The roar of highly modified tractors will rock Bowling Green once again this weekend.
The National Tractor Pullers Association Championship Pulling season continues with the 55th National Tractor Pulling Championships, to be conducted in five sessions through Saturday at the Wood County Fairgrounds.
Keith Seiler of the 225-member Northwestern Ohio Tractor Pullers Association said the event will bring 60,000 fans to the fairgrounds, generating $37 million in revenue to the community.
The fans are in town to hear and see the power behind multiple-engine super-charged 10,000 horsepower-plus modified machines.
“It is the adrenaline, the rush of watching that much horsepower, torque, go down the track and do its thing in typically, relatively, a short distance,” Seiler said. “We’re pulling 350 feet whereas if you go to a drag strip, that is a quarter mile. You get to see all kinds of horsepower in a lot shorter distance, and you get to see it be stopped.”
Jerry City resident Earl Wiseman is a 20-year club member who is a track official. Wiseman knows more than anyone how loud it can get.
“The big draw is just the power — the pure brute force,” said Wiseman, “It is the horsepower — like they say, ‘Feel the noise, hear the power. It is the technology of the machines.
“You have certain fans who just love the smoke, like agricultural (fans), and then you have certain fans that just (want) the alcohol burners a lot — the four, five, or six engine mods.
“I’m a flagman here and just that group going past me when I’m on the track, you have got to live it. You can’t just describe it,” added Wiseman.
Mike Hall has been a member 12 years and club treasurer two years. He has been around pulling his entire life, starting out as a garden tractor puller.
“It’s the draw of the noise. It’s like any tractor — you don’t just hear it, you feel it. You can get up close and personal with it,” Hall said.
“Depending on the direction of the wind, when the unlimited mods, or how the big mods go, you get a nice dirt bath after the tractor runs and the fans really enjoy that.”
Technology and relationships
Wiseman says technology is a big draw, too.
“They are always looking for more horsepower. Whoever comes up with something new and it works, everybody follows that,” Wiseman said. “From when I first got started, it is nothing compared to what it is today. There is a lot of copycatting going on, but everybody has got their own little tech to put in it.
“These guys are just wonderful to work with. Some of them are playing catch up because some of them are taking big strides in technology.”
Hall says there is much more to the event than the show on the track.
“It is not only the tractor pull part, but also the social aspect of it. All the fans interact with pullers — they have an open pit area so they can go there and talk with any of the pullers,” Hall said.
“The pullers are all very personable. They love the fans, and they love the interaction with them. They’ll sign autographs. A lot of little kids will sit on their equipment, which excites the next generation of fans.
“They get up and close with the vehicles before and after the event, and then the pullers are out at the campgrounds out there and they have a good time out there with their parade and stuff. The pullers participate in that. From (ages) 3 to 80, everyone here enjoys themselves.”
Seiler says that kind of interaction builds a community.
“It is the relationships that we are building, it is the friendships, it’s just those kinds of things. We’re talking about what we like to do. We like the community,” Seiler said.
“You know, the community is great, and the more we work with the community the more they work with us. It turns into being a family relationship, really.”
It takes skill, too
The pullers are owners and operators, farmers and foremen, engineers and entrepreneurs, mechanics and machinists who love to turn wrenches, tires, and dirt — just like their fans.
They will compete in 26 classes to be livestreamed to the world at NTPA.tv. Pulling is not just about horsepower, it takes skill to drive these machines.
“It’s about 50/50 (skill and power) because if you can’t read the track right for a good path, all the horsepower in the world is not going to get you down the track,” Wiseman said. “There is a lot of driving. You just can’t get in it and do it. There is only one way to learn and that is to get in and do it.”
Veteran puller Joe Eder of North Collins, New York, located 23 miles south of Buffalo, can testify to that.
“There is a lot of driving behind this to be able to plant that much horsepower to the track,” Eder said. “If you gun the throttle, it is going to be like an icy road and you are going to go in the ditch immediately, so there is a lot to driving these things.
“Every track is a little different and you’re just trying to get that weight transfer up and get it rolling as fast as we can. The furthest guy wins.”
Eder runs in the unlimited modify division with a blown alcohol super-charged motor machine capable of creating 12,000 horsepower when using all four engines. The unlimited class can include anything — super chargers, turbos or multiple combinations, Eder said.
Eder began pulling competitively at age 16, and over his 35 years pulling, his team has won seven national championships, including three times at BG, where he takes the competition very seriously.
“When you come to Bowling Green, you run with what you ‘brung’ and hope you ‘brung’ enough because everybody is shooting for the same thing,” Eder said.
Eder says there is another side to preparing for this event that many fans do not see, and that is taking care of his vehicle.
“After every run, we adjust valves, change oil, go through, and check the ignition. We have got to do the work on the tires. There is a lot of cleaning involved. These things move a lot of dirt,” Eder said.
“Two wheels spinning at over 145 miles-per-hour — you have got to do everything you can to tear up the track to get down the track. It’s a lot of cleaning, so it’s about eight hours of preparation for about 8½ to nine seconds (of pulling).”