Saturday, December 24, 2011

Thankful

The Holiday Season is among us and I have found myself truly reflecting on the things that I am most thankful for in my life.  After a lot of reflecting on the things that I am personally thankful for in my life, I turned the corner and began thinking about all of the things that I am thankful for in the sport of pulling.  My dad introduced me to this sport when I was just a baby and from that moment I have been hooked!  My appreciation to my father for sharing this sport with me grows daily!  I am thankful for everyone who is fighting to bring truck and tractor pulling to the next level and I look forward to watching the future years of the sports growth! Though the five groups I chose to highlight are a given and ultimately are expected, I want to extend my gratitude as they are making the sport happen!

Fans
The economy has not been the strongest in previous years but that really hasn't seemed to hinder the sport as it has others.  It is easy to turn on the television and see a half full football/baseball stadium or tons of bleachers empty at NASCAR and NHRA events.   In 2010 and again in 2011, I can't point to one event that didn't have an increase in attendance or at least from my perception.  I am so deeply thankful for the fans of the sport for their devotion and willingness to be supportive of pulling when the state of the economy indicates they shouldn't spend the extra money. 

Vendors
Vendor support in our sport continues to increase and grow with the addition of corporate sponsors for the larger National series but also the local state circuits.  As an announcer it is easy to keep the crowd informed of sponsors when they genuinely enjoy the sport and give back to those involved.  I firmly believe the vast majority of companies that are supporting the sport are invested in the fans in someway.  My new favorite sponsor in 2011 had to be Kentucky Whoopie Pies!  I was introduced to these snack cakes at Gordyville USA, when super farm puller Michael Fanning dropped some samples by the announcer's stand.  I enjoyed the red velvet flavored pie and looked forward to when I might get to sample another flavor.  Needless to say Tomah was a chance for me to try a few more flavors!!!

Promoters and Venues
For many years it appeared to me that the addition of new venues or events was slowing down within the sport but in 2011 my mind was totally changed about this.  Many events decided to take a step up into the ranks of Grand National or Champions Tour events, several moved from state level to the Regional level in an effort to bring more vehicles and higher profile competitors to their devoted fans.  This is a big risk, promoters have to convince their fair boards that an increase is purse is worth the risk to bring in a different series for their fair.  I appreciate all of the promoters and their continued efforts for bringing the sport to their cities.

Pullers
I love the off season for one reason; pullers don't forget about the sport over the break, they get to work on improving their equipment in a quest to make big gains.  Some are searching for horsepower, some start fresh and build new vehicles, but they are in constant pursuit of a few more feet for their vehicle.  The number of competitors seems to increase at the events that I am lucky enough to attend and I love the fact that new classes are being introduced to create more opportunities for competition.

Friends
I love this sport as I seem to say in every one of my posts but it is so very true and that is in huge part because of the friendships that I have been able to make in my time traveling.  I love announcing shows and interacting closely with the fans who are seated in the stands, and I look forward to each shows conclusion so that I can fellowship with fans and pullers in the pits.  The sport of pulling is unique in the fact that competitors are not hidden from the fans but are ultimately readily available for interaction with each person that makes their way pit side. 

Sanctioning Bodies
A deep heart felt thanks must also go to the sanctioning bodies as they are the folks that hire me.  I take deep pride in representing each of the groups that I am lucky enough to announce for and understand there are many announcers out there that they could choose.  I believe that each sanctioning body is good for the other as it allows for some friendly competition.  Each group is watching the other and follows their progress over the summer as to not be out done.  

Happy Holidays to you all as I wish you nothing but a safe and joyous season! 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tons of work on the blog, without blogging!

The last few weeks have been quite crazy for me with a tremendous amount of travel for my job and the excitement of the Holiday season.  I am so thankful for the response the blog has received and that has inspired me to think outside the box in an attempt to differentiate the blog!  I firmly believe the future looks bright for pulling and I hope my blog can be a portion of helping grow the sport I love so much.   


I have been churning up ideas like crazy for the blog but would really like some feedback from you all!  If you have an idea of something you would like to see covered, a puller to be highlighted, or a feature on an event please email them to Milesbeyond300@gmail.com or post it on the Facebook page! 

Gordyville USA

A few years ago I had the distinct honor of being invited to Central Illinois to announce an indoor tractor pull.  I truly did not know what to expect from the event but knew the folks that I would be working with and decided it would be a good opportunity for me.  Enter Gordyville USA!  In the small town of Gifford, Illinois rests an unknown building to many; this building has become one of pulling most traveled to venues due in part to hard work and efforts of Whats Smokin Promo
tions!
 
Pulling at Gordyville occurs in the winter when the conditions outside can be some of the most brutal faced in the Midwest.  In 2009, the wind chill outside while we were pulling inside reached -33 degrees.  It was cold outside but the show went on and the stands were packed for the weekend’s events.  When I was asked to announce Gordyville, I had already had the chance to work with Whats Smokin Promotions at Duquoin for the Southern Illinois shows.  Working these shows truly allowed me to grow as an announcer, see numerous classes that I didn’t see on the national circuit and refine my knowledge of the tractors that were competing.  I loved the variety of classes and from the moment that I stepped foot at Gordyville USA, I was hooked.  

In just two short weeks the building will be filled and the event will be under way.  The class line up’s look amazing with vehicles from across the Midwest and East traveling in for the three day weekend.  In previous years at Gordyville, I have had the privilege of announcing with the Bulldog Art Downs and Stacey Butson, but in 2012 there will be a new voice at Gordyville that I truly can’t wait to introduce to a What’s Smokin Show!  

