Truck/tractor pulls thrill fairgoers
By Rick Wade
An ear-splitting, screaming roar obliterated the peaceful silence of a summer’s evening June 26 at the Macoupin County Fair, as an expanding cloud of jet black smoke filled the air.
No, it wasn’t a military invasion.
It was the beginning of the first heat of the Illinois Tractor Pulling Association’s Truck/Tractor Pull on the dirt track at the county fair’s Grandstand.
The bleachers and pit were packed full of eager fans watching these heavy-weight farm machinery mutations that pulled the even heavier sled, The Mechanical Mule, as far as each vehicle’s ramped-up muscle allowed.
This year’s ITPA sanctioned categories included 5,500-pound Antique, 9,500-pound Pro Farm, 8,500-pound Limited Pro, 10,000-pound Pro Stock and 5,800-pound Modified.
Illinois Hot Farm Pullers Association sanctioned events were the 9,000-pound Farm Stock and the 11,000-pound Pro Farm.
The Open County Tractor Pull included 13,000-pound class. Open County 4WD Truck Pull categories were 7,000-Factor Gas, 8,300-pound Work Stock Diesel, 6,500-pound Modified Gas, 8,000-pound 2.6 diesel.
Competing in the 5,800 modified class was 16-year-old Kaleb Dial, who described his pulling tractor as “a country kid’s toy.”
“It’s a big pulling tractor. We got the chassis from Scott Tedder’s pulling shop in Indiana. It’s got a blown Hemi up front, and big tires in the back.”
Rules allow young people 16 years old and older to compete in tractor pulls.
Dial started his competitive career as a kid, competing in pedal tractor pull events at the State Fair, such as the one that took place earlier in the day.
“I can remember as a kid playing with Legos on the tractor trailer. Now it’s kind of neat to be the one in the seat. Grandpa likes working on it, and I am just here to run it,” he said.
Dial is following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who has been involved in this rural sport all of his life.
“We quit for a while, it got too expensive. It’s a rough sport. But now we’re back and better than ever. This will be the seventh pull of the season and we’re hittin’ it hard. It’s a great experience out here. Everyone is so nice at the fair.”
2013 is Dial’s rookie year.
Nothing like it
“It’s still scary every time, and I hope that doesn’t change because it’s a thrill. Every run is different. There is no run that is ever the same,” he said.
Dial said he cannot compare the experience to anything else.
“I’ve talked to a lot of guys about it. We’ve got a friend who got a drag racer this year, and he says tractor pulling is nothing like a drag car. It’s nothing like a drag boat. I’ve got friends who run with me who race cars who say it’s nothing like this. Just the horsepower sitting under you is just amazing. I love it. It’s great.”
A typical teenager during the week, Dial heads to his grandfather’s farm each weekend to work, pull tractors and “have fun.”
“I’ve been doing decent. Still learning it. Still tuning. First year, I’m not expecting first place, grand prize, but I’m out here doing the best I can,” said Dial, who later that evening placed second in his class with a pull of 301.78 feet.
Dial recalled his first run
“I wasn’t really thinking about it, to be honest with you. I got to the end of the track and everybody said, ‘What’d ya think?’ And I didn’t remember what happened, it went by so quick. I don’t remember if I was scared or not,” he said.
“There are weights we can move around on the tractor, depending upon the track conditions. If it’s a biting track, you want the weight on the front so the front end doesn’t come off the ground.
“Most people think you just mash the throttle and go. But I have separate brakes to steer with. You don’t steer with the steering wheel. You steer with your brakes, because your front end’s usually off the ground if you make a good pull. Not high, but two to three inches.
“It’s a science,” said Dial, who attends Chatham-Glenwood High School. “I’ve learned more on that tractor, working on that Hemi … I hate to say it but I’ve learned more working on that tractor than I do at school.”
Dial said that after each pull, he and his crew (Robinson and Adam Paice) pull off the heads, check the lifters and the blower belt, clean out the oil pan and put in fresh fuel. “There’s just a long list of things you need to do, and I know how to do it all by myself. I know guys out here who are 50, and have mechanics do it. They don’t know what they’re doing.”
Dial said pulling tractors can have one of three motor types: a blown Hemi, like his, an Allison engine from a World War II fighter plane or a helicopter turbine.
“It’s hilarious when a helicopter turbine starts up because it is so quiet. Ours are loud — people hold their ears. With the helicopter turbines, people sit there waiting for it, and it actually gets quieter the faster it goes.”
So what do his friends think?
“People always ask me, ‘Kaleb, why do you do all that for 15 seconds?’ I look at them and say, ‘You’ve got to try it.’ I’ve played football and baseball, and, yeah, you get that tackle or interception, but it doesn’t matter. When you’re going down the track and you see that flag, and you know you beat the guy in front of you, it is the biggest thrill.
“Things can go bad, of course, in a hurry. You can go out of balance, you can shake, your engine can blow up. You can have a big fireball and blow everything you have up. Or you can have the run of a lifetime. And that’s what I am going for.”
Dial said he’s going to keep tractor pulling as long as he is able.
“I’m 16, and I think it’s a blessing I can do what I am going to do today,” he said. “I don’t want to stop doing this. It’s amazing. I tell Mom, ‘There are a lot worse things out there I could be doing.’ But I’m addicted to horsepower, so what can I do?”
1. Greg Griffel 258.43
2. Kenny Millburg 255.33
3. Allen Boehler 253.47
4. Ryan Waltrip 252.30
5. Scott Boehler 252.04
6. Jim Matzenbacher 248.84
7. Bruce Dickhaut 237.20
8. Ron Kolweier 143.10
9. Paul Buhl 141.26
1. Chase Lowry 306.37
2. Kaleb Dial 301.78
3. Bill Bales 294.71
4. Jeff Brown (Lynch Mob) 290.41
5. Zach Williams 280.27
6. John Gerhold (Top Gun) 272.22
7. Jacob Ohl (Outcast) 271.01
8. Russell Vandeveer 267.07
9. John Young 266.45
10. Jacob Ohl (Buschwacker) 243.82
8500# Limited Pro Stock
1. Wayne Tedder 330.95
2. Dirk Nierman 329.48
3. Todd Siebert 322.88
4. Aaron Esker 319.99
5. Tony McMullen 316.17
6. Henry Frueh 297.04
7. Danny Barker 283.47
8. Mark Forbeck 242.99
9500# Pro Farm
1. Jonathon Reeves 267.59
2. Kevin Shepard 267.19
3. Josh Cain 261.10
4. Curtis Bedwell 243.39
10,000# Pro Stock
1. Lance Little 265.28
2. Chad Russell 245.22
3. David Justison 237.83