Thousands come out to tractor pull at dragway

July 07, 2007|By DON AINES

Thousands came to the Mason Dixon Dragway Saturday night for the gear-grinding, piston-popping, dirt-kicking, smoke-belching and eardrum-pounding action of pickups, tractors and semis pitting huge amounts of horsepower against a 30,000-pound sled designed to stop them in their tracks.

The parking lot where pickups and sport utility vehicles outnumbered cars by about 2-to-1 was packed for the event hosted by the Washington County Tractor Pullers Association, featuring six classes of tractors that never pulled a plow and semis that need a semi to haul them from pull to pull.

"We came to show up and run and beat everybody else," said Jim McKenzie of Hanover, Pa., who has been pulling for about 15 years. He was there to pit "Tank Tuff," powered by a 1,200-horsepower V-12 Continental engine lifted from a World War II Sherman tank, against other entries in his class.

His 22-year-old son, Jason, was going to be behind the wheel of "Never Satisfied," which boasted three Chevrolet V-8s with blowers producing 4,200-horsepower. It looks like a dragster on steroids.


Jason has his father beat in horsepower, "but I've got the torque," Jim McKenzie said.

These contests go not to the swift, but the strong, as drivers use the brute force of their machines to move the sled as far as possible. The sled does its best to stop them with a 15,000-pound block of concrete and lead that moves forward as the trucks and tractors drag them down the clay track, increasing the downward pressure on the front of the sled.

As in NASCAR, there is brand loyalty among fans, split mostly between John Deere and International.

"We like to see the semi trucks and the tractors. They've got the pickups, too," said B.J. Troxell of Walkersville, Md., a John Deere fan. "They've got a little bit of everything."

Doug Olden of Boonsboro has been in and out of tractor pulls since he built one with his father and brothers in 1976. On Saturday, he trailered in his International tractor, "Ridin' Red," while one of his brothers brought both John Deere and International tractors.

"We've traveled a bit, 'til the fuel prices went up and slowed us down a bit," Olden said. He ticked off half-dozen states where they have competed.

John A. Mann of East Canton, Ohio, brought his 1973 Kenworth, "Lady Butterfly," to compete against other hot-rod semis. It has 1.3 million road miles on it, and now is a veteran of close to 700 pulls, he said.

Jim Hatcher of Delaplane, Va., said he has been going to pulls for 35 years and was asked to explain its appeal.

"It's just like people playing golf," he said. "It's a sport to me."

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