This past weekend gave every reason to call the National Tractor Pulling Championships in Bowling Green, the greatest truck and tractor pull in the world.
|Spectators watch the tractor pulls from the grandstands at the Wood county fairgrounds Sunday afternoon. (Photos: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
While that may be an opinion, it happens to be the opinion of many of the drivers, fans and event coordinators.
Sunday's afternoon session marked the end of the 47th annual event at the Wood County Fairgrounds. It was an event that saw firsts for many drivers and broke standing records in terms of attendance and money raised.
"This is unlike any other pull in the world," said Van Haisley, who collected his first championship ring in the 7,500-pound Diesel Super Stock Four-Wheel Drive Truck division. "It doesn't even compare to others ... This is the big daddy."
Haisley took home the championship ring after winning his class on Saturday with a pull of 338.875 feet and then taking second in the class on Sunday with a pull of 298.170.
There were over 60,000 people in attendance over all three days according to Michael Ott, president of the Northwestern Ohio Tractor Pullers Association, also known as 'The Blue Shirts.'
Although there were no official numbers yet, it is estimated that Saturday night's crowd broke last year's Saturday night record of 37,000 fans. Grandstand seats for Saturday night were sold out by 6. with the event beginning at 6:30 p.m.
In addition to the crowd's numbers, the Make-A-Wish foundation broke last year's record of money raised.
With the help of donations and an auction, the foundation raised over $95,000, surpassing last year's total of $80,000.
"The crowd here is incredible," said Carlton Cope, who also won his first championship ring in the 10,000-pound Pro Stock Tractor division. "This is like the Daytona 500 of tractor pulling with all of the people. It's unbelievable."
Cope collected the ring by winning his class on Saturday, going 318.980 in a pull-off and then winning again Sunday with a pull of 291.795. His Massey Ferguson 2805 tractor was the first of its kind to win a ring in recent memory.
"We just had super good luck all weekend to do what we did," Cope said. "To win both nights like that and to win the ring is really something special."
|Scott Teipen, of Crothersville, IN, makes a pull of 268.48 feet with "Barely Gettin' By" a John Deere 7720 tractor Sunday afternoon at the National Tractor Pulling Championships.
For Haisley, his quest for the ring relied upon consistency.
"I've never been able to be consistent here," said Haisley, who competed in Bowling Green for the third consecutive year. "I've always had mechanical problems."
During last year's pulls Haisley had the ring in his sights before the turbo in his truck went out and he couldn't get the truck to fire up.
But this year was different.
After winning his class by over 13 feet on Saturday night Haisley was in prime position for another shot at the coveted prize.
"I was set up perfectly today," he said.
With such a large lead, Haisley only needed to get third or better on Sunday in order to claim his ring.
Shane Kellogg won the class pulling 313.175, but Haisley's pull, though 15 feet shorter, was good enough to clinch the ring.
"I knew that Shane had won and I wasn't going to beat him," Haisley said. "As long as I was third I knew that we were safe so I didn't try to do anything stupid."
Other winners on Sunday were: Adam Bauer, Open Modified Mini Tractors; Jeremy Walker, Super Semis; Brian Korth, Light Super Stock Tractors; L.D. Nation, Unlimited Modified Tractors; and Shane Kellogg, Diesel Super Stock Four-Wheel Drive Trucks.
The Saturday afternoon winners were: Josh Blackbourn, Open Super Stock Tractors; Jason Brammer, Modified Four-Wheel Drive Trucks; Greg Freeze Jr., Super Farm Tractors; and Bob Jostock, Modified Tractors.
Winners on Saturday night were: Haisley, Diesel Super Stock Four-Wheel Drive Trucks; Matt Cain, Modified Two-Wheel Drive Trucks; Steve Blagrave, Diesel Super Stock Tractors; Bauer, Unlimited Modified Tractors; Cope, Pro Stock Tractors.
The 2014 dates for the national pulls are Aug. 15-17, with ticket prices remaining the same for what will be the ninth consecutive year.
"What we're working on and what we're trying to promote is an event, not just a tractor pull," Ott said. "When you come here, we have the museums, the toy shows, vendors ... plenty of those things to look at.
"The 'Blue Shirts' have all prided themselves on being the best and the biggest, and it is," he added.
"We work hard all year to put this thing on. We've got one shot at it to do it right, so it's got to be right. We want to make sure our fans and competitors have the best experience they can."