Pratt is a third-generation racer.
Most short-track weekly racers travel 100, maybe 200 miles for theircompetition. Now, here comes Rich Pratt, who'll take his race cars, crewand family on a 2,200-mile or more journey to race in the heat of July,which he has labeled a vacation.
Pratt, who lives just five minutes from Ocala, Florida, where he was arecent runner-up to Brian Finney in a state Sunbelt Series Super LateModel event, will take two of his war wagons, a Monte Carlo and aTaurus, north to Michigan, where he will campaign them for a month inthat state and Indiana, where he plans to run the two-day Anderson 400.
Here's a guy who is perfectly happy as driver of the Number 0 Groeb(pronounced "Grabe") Farms Monte Carlo around the Sunshine State. Pratt,along with wife Nicole, dad Richard, and his crew, won the Florida ProSeries championship last year and is definitely in the hunt in theSunbelt this go around.
As a state newspaper headlined his exploits of 2004: "From Zero toHero."
"Our sponsor, Groeb Farms, is headquartered out of Onsted, Michigan, sowe're going to go up there as our base and run three CRA Series races inMichigan and Indiana," Pratt says. "We're going to spend the whole monthof July up there. We're taking all our stuff--I believe the rules arethe same, thanks largely to the ABC body program--and we'll kind of havea racing vacation.
"We'll get out of the hurricanes and heat and everything like that. Youknow we had hurricanes so many times last year that interfered with ourracing. This guys come down for (Daytona) Speedweeks during pretty goodweather, so we're going up there for their pretty good weather."
Groeb Farms has The Mill, Gourmet Jose Salsa, and many other products.Pratt's race itinerary, which hasn't been finalized yet, includesAnderson, Kalamazoo, and several other tracks, like perhaps BerlinSpeedway.
Hold on now. This trip isn't just because his sponsor, Troy Groeb, ofthat farm and food products company, agreed it would be a good deal. No,young Pratt has another very good reason.
We'll hear from Groeb elsewhere in a minute, but first you old-timersfrom the area think back: Dick Pratt. Then Richard Pratt, especially inSprint Cars, and now, Rich. No, Rich is not Pratt III, and Richard isn'tjunior, because all of the Pratt trio have different middle names.
"My grandad (Dick) raced up there at Eldora and places like that, and wehave family up there we haven't seen in a long time," says the32-year-old Pratt. "Union City, Indiana, is our hometown and is actuallywhere I graduated high school. I worked up there a time and have someties there, but haven't been back there since."
Compared to the distance he traveled before he won his very firstshort-track race--5,000 miles to the state of Hawaii while in the AirForce--this little junket will be like a short heat race.
"I loved racing," says Pratt. "My senior year of high school in Indiana,I worked in the shop of (renowned chassis builder) C.J. Rayburn, forwhom my dad was driving. That enabled me to travel around, serving onthe pit crew. But I wanted to hold off on a career choice and figuredenlisting in the U.S. Air Force would help me learn a trade and perhapsI'd be stationed in the Carolinas or Tennessee, where I could look intothe prospects of driving a race car."
That was not to be, however.
His Air Force career carried him to Hawaii, where he spent his entiremilitary career.
"My heart sank when the sergeant told me I was going to Hawaii, but itturned out well," Pratt recalls.
On his first day there he came across another serviceman who had his ownrace car and invited him to accompany him to a local dirt oval.
"He had a mini-stock, and he invited me to help him with it and saidhe'd let me drive."
Pratt did, on both counts.
He recalls that his first night behind the wheel he went out and did OK,but on the second night, he won.
"That was pretty cool," he says. "It was at Hawaii Raceway Park on theisland of Oahu."