If you are looking for a way to jump start the 2012 pulling season, look no further than the Midwest Winternationals January 5th-7th in Gifford, Illinois.  More information on the event, class line ups and rules can be found at www.whatssmokin.net

The above photo was produced by Dion Bliss and Red Haw Supply, the official merchandise provider for the Midwest Winter Nationals.  The awesome graphics will be featured on the 2012 souvenir shirts!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Chase format for Pulling?

Over the last twenty years of my life, I have grown to call myself a motorhead.  If it is a motorsport of some sort, I enjoy kicking back and watching it.  NASCAR has always been a sport that I would kick back and watch with my father, but everything changed in February of 2001, when Dale Earnhardt was tragically killed at the Daytona 500.  Since that moment, the sport that I loved to watch and spent hours on Sundays watching with my father, was different.  In 2004, the executives of NASCAR made a bold decision to change the point system, when they developed the Chase for the Cup.  The Chase gave the sport a new approach by dividing the season into two sections for those in the top 10 and gave each competitor a fresh start at title.  A few years later they extended the chase field to twelve lucky individuals. Additionally they also provided an incentive for the person outside the chase that finished in the 13th spot.  Since NASCAR saw great success with their Chase format, the NHRA has followed suit by dividing their season in to two sections as well.  The 6 race format for the NHRA Chase has provided great parody in seeing the 10th qualifier come from the back of the pack to win the points.

In 2011, NASCAR made another big announcement to try and spice up their quickly becoming stale chase.  The executives this time decided to revamp the system, by providing 2 Wild Cards into the Chase for the Cup.  These 12 competitors would have their points reset to 2000, with points for wins being given to each chase competitor in the 26 prior races.

Tonight, November 20th, the 2011 Chase came to a gigantic conclusion in a two competitor Battle Royal for the history books.  Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards took their sponsors, teams, and fans on a journey that only could have been settled with the competitors finishing first and second in the race and sharing the exact same points total for the season.  The tie breaker went to the Office Depot team of "Smoke" Tony Stewart as he had the most wins on the season between the two.  The NASCAR executives must have felt like a bunch of geniuses as their vision came to fruition in the form of a classic battle.  This truly captivated my attention, such to the point that I sat in my living room and watched the ESPN Coverage from start to finish including rain delays.

All this change and excitement in NASCAR got me wondering if the sport of pulling could use a facelift in their points systems?  Could a simple change in the points format give fans of each sanctioning body a more enticing reason to arrive at the final events of the season?  Or is our current format of points the perfect approach for insuring exciting points championships?

The 2011 season featured some of the tightest points battles that I can think of in my time in the sport,with the NTPA having nine of their twelve classes being settled in the final event and the Pro Pulling League seeing six of their classes with tight battles at the conclusion of the season. After looking at the seasons final point totals, one could ask the question how could the sanctioning body change the format for the better?  I can't truthfully say that a change could be made to make the battles closer but a chase format for pulling would give pullers a fighting chance at a come back after having a rough event.  Most of the points battles with the current format are so tight that if a vehicle suffers some breakage or a competitor misses a setup they have unfortunately witnessed their season falling from their grasps.  A new Chase format gives pullers an incentive to continue to attend as they have to qualify for the points race but it also doesn't take away the hope of winning in the early season. 

I have also would love to see the sport offering more incentive for sweeps.  The Outlaws has in previous years awarded competitors an additional prize bonus for winning their Western and State Fair Sweeps within their season.  The NTPA introduced the Pennzoil/Shell Cups for their Big Daddy pulls in Tomah, Chapel Hill and Bowling Green.  The sweeps provide a competitor that cannot commit to run a full circuit or that suffers breakage, a chance to invest themselves into small points race. Maybe these sweeps are the answer to adding an additional incentive in place of a Chase at the final portion of the schedule.

Example ideas for new SweepsI am 100% certain that there are several other scenarios such as the one I have suggested that could create new exciting opportunities for the sanctioning bodies.  I also believe that these sweeps give a sanctioning body a new opportunity to solicit additional sponsorships from a variety of corporations that cannot commit to the demands of a full seasons support. 
 

Pro Pulling League's Illinois Sweep (Henry, Freeport, Fairfield) 
America's Pull in Henry, Illinois is a great show on an annual basis!  Competitors flock to the Marshall Putnam County Fairgrounds to compete for a chance at the World Cup.  The Pro Stock Tractor's/Modified Tractors run four events in an 8 day period in Illinois, in leaving Henry to compete in the middle of the week at Freeport before traveling to Fairfield.  In developing a new sweep non Champions Tour competitors may be encouraged to come run all four events in two of the premier classes for the Champions Tour!  

ITPA-
The ITPA continually impresses me with their events and the efficiency at which they are conducted.  I would love to see the ITPA develop a sweep for their classes such as the Two Wheel Drives that run five times in six days in these cities; Jacksonville, Peoria, Brownstown, Arthur, and Taylorville.  With it being through the week many competitors from out of state may be enticed to come to the Land of Lincoln to run for an additional purse for the sweep.  I view this as a great way of increasing numbers and potentially membership!

Do you have thoughts on whether or not a Chase format could truly enhance our sport?  I would love to hear your feedback on the Miles Beyond 300 Facebook Page or the message boards.  Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What makes a good tractor pull?

Over the course of the summer pulling season, I have continually been pondering the question of What makes a good tractor pull?  Have you truly reflected on the things you put the most value in at a pull? I understand that the answer to this question most truly will vary depending upon who is asked, as there is no real criteria for which to judge this.  I think that there are few perspectives to try to view this topic from and I have highlighted them below. 

