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Larry Ott: Pratt’s switch to Freedom pays dividends

One would think that based on the six-win season that veteran Sportsman driver Rob Pratt has enjoyed at Freedom Motorsports Park this year that he would be in the driver’s seat to clinch the Delevan-based dirt track’s season championship.

While the Brockport area driver has certainly had a championship-like campaign at Freedom in 2015, he will not emerge as the point king there in 2015. Pratt missed the first three weeks of Freedom’s season this year as he initially began his racing year at Raceway 5 in Batavia. Pratt is fourth in points heading into Freedom’s 2015 point finale this Friday.

Pratt’s current Freedom points ranking should not overshadow the fine season he has had this year.

During the first month of the season Pratt made a decision to switch his racing endeavors to Freedom and the results have been favorable.

“It’s been a lot of fun racing at Freedom this year,” said Pratt, 50. “They treat you like family there. The drivers all work together. I started the season at Raceway 5 which is about 20 minutes away but then I decided to do something a little bit different. I saw that Freedom was racing Fridays and their schedule was a good fit for us so that’s where we have been going.

“When you miss even a week there because the competition is so good it’s hard to catch up in points and when you miss three weeks it’s impossible. I used to race three times a week mainly at Ohsweken, Batavia and Humberstone but now we race once a week. I’ve had the same crew guys since day one and everyone’s slowing up a little bit.”

Pratt started racing when he graduated from high school in 1983 in Late Models, where he competed in that division until 1986. He moved to Sportsman in 1987 and won his first championship, that at Raceway 5, in 1990. He has won three more championships at Raceway 5 since then, plus a single Sportsman crown at Ohsweken in 2013.

In 1993 Pratt lived through a career-defining moment that saw him hang up his helmet for nearly six years.

“My dad, Dutch Pratt, passed away and that was tough on me,” said Rob Pratt. “He’s the one who got me into racing. I was born in Rochester but when I was real young, about five, we moved to Daytona Beach and I watched my dad race at Volusia County down there. I helped him in the pits. We moved back here to New York 10 to 12 years later. Then when I graduated from high school I started racing and he helped me with my racing.

“When he died I did not race again for a few years. I still went to the races and helped out some of my friends who raced but it was a while before I got back behind the wheel myself.”

Pratt and his wife Audrey have a handicapped son, Rob Pratt Jr. who is now 23. Through helping their son they have been inspired to help others.

“Back in about 2002 through about 2005 we got involved with an organization that helps critically and chronically-ill children, Dream Factory,” said Rob Pratt. “They arranged a trip for us and we went to Disney World and we wanted to give back.

“So during those seasons our racing team sold raffle tickets at the races and gave away two bikes a week to kids. During that time we raised between $10,000 and $13,000. They now do bigger charity events but people can help by looking them up at dreamfactoryinroc.org.”

Of the 16 Freedom Sportsman feature races that have been contested thus far in 2015, Pratt has competed in 13. Of those he has finished in the top two an impressive nine times, sporting six wins and three second place results.

He emerged triumphant in the extra distance Bellinger Electric Sportsman Shootout 40 on Aug. 7.

The Pratt’s large family racing team consist of Steve, Steve Jr., Tori and Clay Avery; Kevin Gavin, Joe Lamantia, Norris Towne, Eric and Cathy Johnson. The Pratt’s daughter, Lynette Pratt also lends assistance. Avery’s Garage and Price Right Remodeling are among the team’s sponsors.

Also enjoying banner Sportsman class seasons this year at Freedom are the current top three in points, Tony Pangrazio (945), who has collected two wins, Kyle Inman (933) with a hat trick of victories and Ray Bliss (928) who has captured a single win.

When Freedom throws their final checkered flags of this season this Friday it will mark the completion of on-track activity for first year owner/promoter Bob Reis.

Pit stops

• For three decades, fans at Holland Motorsports Complex have enjoyed hearing race announcer Rick Mooney utter his trademark words at the green flag there that “we are racing!” In 2016 those fans will hear those words a bit less often.

Mooney announced that he is entering into a semi-retirement beginning in 2016 and will not be announcing weekly at the Southern Erie County oval any longer. He will announce on certain occasions only at Holland in the future.

“I’m not stepping away from this cold turkey,” said Mooney. “My day job requirements and other time factors are the reason that I’m cutting back. I will still announce weekly at my other track, Ransomville Speedway, next season.”

• Merrittville Speedway champions for 2015 are: Chad Brachmann, 358 Modifieds; Gary Lindberg, Sportsman; Mark Fawcett, Hoosier Stocks; Josh Sliter, Modified Lites; Rob Goulding, 4-Cylinders.

• During pre-race activities for the Aug. 30 Pete Cosco Memorial at Humberstone Speedway, the Cosco family announced that they will continue to present weekly racing in 2016 at the Port Colborne, Ont., based dirt track.

• Brothers Reid and Clay Ricketson have tasted victory in the Mod ET class seven times this season in the Friday night IHRA drag racing competition at Lancaster Speedway and Dragway. Reid has won four times and Clay three. Last Friday, Mike Peters became the 10th different winner in the Bikes/Sleds class this season.

Shawn Vangraafeiland and Zac Vitez have earned Lancaster’s Tuesday night Teen and Junior Dragster season championships respectively.

• Andy Jankowiak won asphalt Modified races in both Oswego and Hickory, NC this past weekend.

email: lawrence_o_14075@yahoo.com