Glorious tractors, track

Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Tribune photo by Anthony Puca Pretty Wicked driver Renee Theobald from Shelbyville, Ind., takes off her helmet after her first run Friday night.

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

CHAPEL HILL - Truck and tractor pull contestants at the Lions Super Pull of the South were talking about track conditions here on Saturday afternoon when both sides of the story were found.

"The track was consistent," said Fairgrove, Mich. Resident Rob Foster who drove Simply Red, a modified four-wheel drive Chevy pickup truck. "I ended up fourth. The track was consistent from the first pull to the end. It was very consistent. [Although,] the first class trucks [pulling on an untried track] didn't have a chance."

Marshall County's drought was a big part of the problem. The track, some said, was dry. Even the Lion in charge of the track was disappointed Friday night, but Saturday, he'd fixed the problem.

"The track got tighter" as the competition continued, Foster said. "The sun went down and the moisture came up from the dirt."However, there were at least two competitors who felt the track presented unexpected challenges, a factor that Foster took into consideration when asked about other pullers' remarks.

"They were probably set up [with their tractors' gearing and power] for the way it normally is," the Fairgrove resident said.

"We hope to do better tonight," the Chevy truck driver said.

Told of that Michigan man's approach to the track with his pickup, United Auto Workers Union Local 1853 Chairman Mike Herron noted the brand.

"The guy who's driving the Chevrolet is an optimist and has no problems," said Herron who attended to help display GM products and attract youngsters to GM vehicles.

Herron was at the UAW-General Motors' display that included an electric toy car racing track, the cars, remote controls as well as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's 2010 Brickyard pace car, the Dale Earnhardt Jr. car, and a full-size model of the 260 horsepower, four-cylinder LE 50 Ecotec engine produced at the GM plant in Spring Hill.

"The engine is fantastic," Herron said among several friends, including Ed Schenk of College Grove, a 26-year GM veteran with 22 years at the Spring Hill plant who's been working on the assembly line for the LE 50. "There's zero torque" movement of the motor like previous engines."

Schenk and others are making the engine for many of GM's vehicles.

The UAW-GM display was one of many in what was, in effect, a tradeshow for high performance internal combustion engines and related products.

There was plenty to do and see before the competition began at 7 p.m. It continued until 11:30 p.m. Friday.

"Women baking cookies and men volunteering, and many of them aren't members of the Lions Club," Chapel Hill Alderman Tom Lawrence said of the community spirit that reveals itself annually when the best-attended sporting event is held here.

"It's a boom for the whole area," Lawrence said.

He suggested looking for people who came to the event from faraway places. They weren't hard to find.

From Thornville, Ohio, Richard Peters and his daughter, April, were staying cool under a tent that also sheltered a 2,050-pound mini rod with a 2,500 HP V-8. "We always enjoy it," Peters said, complimenting the "Good hospitality at one of the best pulls in the south."

Cindy Thompson of Janesville, Wis., summoned her husband, Jerry, to his 2,500 HP, V-8 mini rod and its Keith Black hemi block with an SSI 14-17 super charger. "The cylinder heads are Veney" brand, Jerry Thompson said of Ken Veney, who not only makes the engine block heads, but also enters the unlimited class. The head manufacturer was in Chapel Hill last weekend.

Further into the rows of competitor tents and their machines was Ryan Powers, one of the mechanics from Lapeer, Mich. They were working on a special tractor called The Wild Won.

It blew a motor.


"The track's not good," Powers replied. "We just spin."

Tires couldn't get a grip on the dirt track.

The tractor Powers was working on has four 2,500 HP engines, thereby delivering 10,000 horsepower.

"Wild Child" is the name of another specialized tractor that's from Lapeer, Mich. It has five V-8s.

Mechanic James Martell, also of Lapeer, was frustrated, too.

"We were second in points until Friday night," Martell said of the sport that keeps track of performance here, there and across America. "We pull all over the United States."

Bob Jostock is the owner of the "Wild" tractors.

"This is the worst track we've seen in years," Jostock said. "A lot of people broke a lot of stuff last night...

"It's dry," he said, noting, "They had a cover on it, so the rain didn't do any good."

Still Jostock acknowledged too much rain would have been bad, too.

Marshall County suffered drought early this month, but recent rains have fallen and it's not like the Lions' Tractor Pull Committee isn't aware of track conditions.

"You can't please everyone," said Don Patterson, a member of the Tractor Pull Committee.

The Friday and Saturday night events did, however, seem to please the vast majority of the crowd.