Perspective 1
From a puller's perspective, a good pull could easily be classified as one that pays well, but I feel there is a lot more to the story than just money.  I have been very fortunate to travel the circuit for years with my father and friends to witness some of pulling's hollowed grounds.  The venues at Owensboro, Chapel Hill, Bowling Green, Tomah, Indianapolis, Goshen, and Wisner to name a few, provide a puller with a great backdrop for which to compete.  They are generally filed to capacity and I don't know a puller that isn't excited to perform for a capacity crowd.  The pulling surface is often one of the most talked about facets in the sport, as a good track that stays consistent and fair can provide each competitor with a chance to win, while a poor track can make the class simply a numbers game for anyone involved. Hospitality, does the event make the puller feel welcome and appreciate their attendance?  The pit area and parking is the final topic a puller may consider, what is the proximity from the pit to the track and is there ample room to maneuver around outside the trailer.   I feel that a puller will value these things (Purse/Crowd-Fans/Venue/Track/Hospitality/Pit) when deciding their favorite pull of the year!

Perspective 2
A fan wants to sit in the stands and see the best of the world of pulling in their hometown or selected destination.  All to often the fan experience may be forgotten and I view that as a major error by some events.  Fan's come to watch a pull and meet the drivers, so I can imagine how frustrating it must be when the pit area is not in proximity to the fans.  I love when I am standing in Broadbent Arena at Louisville and I get to see puller's interact with fans, isn't that what it is really about?  I have often taken for granted that I get an armband at every hook that I attend. What would it be like to not have this luxury? To enhance the fan experience, I would raise that an announcer is a very key ingredient to the show.  I am biased, I grew up with an announcer and I have become one myself but each time I pick up the microphone it is my goal to inform the crowd to the best of my ability and hopefully improve their perception of the event.  Before an announcer must be considered the competitors must be the driving force.  Without competitors a pull will not function!  When a pull has the best competitors, the fans will spread the word about the quality of show they saw and thus it will grow each year.  From a fan's perspective, I believe they value (Competitors/Proximity to the Pits/Announcer/Venue) as the priority they place when voting their favorite pull!

Perspective 3
The Promoters side of things~  When a promoter decides to invest their time and dollars to bring an event to their community, it is a big step! Thought 1, Where can I host my event?  Thought 2, How do I decide which sanctioning body to contact for their services?  Is that decision based on geography?  Is it based on the calendar? These thoughts must rush through a promoter's mind like rapids.  After a promoter has decided on the product they want to offer, their next decision must revolve around promotion and fundraising.  Developing a platform to take out to the local vendors to ask for their support and push the upcoming event forward is a high priority.  Finally, a promoter needs help and must find willing and able folks who can be a portion of the events success.

Once the planning is done and the event has finished, how does a promoter grade whether not their pull was a success?  The initial thought must be that it is based on gate receipts but I feel their is so much more to the story.  How was the event received from the community and did the promoter provide a return on the vendors investment?  Did puller's embrace the new event and leave with a lasting impression? Was the sanctioning body the proper choice for your event?  Finally, I would ask the bottom line question of how did the gates do?

The Purse
In order for our sport to grow from a competitor side, I would like to address purses.  I have had numerous conversations with promoters and pullers about how a purse is determined.  I have often found it hard to believe that a competitor can justify staying home at a local state hook as opposed to traveling to big national circuit event based on the purse.   The biggest events in the sport today are not the highest paying events and for that, I do see a bit of a problem.  If you as a competitor put your vehicle in the pool with 50 plus and you win, you deserve to be paid for that.  I have seen the purse payouts and I believe it is truly unfortunate that the pullers aren't getting their credit when it is due.  Without the pullers, the thousands of fans in the stands would have nothing to watch but the shenanigans they create themselves!  When you look at ticket prices versus the purse and compare them to fifteen years ago, something doesn't add up!  With that said, I understand our economy has been down significantly but that seems like an excuse when the stands are packed to capacity.  Every motorsport has their premier events, the Daytona 500, US Nationals, Indy 500, Kings Royal to name a few.  These events have a rich heritage and continue to be the most renowned win of a drivers career, but in pulling a driver can win one of our majors and the check shows it was nothing more then a regional level event!  I want to see this sport grow and I want our competitors to have the shot to achieve their dreams and be rewarded for them!


New Events- I had the opportunity to travel to a few new events 2011, that based on my view point showed amazing potential.  These events made the grade in my opinion as they had a good pulling venue, very fair tracks, an tremendous turnout of vehicles and they were run smooth from the administration down to the person checking hitches. I also have heard rave reviews of a few more that I chose to highlight my calendar for potential attendance in the future. 
 
Saluda
The spring pull in Saluda, South Carolina was a tremendous success when viewing the amazing competition that was staged and the throngs of vehicles that made the voyage south.  Don't get me wrong, I understand they already host a highly regarded event in August and thus have a vast knowledge of what goes into making a pull successful. The spring show has great potential to live up to the summer event as the weather was spectacular and provided a great setting for pulling action on the clay.  For 2012, I hope the word of mouth travels through the state and the crowd comes to pack the stands!

Altamont
From a pullers perspective, I would say this event received rave reviews and I don't see how a fan could have left disappointed.  The committee has great experience hosting events for the ITPA each year and they left no stone unturned for this.  From a consistent track, awesome pit area and amazing meal for the competitors; to the thrilling competition that took place at the Grandstands, this was a great show!  I hope I am asked back for this event and that the committee brings the mods in 2012!

The Farm Progress Show
Wow Folks, the pits were packed with some of the sports greatest competitors.   The end totals saw more then 25 Limited Pro Stocks, 25 Pro Stocks, and 13 Two Wheel Drive Trucks but a scare with mother nature prevented the fans from coming out to the event.  I am so very excited for the 2012 Farm Progress Show, as I hope that the competitors will show up to run for a solid purse and the fans will pack the bleachers.

