Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Whats in a Name?

Have you ever reflected about the power that a pulling vehicles name can possess within our sport?  I find myself fascinated by the names that pullers give their vehicles on a daily basis and often try to research why the name was settled upon.  For this topic, I reached out to pullers through Facebook and the pulling message boards with the hope they may be willing to share their story and though I did not share all of the wonderful stories that I received, I did use the information that I got to defend my thoughts.

I believe that a name can fall into one of many themes, some of those themes are; Names that are Team oriented, Names developed to show pride or allegiance to a state or city, Names based on loyalty to a brand, Lyrics to songs, sponsorship influence, profession and occupation of the driver.  I understand that not every puller is motivated by one of these topics but a large majority fall into this framework.  

Names as part of a Team-
Many teams are building an additional truck or are adding to their already existing program.  In doing so the theme used for their other team vehicles may weigh heavily on their decision to keep the team cohesive.  I understand that this is not the case with every team out there but it has become common with many.  Building on the existing theme only helps to restore the identity that has already been created by the team.  

Hometown/Home State
Pulling is a nationwide sport and that brings the element of great pride to the fans in the stands.  Many pullers have followed the trend to name a pulling vehicle to show their love for their home territory.  Additionally, states have also adopted a mascot or slogan, which our sport hasn't wasted any time in embracing to utilize for a name.  Being an avid fan of college athletics, I love how a team can have such an influence on a community, which comes into effect tremendously right now with the March Madness excitement.  I find nothing more thrilling than hearing the fans support someone who is pulling from their home state.  Now if we can get the fans of pulling to create a "Big Blue Nation" or a "Rock Chalk Jayhawk" for the competitors, we will be in great shape. 

As the sport has evolved, so to have the names of pulling vehicles.  Pullers have truly learned to think outside of the box when it comes to naming and have found many ways to play on words to portray their point.  Todd and Tarry Feiss have developed their names based on two common themes; their last name and their profession.  Todd and Tarry own a skiing lodge in Indiana known as Perfect North and when their son suggested they name their economy modified the "S'no-Farmer", it just made perfect sense.  In the years that followed the Feiss's have added more to their pulling arsenal in the form of the "S'no Farmer Extreme" Modified that Todd runs with the OSTPA and NTPA, as well as the aptly named "Feelin Feissty" and "Hoosier Avalanche".  "Feelin Feissty" is a play on their last name and fits the Chevy SSR Two wheel drive just perfectly, while the "Hoosier Avalanche" is actually a name that Todd and Tarry borrowed from a fellow competitor but felt it fit perfectly for the truck that Tarry drives throughout the summer.  As they look to the future, the same concept of naming will hold true for them when the family introduces the "Feissty Farmer", the stable mate to the ever growing "S'no Farmer Extreme".

Brand Loyalty
The Domann's of Winchester, Kansas have made a name for themselves over the years with their Hurricane Allis.  The name carries a double meaning for the Domann's as at the time of naming their tractor any Hurricane in the world was named after women (Alice), plus Allis shows their deep loyalty to the Allis Chalmers brand.
The Domann's classmate Stuart Maize and his Billet Binder bring again a double meaning to the name, as it shows loyalty to the brand of International with the Binder name but also makes reference to one of the advancements in the sport of the Billet Blocks.  The Billet Binder is a name with brand related ties that has developed a tremendous following over the last few years.

Song Lyrics
The 2011 Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League Speedco Truck Lube and Tire Pro Modified Four Wheel Drive champion falls into this category with the vehicle aptly being named; "Gun Powder and Lead".  The Hagedorns of Thompson, Missouri share the name of their truck with a chart topping song by country music's IT girl, Miranda Lambert.  Music is a form of expression and it is clear that pulling fans and competitors like their music.  Finding inspiration in a song lyric occurs for people throughout the world on a daily basis, and I firmly believe that relating to a song is a great way to reach out to a fan base!   

Additionally a puller may find motivation based on their transition into the sport or their class as is the case for Jim Webb and the "Red Headed Stepchild".  When the team made the decision to move to the NTPA Grand National circuit, they did not have the powerplant that many of their competitors may have had in the class.  It was determined by the team that they would feel like the "Red Headed Stepchild" of the class but as time has passed, the team has far exceeded the image their tractor's name portrays. 

What can a name do? 
Names carry a lot.  In NASCAR we associate a driver's name with the vehicle number or sponsors that they are associated with, but in pulling the recognition is aimed toward the vehicle's name.  When pullers reflect on what to title their machine, they should truly consider the idea that they will be known by this name for many years to come.  Many fans can't tell you the driver of a pulling vehicle but with ease they can shout with pride their favorite machine. 

Let's make our pullers Super Heroes
Those who follow the Dirt Late Model Circuit are quite familiar with the nicknames of the drivers on their circuit.  Though I feel pulling is associated by the vehicle name, I do think that the nicknames given to the late model drivers allow one to differentiate within a wide world of motorsports.  The nickname becomes an alias or almost a super hero persona that the driver becomes.  I can just see it now.  How cool would it be for puller's to develop their own alias?   For instance the "Wauseon Warrior Jim Holman" or the "Schochoh Showstopper Brad Moss?"   Having these personas gave the fans yet another reason to ask the question:   "How did they get this nickname or why"?    I firmly believe that if we can truly engage the fans of the sport then why not create an additional opportunity for an impression for the folks that are in the stands?  I am hoping that over the course of the pulling circuit in 2012, that I can help the rookies develop a nickname that the fans will be able to embrace to help grow the following of each individual.  Wouldn't you like to meet New London, North Carolina's own "Axman, Hacksaw, or the Radial-Man" Grayson Shelton, the pilot of the General Tire Cutting Edge?  If a fan can find a means to relate, then we have done our jobs in the sport of pulling.  Every fan is just looking to be influenced.  It is often the name or unique style of the vehicle that draws folks in but maybe the nickname can help to wrangle folks into one team's environment.  

