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Pa. truck and tractor pull draws about 75 competitors

August 03, 2003|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Billowing black smoke and the roar of powerful engines filled the air during a truck and tractor pull at Two Top Ruritan Club south of Mercersburg Saturday night.

Ruritan Club member Brian Yeager of Chambersburg, Pa., served as announcer for the event. Yeager, who announces for pulls all over Pennsylvania and Maryland, said tractor pulling "is the most powerful motor sport there is."

About 75 drivers competed in seven classes. Drivers must be at least 16 years old.

The grassy area beside the track was nearly full of spectators, with families sitting in lawn chairs and on blankets with picnic coolers.

Competitors pull a 32,000-pound sled, called a weight transfer machine, down a 300-foot dirt track.

"The farther he pulls it, the harder it is to pull" because the weight box moves toward the tractor as it goes down the track, Yeager said. "I've seen guys cost themselves $10,000 blowing an engine."

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If two tractors make a full pull - when the front edge of the sled crosses the 300-foot mark - weight is added to the sled and the two drivers compete again.

First up was the 7,500-pound Farm Stock class, in which the tractors are not modified.

Spectator Pat Lynch of McConnellsburg, Pa., said, "These tractors could have been plowing in the field this morning, do this tonight and be back out plowing tomorrow."

One of the tractors was a 1954 Farmall owned by Terry Moore of Greencastle, Pa.

"They're hard to find, and worth a lot of money," Yeager said.

Lynch called the 8500-pound modified turbo tractor class and the 6200-pound street stock four-wheel drive truck class the "noisy classes." Indeed, in the former, black smoke billowed and turbo diesel engines roared as the tractors strained to pull the weight. Flames flew out the side of the engine on a John Deere tractor.

Yeager said the compression ratio on the machines is reduced from 18-to-1, to 8-to-1, and rpm's are 5,000. "That's more than double what it's made to do," he said.

Tom Williams of Lees-burg,Va., was the first driver in the 8500 class, using his brand-new 966 International and making a full pull. He and his brother, Jim, modified the International's engine, taking the stock motor out and putting in a 540.

He said he pulls three or four times a week in Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia during the busy season, accompanied by his wife and 8-year-old son.

Williams, 38, said tractor pulling first came out when he was little, and he and Jim would watch the Thomas brothers from Boonsboro.

"They built the first super stock tractor," he said.

A paid firefighter in Fairfax County, Va., Williams said working on his "expensive" tractor takes ""a lot of money, time and head-scratching."

Although he frequently places high in many competitions, he does not get a return on his investment, he said.

Both traction and power are important, he said.

"If you get the combination right for that night, you win that night. If all the tractors (pull) within 10 to 15 feet of each other, that's a good run."

Williams said he feels nervous when he's pulling, but added, "It's fun."

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