New Hampton, Iowa
I have never made it to New Hampton, Iowa for their Grand National event but everything I have heard from the competitors and fans was a resoundingly positive vibe.  When a puller promotes a show or sits on a committee it allows for insight and thought from Perspective 1, which I believe gives an event a major heads up!

Lawrenceburg, Kentucky
Again, I was unable to attend Eddie Carey's Pull in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky but I have heard nothing but positive feedback about it over the last two months.  I have marked my calendar as one I would like to attend in 2012. 

Follow Miles Beyond 300 on Facebook and join in on some conversation!
I have created a Facebook Page for Miles Beyond 300 and I would love for you to move over to the page for further discussion on this topic.  Your feedback as a fan or competitor is the whole reason that I am maintaining this blog and is a means for me to grow my knowledge of everyone's perspective.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Farm Show Predicitions Recap

The National Farm Machinery Show Committee released the selected competitors who have received an invitation to compete at the largest indoor pull in the world in February.  For the second year in a row, I posted my predictions of who would be selected when all was said and done.  I am pleased to say that even without knowing who applied, I achieved a 79% on who I chose versus who got in.  Now 79% could easily be improved upon in knowing for certain that eight of the competitors I selected did not even apply.  Those competitors who I have heard did not apply are: Adam Bauer, Bill Voreis, Ken Veney, Brian Shramek in the Modified Class, Al Wright and Tom Gallitz in the Super Farm Class and Mark Lawyer and Stuart Maize in Pro Stock.  If I would have known these competitors did not apply, I would have placed eight new competitors in their slots.  If the law of averages were to hold true, I would have gotten six or seven of those spot correct. 
 
Super Modified Two Wheel Drive- 26 of 30 or 86% (8 finalists)
Pro Stock Tractors- 35 of 45 or 77% (11 of 12 finalists-Tractor was sold)
Super Stock Open-14 of 15 or  93% (6 finalists)
Super Stock Diesel-12 of 15 or 80% (5 of 6 finalists- Note the tractor that did not make it, qualified last year after Jeff Demers could not come back)
Super Farm Tractors- 21 of 30 or70% (6 of 8 finalists) Not certain that they applied
Modified Tractors- 10 of 15 or 66% (Note this is the worst average that I had, but it also the class that I predicted many that did not apply.) [5 of 6 finalists- The late Jeff Gueningsman is the sixth]
Super Stock Diesel Trucks- 11 of 12 or 92%
Light Super Stock Tractors- 11 of 15 or 73% 
Total 140 of 177 or 79%

I am also very excited to see Jeremy Corria come to Louisville with his Lucas Oil sponsored Modified.  I have seen several videos of this tractor running on the west coast and look forward to watching it live in Louisville!  It is my plan to further study these classes and later post my thoughts and observations of the fields. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Miles Beyond 300 2011 Awards


In the future it is my hope that a Miles Beyond 300 Award might mean something but at the present time it will just be me giving a shout out to the things I noticed on the 2011 season!  I was lucky to attend more pulls in 2011 then I ever have, those pulls gave me plenty of ammunition to fill in the blanks for these awards!  Thinking about these categories, I tried not to be biased and truly evaluate the entire season.  I am certain their are so many other deserving folks but these are the particular events, competitors and moments that stuck out the most for me.  


It is hard to have an awards section without honoring lost competitors, so I want to again mention the loss of Jeff Gueningsman.  Jeff was a great competitor and is certainly missed in the pulling world.  


Pull of the Year- Scheid Diesel Extravaganza- I was lucky to be the announcer at this event in Terre Haute!  For years I have traveled to BG with my father and I have witnessed die hard pulling fans but Diesel fans tend to raise the bar even more than usual.  Not only did the Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League do a phenomenal job with this show but it was one of the largest, most responsive crowds that I have ever stood in front of.  Overall this event was truly my pick for the Pull of the Year.  

Favorite Event- Wisconsin Dairy Land National- This was my first trip to the Badger state for this acclaimed pull.  Let me say without hesitation that this pull did not disappoint!  I loved every facet of this event and have marked my calendar with the plan to be back the final weekend in June.  

Puller of the Year- Kathy Archer Schalitz- this lady claimed an NTPA Grand National Championship in what was the most exciting class on the circuit in 2011.  The final pull of the year had three competitors vying for the title; Bill Voreis the champ, Brian Shramek one of the most decorated Diesel competitors in NTPA History and Kathy.  With a potent combination Kathy claimed the title and punctuated what was a fantastic season for her entire team.  

Pass of the Year-Kathy Archer Schalitz-  The final run of the Unlimited Season not only cemented the championship but was the third run of the night.  With ice in her veins she nailed it!  I also considered Doug Lively's Pulloff pass at Tomah, Kevin Masterson's run at Altamont, Jeremy Nelson's winning run at the Indy Super Pull and Bill Leishner's Decatur, Illinois pull to the 400 foot barrier. 

Rookie of the Year- The NTPA Rookie of the Year race was ridiculous with guys like Ryan Salenbien, Darrin Hunt, Doug Lively, The Schmucker's just to name a few.  On the state circuit Bethany Nelson had an awesome year in her debut with 3 wins in six attempts in Illinois.  I chose to give the nod to the Schmucker's after a very dominant year with the NTPA Grand National Pro Stock circuit.  It truly will be a tough choice for the powers at be, come banquet time for the NTPA! 

Surprise of the Year-
Gold- When the Boyd's decided not to run a full circuit with the Pro Pulling League Champions Tour, the strangle hold they held gave big shoes to fill in the Pro Stock class.  In Northwest Missouri a new star arose in the form Stuart Maize.  When the season began in Wilmington, Ohio, it looked as if The Boerson's would take the former Boyd tractors back to the top.  Red fans must be proud of the Billet Binder International and the four Champions Tour wins it collected on the circuit.  It wasn't that I didn't think Stuart Maize could win the title but I didn't expect the dominant season he had. 

Silver- Brian Shramek Youngblood Unleashed- Give him time and he will figure it out!  He absolutely did that and then some with his six engine pulling configuration.  This tractor and driver will be a huge threat in 2012, as it seems it will only get better with another year of running!  

Bronze- Brad Moss, I have known this gentleman was quite the Pro Stock driver but I never expected he would jump right into two wheel drive truck and win in his first weekend on the Champions Tour! He jumped into a highly competitive truck and was exactly that, highly competitive! 

Most Improved- Mark Austin- At the end of the season of 2009, Mark took a step forward when he upgraded his chassis in purchasing the Pair of Jacks from Steve Jacks.  The 2010 season Mark ran this truck with a Fowler Hemi and did his best to learn the truck while running the Champions Tour, Midwest Region and ITPA circuits.  At the end of 2010, Mark took another big step when he bought the motor that was originally in the truck from Steve.  In doing so the Gamblin After Dark had Sassy power again and became a combination that was quite dominant in previous years.  Mark upgraded the program even further with one of the best paint jobs these eyes have ever seen.  2011 saw Mark putting together one of the most consistent seasons that I can remember on the Champions Tour.  In previous years he very well might have won the points title but with two pullers on the circuit sharing over 80 % of the wins amongst themselves it was a tough year! 

Dominator Award-Jeremy Nelson- In all of my years I can't think of someone who put together a season like this guy did in 2011.  Jeremy could actually be classified under many of these categories with the wonderful season he had.  Not only did he win his first Champions Tour Title, he grabbed another State championship with the ITPA.  He won seven Champions Tour Hooks but one he is most proud of is the Illinois State Fair Pull which has evaded him in previous years.  The truck appeared to be on cruise control in 2011!

Comeback Puller of the Year- Doug Theobald- Wow, what a year for this Indiana native.  Doug didn't just build a new truck; he won Tomah, swept Chapel Hill and put his name in the hunt for the Championship with the NTPA.  I am not sure how the NTPA determines their Puller of the Year but this gentlemen deserves a serious look and consideration.
  
Never Give Up Award- Adam Bauer- After watching the results for the better part of the summer it was my opinion that Jason Hathaway would all but run away with the Mini Rod Championship but despite all of his wins the former champion Bauer claimed another title.  It certainly is unfortunate for Hathaway as his sophomore season and debut of the second tractor was nothing short of remarkable but this should only motivate the Donkey's to work even harder in 2012!

Team of the Year- The Varner's-  Wow, I grew up watching the Varner Brother's pulling their Midway, Kentucky based trucks.  Darrell always had his Rare Breed Two Wheel Drive, while brother Gary ran the Fast Break Four Wheeler.  In recent years Darrell has gotten rid of the Rare Breed to build a second Four Wheel Drive known as the Stray Dog.  These brothers went on a big streak this season on the Champions Tour and had it not been for Gary being unable to hook at Saluda, SC, the second night they may be celebrating a championship.  Darrell won a Regional Championship, while Gary finished Runner Up on the Champions Tour.  Between them the brother's collected five Champions Tour events, thus cementing them in my mind as the Team of the Year! 

Wind er Tight- Tim Fitzsimmons- I had been following the Outlaw Points online all summer long but hadn't had the opportunity to see the Country Heat in action.  Tim had a great year on the Outlaw circuit claiming a points championship in a competitive two wheel drive class.  I can honestly say that when I did get to see Tim run at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois, that I was baffled at the RPM's this truck was turning.  I am not sure that I have ever heard a motor screaming as loudly and running as hard as I did when the Country Heat made its pass. 

Debuts of the Year- I have already highlighted Doug Theobald's great success with his new truck but I wanted to highlight several other competitors that debuted new vehicles and had incredible successes with it! 
Stan Shelton- What a great year which ended with a Championship! 
Jason Hathaway- Winning on the NTPA Circuit isn't easy but this tractor made it look that way. 
Tim Stone- Finishing in the top three of the Champions Tour was a remarkable feat for this new John Deere.  
Darrick Barga- Not only did the Barga's collect their first win but they were in the hunt numerous times throughout the season. 


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Diesel Super Stock Trucks

After debuting last year at the NFMS, the Super Stock Diesel Trucks are back for a sophomore season at the hollowed grounds of Freedom Hall.  The first year proved to be a bit of a trying show for several of the competitors as they simply did not make the passes they hoped for.  Following the show many fans made their comments known of the length of time the class took and how the show truly suffered when the SSDT ran. 

I am glad that the committee gave these guys a second attempt as I have witnessed some highly competitive and exciting shows within the class this summer.  The one true downfall to the class is a simple lack of numbers, the committee truly cannot fill a 15 competitor class with true SSDT.  In 2011 the committee allowed a few competitors to jump up from the 3.0 ranks to run with the big guys, it wasn't a poor showing as the 3.0 guys got the wick lit and made a good showing!  Knowing the lack of numbers this class was a challenge but I did the best I could to decipher the guys I believe will make it the cut. 

I capped my field at 12 to follow suit with last year! 