As a fan of pulling, I have always loved the message that a name can portray!  I have witnessed firsthand how popular a specific vehicle can be and the name recognition that accompanies it.  Writing this blog, I often refer to my childhood which was spent in the sport!  I remember the following that John Lorenz of Fresno, Ohio carried when he drove his International Harvester Pro Stocker.  When I close my eyes I can almost hear the fans of Bowling Green starting with a very slow and lightly chanted "Snake".  As the International began to get ready to pull the chant got louder and more frequent, "Snake, Snake, Snake, Snake, Snake".  This scenario truly epitomizes the power of a name when 20,000 fans are chanting the vehicle's name in unison just as the tractor spoils up on the International's screaming horses.  In today's pulling culture, I don't believe there is a name that truly captivated an audience like the "Sneaky Snake" did in the eighties and nineties.

Names that have captured me or an audience over the years!
Whadjathink- The late Jake Owen campaigned this Chevy for a year as part of the HOT Motorsports Team.  The next season he changed the name and the truck over to Outrage but Whadjathink always captured my mind as I love the idea of a question as a title.

Willy Makit- Arguably the most recognizable two wheel drive truck and name in the sport in the last two decades has been a staple of the Long Motorsports Team.  Ricky and Keith purchased the Willy's from Billy Johns of Adairville, Kentucky and campaigned the truck with a few upgrades and changes until the end of 2011.  In early 2012, the truck was purchased by Bob Barbee of Full Pull Motorsports and will be driven by his wife.  

Fancy Farmer- The late Robert Elliott pulled his modified from the area of Mayfield or Fancy Farm, Kentucky from the early eighties to the mid nineties.  Robert was a big threat with his mod and later moved on to a Two Wheeler known as Ol Blue when he finished his pulling career with a slew of Grand National event wins.

Mr. Sparkle- The late Glenn Davis drove the heck out his Chevy S-10 known as Mr. Sparkle.  Glenn was from Hollywood, Florida and truly was considered a threat at any pull he arrived at.
Honkin Donkey- The Hathaway's of Pennsylvania are now back in the sport in the form of Mini Rod's but for years they campaigned a two wheel drive by the name of the Honkin Donkey.  I fell in love with the name and for the trick on the back of truck that promotes the Hathaway's Donkey Farms.
The Odd Couple- Joe Eder was one of the more dominant puller's in the era of this tractor.  The Odd Couple spoke of the motor combination that he ran with his modified out of the state of New York. 

Studley Studebaker- The late Jon Boden was the pilot of this aptly name pulling machine from the Buckeye state.  The Studebaker was quite Studley as it helped raise tremendous awareness of the Super Modified Four Wheel Drive class not only on the state level but the national circuit.  Jon's wife Patty ran the stablemate to Studley known as the Green Machine and the nineties and early two thousand's the Boden's were a potent force.  Their son Bob later took the reigns of the program as his father's health declined but I will never forget just how awesome the Green Studebaker was and what a fitting name it had! 

Shotgun Red- The running mate to my vote for the all time most recognized name the "Sneaky Snake", "Shotgun Red" was driven by John Wilkins of Fresno, Ohio.  The "Shotgun Red" 3688 International was a highly decorated tractor with many NTPA Grand National Titles and Super National wins with the USHRA and NTPA Circuit.  "Shotgun Red" was actually a puppet that was made famous by co-hosting the show Nashville Now on TNN.  Today, the puppet is still very popular and so too is the name in the pulling world.
Orange Blossom Special- What has actually served as anthem for Bluegrass musicians throughout the world describing the train known as the "Orange Blossom Special", also captured the hearts of pulling fans in the eighties when Allen Gaines brought his two wheel drive Chevy to a pull.  Gaines later built a late thirties series Chevy for exhibition only and that truck will forever be carrying it's wheels through my mind like the fiddle in the song makes me sway!
Some of Todays more recognized names- 
Silver Bullet- Jordan Lustik-84, Pennsylvania Unlimited Super Stock 
Redline Fever- Esdon Lehn- Dayton, Minnesota Diesel Super Stock 
American Thunder- Bill Voreis Argos, Indiana Unlimited (May not be competing in 2012) 
4Play- Jim and Paul Holman- Wauseon, Ohio Four Wheel Drive 
Footloose- Larry Koester- Wadesville, Indiana MiniRod 
Dirtslinger- Bill Leischner- Weldon, Illinois Modified 

For years I have often reflected on what I would name my own pulling vehicle if the day or time came that I was to own one.  In all of my reflections the same name sticks out continually and that is the name “Motor Mouth”.  For those of you that know me on a personal level you understand that is a play on words based on the fact that I love to talk and do so quite often at pulls with a microphone in my hand.  Though I have yet to settle on what my nickname might be with my resent move to Evansville, Indiana, I had settled on a name in previous home of Cape Girardeau, Missouri.  The Cape Crusader was certainly a name that I felt was fitting for a super hero type persona but now it is back to the drawing board for names.   

There are so many wonderful pulling names out there and these are just a few that popped into my mind while working on this story. I would like to generate a running list of names based on the feedback we receive on this story and maybe work our way to voting on the most popular name in pulling.  As always I appreciate you reading and I hope you will share your comments on some of your favorite names of pulling vehicles either on here in the comments section or on the Miles Beyond 300 Facebook page. 

Photo Credit to Dan Mayer/Jeff Luckey/Mike Walker/Tarry Feiss

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