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. 
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!

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.

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