Tractor pulling requires finesse and brute force

Tractor pulling requires finesse and brute force
Some vehicles only vaguely resemble a farm tractor. [File photo]
Dave Faries

On his list of priorities, outside of family the Mexico Young Farmers Truck & Tractor Pull comes second for Chad Bruns.

“Farming comes first,” he explained.

Yet Bruns is a two time points champion with multiple wins who has been involved in pulling sports for 15 years. He is such a force at the limited pro stock level that he competed at the invitation only National Farm Machinery Show pull.

He’s comfortable behind the wheel of the dirt flailing beasts that prowl the Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League sanctioned events. A tractor in appearance only, his turbo diesel-powered John Deere can put out around 3,000 horsepower.

“You can just feel the power,” he said. “It sits you back in the seat.”

The object is not to build up speed but to pull a weighted sled down a lane just over 100 yards long as far as possible. But the sled is hardly a stationary lump. Rather, it’s a sophisticated system that transfers the mass of weight from back to front as it is moved, digging into the dirt and causing the tractor to groan with spinning torque.

Pedaling the beast well requires much more than a heavy foot on the throttle.

For one thing, pullers have little opportunity to acquaint themselves with the track. And the dirt at every track can be distinctly different -- soft or hard, heavy with clay or perhaps on the sandy side.

“You have to get a feel for it,” Bruns pointed out.

Drivers have precious few seconds to figure out the surface. Most runs do not reach the full distance.

And there’s another degree of difficulty.

“Most of the time your front end is off the ground,” Bruns said. “So you are steering with your brakes.”

There is a brake pedal for each rear wheel. But drivers try not to touch them, as any shift in direction can kill momentum.

When Bruns first started out, competitors did not wear helmets. And horsepower for his class was in the 500 to 600 range. While the safety and technology have improved dramatically, that does come at a cost.

“When something breaks, it’s pretty expensive.”

As farm work allows, Bruns travels the circuit. Many of the events are part of a state or county fair’s entertainment package. Others -- like the Mexico Young Farmers pull -- are held to benefit organizations.

Bruns doesn’t pull for the money. It’s an expensive sport, so the compensation comes in the form of the adrenaline rush, the noise, the competition and the satisfaction of helping nonprofits fill their coffers.

Besides, he said, “if you were in it for money, well, you’re better off buying lottery tickets.”


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