s is me wearing a shirt that says ‘Big Willie Style’ on it and another racing standing next to me. Really nobody knows the meaning of that picture or what is going on, but it is kind of cool to have our own little meaning to the picture.
“Of course it turned out it was the best we’d done at Talladega in quite awhile, so I’ll be sure to wear that thing next time out. I’ll have to dig it out of the dirty clothes and wear it at Toledo in a couple of weeks,” Praytor said with a laugh.
Both Mullins and Praytor say that its important for the small teams, like Mullins Racing and Praytor’s Max Force Racing, to work together to combat the bigger teams like Venturini Motorsports and Cunningham Motorsports.
“We don’t do this every weekend, so if we’re missing something on pit road and we don’t have time to go back, those guys are the ones that are there to help us,” Mullins said. “At Daytona we needed help on pit road and we went down to the Praytor’s and those guys were more than happy to help. They sent a person down to help us because we were having trouble getting the window net up. They saved our qualifying position at Daytona when that happened.
“It’s important that all us little guys band together to try and make a little bit bigger of a team to put on a better show for ARCA.”
Praytor echoed Mullins’ thoughts, saying that people like Mullins are exactly what the phrase “racing family” represents.
“These big, fully funded teams have got every kind of resource you could possibly think of to get whatever they need,” Praytor said. “I could think of several occasions where Willie has come down to me or I have gone down to Willie looking for a certain piece that I didn’t have but he had or vice versa.
“It just shows how big the racing family is. Willie can walk down to me and take two or three drawers in my toolbox just because he needed it and I wouldn’t think twice about it. That’s just what we’ve got to do to make it.
“At the end of the day, it’s crazy that a couple of small town guys that don’t have a lot of money are getting to compete with the big guys in the ARCA Racing Series at Daytona and Talladega.”