Tractor pull crowds feel the noise at Lincoln Fair

July 11, 2004|EMILY BURTON

STANFORD - The state's only National Tractor Pullers Association truck and tractor pull was brought to life in all its ground-shaking, ear-splitting splendor Friday and Saturday nights at the Lincoln County Fair. With some entries sporting helicopter or aircraft engines, it was definitely a sight to be seen -- and heard.

"It ain't too bad. You don't pay attention to the noise really," said fan Doug Cox between the deafening displays of horsepower.

Long black chains of smoke washed over the crowded stands on Friday as last year's Super Farm Class grand national champion fought for his title. Rob Zorm, aboard his International tractor "Snoopy II," has traveled around the country in NTPA events but was struggling to keep his title Friday. Dragging the weighted sled between the limed lines was more difficult than it looked but still thrilling for those atop the monster machines.

"You can't even describe it," said Zorm of his pull experiences.


Sled owner and operator Roger Lowry participated in every pull Friday, sitting shotgun in a booth at the end of the lengthy sled.

"I have just as much fun as those pulling it," said Lowry. "The excitement is trying to get to them to the 300 foot mark (the full pull length)."

The massive horsepower needed to overcome the sled's resistance is the draw for competitors and fans alike.

"Lots of power. There's a lot of money tied up in them machines," said spectator William Gilpin. "Watch these kids, they get into it."

Friday's pull held a special attraction for the young girls in the audience. Dawn O'Dell, one of the few female drivers on the NTPA circuit, placed third at the fair in the super-modified, four-wheel drive truck class on Friday.

"It's becoming more common to see more women involved in it, but it's still not on the up and up," said O'Dell, who is from Farmersville, Ohio. She and her husband use their summer vacation time to compete in Kentucky and surrounding states.

"It's great to be involved with all the guys, and earn their respect," said O'Dell. " And also to see the little girls. Just the look on their faces is exciting."

Puller Gary Diekman said, "It's exciting, plus friendly. All the pullers are one big family. They eat together, cook outside."

Diekman, from Toledo, Ohio, pulls with "Rat Poison." Its 5,000 horsepower is generated by duel Allison Aircraft engines from World War II.

Lowry, the sled owner, agreed. "It's just a very, very tight family. If you talk to a lot of the pullers you'll find out their fathers pulled, their grandfathers pulled. It's in their genes."

Behind the scenes, the focus was not on excitement but safety. Concrete barriers had been set up in front of the stands. A tall chain link fence was also erected to keep spectators at a safe distance. No one under the age of 18 was allowed on the track and those who did walk along the red clay strip had to sign a liability waver and wear a wrist band.

"Everything here that we do is done for safety," said Mick Goodwin, a volunteer track committee member. "If (the tractor) gets separated from the sled, there's a kill switch that will unplug and shut them down."

Such problems did not mar Friday's events, much to the satisfaction of NTPA officials.

"The pull was outstanding. This group is to be commended for their effort involved in putting on a quality pull," said NTPA head technical official Eddie Kerr.

NTPA Senior Administrator Gregg Randall added, "Better than I could have ever wrote the script for, and I mean that. It's the best track I've seen all year."

As Friday's pull came to a close, under a blessedly dry sky, spectators became bumper-car drivers and Ferris wheel fans again. It was one of the last nights of the fair and it had definitely ended on a high note.

"It was loud, it was pretty good," said Jeff Barnes as he wandered from the track.

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