News / USA

Tractor Pulling Evolves into Multi-Million-Dollar Sport

Tractor Pulling Emerges as Popular US Sporti
|| 0:00:00
X
Mike Osborne
August 01, 2012 7:19 PM
Tractor pulling is pulling in big money in the United States. The object of the contest is to see which machine can drag a weighted sled the farthest. VOA's Mike Osborne reports.
Mike Osborne
CHAPEL HILL, Tennessee — Americans have a knack for turning even the simplest tasks into a competition. Tractor pulling, for example, has evolved from a barnyard contest to determine which farmer had the most powerful draft horses or tractor into a multi-million-dollar sport, to see which machine can drag a weighted sled the farthest.

One of the sport's top contests takes place in Chapel Hill, Tennessee, a quiet little southern town of just 1,200 people. However, for that single weekend in July, its population swells to more than 20,000 as pulling fans from across the United States arrive for the event called the "Pull of the South."

While spectators queue up at the admission gate, dozens of 18-wheelers rumble through the back entrance hauling millions of dollars worth of heavily customized trucks, tractors and other pulling machines. But most are trucks or tractors in name only. They generally look nothing like the equipment they’re named for. There’s even a class that’s descended from lawn tractors.

As the stands fill and the competition gets under way, the first class of trucks is towed to the starting line where their alcohol-burning engines are fired up.

In these contests, the truck or tractor is “hooked” to a sled that is loaded with weights up to 29,000 kilograms. As it slides down the surprisingly short 100-meter track, a system of pulleys shifts the weight from the back of the sled to the front, making it harder to pull with each passing meter. The driver in each class with the longest pull of the day wins.

As track officials wave their flags to start a pull, fans pop in earplugs or simply cover their ears with their hands. The sound of the straining engines is absolutely deafening.

As the smoke and dust clear away, fans talk about what they enjoy about tractor pulling competitions.

“The first time I came was last year, and I was pretty blown away," said one woman. "I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Another spectator summed it up this way: “We love to see the smoke roll up in the sky.  It’s power. Every man in the country loves good, strong power.”

But for all their power, even a winning tractor takes home a surprisingly small cash prize. According to veterans of the sport, the real clout belongs to the team owners who spend huge sums to keep their crews competitive.

"These tractors here are upwards of $250,000 to $350,000 apiece," puller Jim Martell said.  On any given night, the most that we can pull for is $2,000, so it’s not actually a money-making deal. It’s basically just trying to get your money back and stay even with it.”
 
Wealthy business owners, or farmers with large operations, underwrite most pulling teams, happy to get their names out in front of big audiences.

Martell says the pulling community is small and tightly knit.

“The camaraderie with the fans, and the other pullers, it’s one big family,” he said.
 
The pulling season comes to a climax in mid-August with the National Tractor Pulling Championship in Bowling Green, Ohio. Pulling, by the way, is growing in popularity outside the United States. The European championship is scheduled for September in Germany.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid