The Herald Bulletin

July 21, 2012

Souped up and ready to go

Tractor pull attracts drivers of all ages

By Abbey Doyle
The Herald Bulletin

ALEXANDRIA, Ind. — It isn’t much of a spectator sport but the competitors readying their garden tractors for the decades-old pull sure do enjoy it.

“It’s not that exciting to sit and watch,” joked Wayne Richards, the coordinator for this year’s Garden Tractor Pull at the Madison County 4-H Fair. “But it is a lot of fun to be a part of. It’s a great time to spend with your sons working on the tractors and then here at the competition.”

Jack Armstrong of Alexandria said one of the great things about it is that it is something that anyone can compete in. He laughed saying he used to have a bumper sticker in the back window of his vehicle that said, “The family that pulls together stays together.”

He’s been participating in this garden tractor pull since 1965 and said he’s continued to do it because it is something fun to do.

“When my kids were still home we would come and do it all together,” Armstrong said, was sitting atop his tractor “Stinger.” “Back then there weren’t many computers or things like that so families would spend time together out with the tractor.”

The competitive aspect isn’t too bad either. Armstrong said he enjoys trying to guess what strategy his opponents may use and at times has even tried to psyche his opponents out by putting a box over the bar in the front of his tractor which holds weight so his opponents didn’t know how many he had on there.

The pull uses modified and souped up garden tractors. There are two classes — 900 pounds and 1,200 pounds. Most of the work on the tractors to ready them for the pull has been done by the competitors themselves.

Cian Rice, 13, of Alexandria, raced two tractors. One of them — “Junkyard Dog” — was rescued from a junkyard and rebuilt by him, his grandfather Butch Lewis and Armstrong. It took four to five months to completely restore.

“I got into it at first because my grandpa talked about it and I said it sounded like fun,” Cian said. “I’d never seen anything like it before. I wanted to try something different.”

This is Cian’s third year to be involved in the pull. He didn’t finish in the top three this year but said he still had fun and has had several other victories, including a first from last week in a pull at a Fairmount car show.

The competition started with each of the 14 competitors in the 900-weight-class competition pulling a sled filled with about 900 pounds. Some of the tractors’ front end popped up when they accelerated.

As the competition went on weight continued to be added and the tractors struggled a little more. Some of the modifications are for looks or sound — including an exhaust pipe which helps amplify the loud engine sound of the tractors. But many of them are made for safety reasons. There is a set of small wheels in the back of the tractors that will help keep the vehicles from flipping backward. As the hitch goes up there is less traction for the tractor making it more difficult to move forward.

Tractors like “Big Brown,” “Ole Ugly” and “Red Dragon” powered their way through.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Cian said. “Where else do you get to drive a souped up tractor!”

Find Abbey Doyle on Facebook and @heraldbulletin on Twitter, or call 640-4805.