Criteria One
NFMS Finalist- In this case I went with Top 6
1 Van Haisley Rock Hard Ram
2 Shane Kellogg Gotta Have It
3 Curt Haisley Off Constantly
4 Ben Miller Double Over Time
5 Wayne Greier Resurrected Ram
6 Carl Atley Lethal Weapon

Criteria Two
NTPA (No Grand National Points for SSDT)
Top Five  Region II
Van Haisley Already In
7 Kent Crowder  Scheid Diesel Dodge
8 Erik Stacey SmoknYa HD
Ben MillerAlready In
9 Cory Atley Agstremely Hooked

Criteria Two 
PPL (Midwest Region Points no Champions Tour)
Shane Kellogg Already In
Van Haisley Already In
Carl Atley Already In
Erik Stacey Already In
Kent Crowder Already In

Criteria Three 
Badger State/OSTPA/ITPA
10 Rod Tarr Super Ram
Shane Kellogg Already In

Criteria Four 
At Large 
11 Calvin Miller Runnin In the Red
12 Todd Gettelfinger Ripped Up Ram

Pro Stock Tractors

The Pro Stock show last year at the NFMS couldn't have been much better with two of the sports legends battling one another in the pull-off.  I can't wait to see the 2012 event as I am certain that all three nights of competition will be packed to the gills with potent tractors.  Will David Justison last year's surprise winner of Wednesday Night find his winning ways again after a fantastic season in the state of Illinois?  Can the entire Tantrum Team recreate their storybook 2011?  Will Stuart Maize carry the momentum he had on the Champions Tour with him to Freedom Hall?  These are some of the story lines that I will be looking for in February.  With this list there are no real surprises or risks that I have taken but I am confident that the field will be fairly close to this!  

Criteria One 
NFMS Finalist 
1 Lance Little True Grit
2 Don Masterson Tinker Toy
3 David Justison Living the Legacy
4 Jeff Sapp Big Country
5 Brian Shramek Git Er Dun Deere
6 Troy Bader Forever Green
7 Randy Bader No Fear Deere
8 Tim Brinkmeier Fuelish Pleasure
9 Mark Lawyer Rapped Up
10 Chris Cain Ace's Wild
11 Dustin Hook T-Bone
12 Miles Stratton Young Buck

Criteria Two 
NTPA Top Five 
13 Danny/Kevin Schmucker Rampage
14 The Lemke's New Generation Plus
15 Carlton Cope Warpath
16 Ryan Walters Chasin Tail
17 Randy Campbell Soupline Express

Criteria Two 
PPL Top Five 
18 Stuart Maize Billet Binder
19 Mike Linder Linder Brothers
20 Tim Stone Rollin Stone
Rodney Schnitker Melt Down (Does not typically apply)
21 The Boersens Greenline Express II

Criteria Three 
Outlaws/ Badger State/ ITPA/ Mid South
22 Rick Behrendt Wampuscat 
Dustin Hook T-Bone
David Justison Already In with a tractor
23 Ken Couch Cotton Pickin Deere
24 Jeremy Smith 310 Express


Criteria Four 
NTPA 6-10 
25 Tim Cain Red Gambler
Brian Shramek Git Er Dun Deere
Chris Cain Aces Wild
26 Henry Smith Sneaky Snake
27  Rob Russell Workhorse

Criteria Four
PPL 6-10 
Dennis Schaubert The Hunted (Expecting him not to apply)
28 Kevin Masterson River Rat
Don Masterson Tinker Toy
29 The Boersen's Greenline Express
30 Bryce VanGenderen Geared Green

Criteria Five 
Regional Winners from NTPA/PPL 
31 Tim Overmyer Sandhill Binder Region II
32 Ed Orrell Hardcore Harvester

Criteria Six
NFMS Previous years finish 
33 Chance McGrath Last Chance 5th Friday Night
34  Dannie Kuhns Trailblazer 5th Wednesday Night

Criteria Seven
NFMS Champions Provisiona
35 Steve Wischmeier Barely Gettin By
36 Phillip Parish El Nino
37 Larry Shope Iron Dragon
38 Bill Miller Crusin Mule

Criterira Eight 
Regional Runner-Ups/Outlaws/Badger State/ ITPA/ Other Organizations Top Finishers 
39 Cody Yarick Gone
40 Blaine Stamm Stampede
41  Troy Schroedl Contents Under Pressure
42 Ray Link Gon Mokin
43 The Martins Think Green

Criteria Nine 
At Large 
44 The Martins John Deere Green
45 Nick McCormick Nasty Stuff

Sunday, October 30, 2011

NFMS Modified Tractor

The Modified Tractor class was one of the most exciting classes at the 2011 NFMS and alot of that had to do with the battle between the Illinois Boys Steve Bunnage and Bill Leischner. Missing from the finals for the first time in a long time was the most feared Modified/Unlimited in history the American Thunder of Bill Voreis.

At the 2011 NFMS, I had the great honor of meeting Jeff Gueningsman. Jeff had made a name for himself on the Grand National circuit in 2010 and qualified for Saturday Night's Finals. In speaking with Jeff it was evident just how much he loved the sport of pulling and the people he competed against. Sadly, in the early portion of the pulling season Jeff was diagnosed with cancer and was taken from the ranks of pulling way to quickly. I am not certain if Jeff's wife and family have submitted an application for the 2012 NFMS but if they have, the tractor should be in as a Finalist from 2011. I chose to not have the Aftermath tractor on my list as I am was truly not certain if they applied.

The major question for me in doing this is will Kathy Archer Schalitz and Brian Shramek apply, these two Unlimited competitors along with Bill Voreis staged the most exciting points battle of the 2011 NTPA pulling season with all three of them having a shot to win at the final hook of the season. If they did apply, I am certain they will be accepted in the show. I based my choices off of the past and truly not remembering the Archer's coming to Louisville, thus I left Kathy as a did not apply. Shramek campaigns the DSS and PS so I banked on him applying as he will already be there with his other tractors.

In 2011 five new tractors were debuted on the Pro Pulling League Champions Tour. All five tractors took their turn on the top of the pulling order with each collecting a win. One of the five was the turbine of the Barga Family, these guys have been working their rears off to prove that a turbine combination can cut with the reciprocating engines and this summer a big step was taken by The Apache and Shannon Leischner's Dirt Challenger. The other four all boasting hemis were run by Scott Tedder, pulling legends Joe Eder and Ken Veney, and Pro Pulling League Champion Stan Shelton. The idea that brand new configurations and chassis' can come out to the national circuit and immediately win baffled me but I can tell you I loved every minute of pulling I was able to take in with these competitors.

Adding to my joy was a rookie I watched at Tomah, Wisconsin in the form of the Bank Robber Doug Lively. Doug truly captured my attention in the afternoon session on Friday afternoon when he made not one but two fantastic passes to capture the win! Doug not only sent a signal that afternoon but punctuated over the course of the weekend.

There are so many what if's or did they apply questions within this class that I am truly uncertain about a good portion of the field. I learned last year that a finalist isnt guaranteed to be back the next year when Shawn Swearingen did not get accepted after taking a season off. In 2011, Wayne Purser did not make his typical trip to the Super National events on the NTPA schedule. With that I am kind of puzzled as to if he gets in again to create the potential dual between Uncle Sam and American Thunder or if he is left out! I chose to reward other competitors that were out in 2011 and left my first finalist off my predictions.

Criteria One
2011 Finalist
1 Steve Bunnage Takes a Lickin
2 Bill Leischner Dirtslinger
3 Bob Jostock Wild Child
Jeff Gueningsman Aftermath (If the Gueningsman Family and Friends applied, I believe the tractor is accepted)
4 Adam Bauer Cross Threaded
-Wayne Purser Uncle Sam Did not compete enough

Criteria Two
NTPA Top Five
5 Bret Berg MoneyMaker
Bob Jostock Already In
6 Terry Jostock Wild Won
7 Doug Lively Bank Robber
8 The Bollinger's Top Gun

Criteria Two
Pro Pulling Top Five
9 Stan Shelton Shel-Shocked
Bill Leischner Already In
10 Scott Tedder Twist of Fate
11 Michael Stewart Down and Dirty
Darrick Barga The Apache- Turbine powered tractor which traditionally has not been accepted.

Criteria Three
At Large 

12 Bill Voreis American Thunder (Though the tractor is up for sale, I am hopeful he will be in the field for the NFMS)
13 Joe Eder 75TH Edition
14 Ken Veney Funny Farmall
15 Brian Shramek Youngblood Unleashed (Take two Chevy's off and bring the second trailer with you as I feel all three are in)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Diesel Super Stock Tractors

There really isn't a whole lot of change from one year to the next with this class!  Brian Shramek has continued his dominance in the category with his Young Blood Agco DT225, but in 2011 a new face moved up in the ranks in the form of Jody Ross and the Resurrected Redneck.  The Resurrected Redneck is a unique piece as well as it is a McCormick competing in the Diesel Super Stock class.  I look forward to the 2012 NFMS to see if Brandon Hunt can continue living his dream as he debuted his Case Mx340 in Freedom Hall last year!  Brandon will also be debuting a new Case in 2012, that in the form of his son that was born just a few weeks ago.  I am also very hopeful that the King of Smoke will choose to apply to Louisville again in 2012, after a one year hiatus.  The class needs Esdon and so too does the NFMS in my opinion! 

Based on Criteria One, I gave seven tractors spots from the 2011 Finalists position.  Jeff Demers was a qualifier but did some catastrophic damage to the John Deere in the pulloff and was unable to compete on Saturday Nights Finals Session.  Because he earned the spot in qualifying, I gave him the nod for Criteria One.  

Criteria One
2011 Finalists
1 Brandon Hunt Livin A Dream
2 Brian Shramek Young Blood
3 Matt Goodwin Intimidator
4 Steve Burge Lock N Load
5 The Blagrave's Red Horse
6 Mark Ulmer Lost
7 Jeff Demers Smokin' Hot Deere

Criteria Two 
NTPA Points Top Five 
Brian Shramek Already In
8 Jody Ross Resurrected Redneck
Steve Burge Already In
The Blagraves Already In
9 Esdon Lehn Redline Fever

Criteria Three 
Outlaws Champion 
Matt Goodwin Already In

Criteria Four 
NTPA Points Top Ten 
10 Hans Boxler Jr. The Special
11 Mike Beck High Tech Redneck
12 Adam Harris Southern Express
13 John Raymond Smoke & Mirrors
14 Jim Schaendorf Radical Red

Criteria Five 
15 Henry Everman Final Decision

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Unlimited Super Stock

The Unlimited Super Stock Class seems to truly have been on a down slide over the last few years, with numbers seeming to be much lower on both National circuits.  In 2011, Terry Blackbourn and Chizek Team revolutionized the class with a de-cubed 903 Cummins V-8. As a person who got to witness this unbelievable pulling combination firsthand at America's Pull in Henry, Illinois and Tomah, Wisconsin, I am confident that the Unlimited Super Stock class just bought a few more years with this invention.  It is rumored that several very prominent competitors in this class have made the call to Wisconsin to have Mr. Blackbourn work their magic for their engine configuration.

I did my best to work through the class for my 2012 predictions and it looks very similar to last years with the exception of two new competitors.  With that said, I am truly excited about the option of inviting two European Competitors to the Bluegrass State to showcase their potent pulling combinations!

Criteria One 
Finalist from 2011

1Frank Keener XXX 
2Jordan Lustik Silver Bullet 
3John Evans Big Toy II 
4Terry Blackbourn Extremely Armed and Dangerous 
5Tim Howell Ryan's Toy 
6Terry Blackbourn International Threat

Criteria Two 
NTPA Top Five 
Jordan Lustik Silver Bullet Already In 
Terry Blackbourn International Threat Already In 
7 Earl Wells Galot 
Josh Blackbourn Extremely Armed and Dangerous 
8 Sid Broughton Desperado 

Criteria Two 
PPL Top Five 
9 Jeff Hirt Runin Bare 
Frank Keener XXX Already In 
10 Larry Roberts Big Toy
John Evans Big Toy II 
Tim Howell Ryans Toy

Criteria Three 
Outlaws Points Winner
Robert Polson was the Points Champion, I have him in the Light Super Stock Field but it may be vice versa.  

Criteria Four 
NTPA/PPL Top Ten + (At Large) 
11 Aaron Hull Prison City Pulloff 
12 Neil Gettinger Lessons Learned 
13 Kevin Campbell Controlled Chaos 
14 Mike Novinger Dominator Deere 
15 D'n Aerdvruter from The Netherlands 
16 Zeinstra New Born Deere



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Light Super Stock NFMS

Last year the Light Super Stock class put on a solid show at the NFMS, but in my opinion not having Mark Peissig, Kevin Lynn and Esdon Lehn truly hurt the class!  I am guessing that they will opt to follow last years trend and not apply for the 2012 NFMS Show, with that said my guesses are almost a reflection of the 2011 show.  I have also wondered if the committee would let diesel tractors and alcohol tractors compete in the same class, my belief is they will leave the diesels out and thus David Esteb is not accepted.  I am not sure that all of these competitors will apply for the show but this is my best guess!

Criteria Two
NTPA Top Five
1 Brian Korth Excessive Force
2 Marcus Wettleson Gunpowder and Lead
3 Larry Phillips Extremely Insane
4 Brian Korth Considered Armed and Dangerous
Esdon Lehn (No Application)

Criteria Two
PPL Top Five
5 Todd Maedge Monkey Mayhem
6 Mike Wilhite Blue Blazes
7 Brent Payne Color of Money
David Esteb (Diesel Tractor, not accepted)
8 Mike Sandefur Farmboys Fantasy

At Large Selections
9 Mike Happe Red Menace
10 Rex Kuhn Git R Done
11 Bob Barbee Stormy
12 Jay Fuqua Tennessee Tracks
13 Monica Shaw Beauty and the Beast
14 John Hoffman International 5488
15 Robert Paulson Blue Can Fever

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

National Farm Machinery Show Super Farm

Wow!  This class is hands down the most difficult for me to choose for the the Farm Show.  In total I had around 45 tractors that I hoped to fit in 31 spots.  To break ties or make a final decision, I looked at the entire body of work for the season.  Everyone tractor could make a case to be accepted and for that, I am expecting that my list is far from perfect.  I also chose to not put NTPA Grand National Champion Ryan Salenbien in.  Ryan was incredibly dominant over the summer on his debut season with the Grand National circuit, however he was Disqualified last year and thus I feel he will not be added to the list of competitors.  

Criteria One NFMS Finalist
2011 Finalists
1 Shawn Wildermuth Replacement Deere
2 Rodney Davidson Red Iron
3 John Kutz Diggin Deere
4 Norm Kavan Magnum Force
5 Blain Fraker Agitator
6 Larry Sheets Jr. Red Rider
7 James Slama Fast and Furious
8 Rodney Deck Dream on 

Criteria Two 
2011 NTPA Top Five

Shawn Wildermuth Already In
9 David Pedley Pulling Wide Loose Deere
10 Darrin Hunt Dreamin Too
11 Ted Liechty Rush Hour

Criteria Two 
Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League
John Kutz Already In
12 Bradley/Quinton Hartman International Addiction
13 Al Wright Runnin Red Hot
Blain Fraker Already In
14 Justin Wagler Real Deere

 Criteria Three
 Outlaw Points/OSTPA/ITPA/Badger State-Champions
15 Chad Weitzenkamp Someday Outlaws
16 Jim/Brian Barman Badger State
17Jared Bradley Tennessee Red  Mid South Pullers 

Criteria Four
NTPA Top Ten Points
18 Larry Dean Never Enough
19 Russ Freeze Deere Traxx
20 Russel Counce Dixie Deere
21 Travis Wisel Irrational Behavior
22 Wayne Lamoureux Fear the Deere 

Criteria Four 
Pro Pulling League Top Ten
23 Chad Darlage Showtime
24 Tom Gallitz Runnin in the Red
25 Nick Skaar Screamin Norwegian 

Criteria Five 
At Large/Regional Champions
26 Scott Holtgrew Deerestroyer
27 Clay Darnell Maximum Overdrive
28 Josh Miley High Maintenance
29 Julia Conny Mac Daddy
30 John Pitt Ragin Bull
31 Harley Siestma Wolverine Deere III 


Notables that just missed
Barrett Flowe Pay Dirt
Roger Liermann Running on Red
Leon Hellebusch No Mercy
Taylor Van Beek Extreme Pleasure
Mike Conny Mr. Mac Daddy
David Batliner Superhick
John Pitt Raging Bull
Mowrey's Deal N Deere
Mowrey's Auction Express 
Dean Hollicky Big Green Tractor 
Brown/Wells Green Reaper 
Bob Siestma Wolverine Deere II