2016 was an exciting year with many surprises along the way to 2017. Let's take a look back at our top 10 list as compiled by the NTPA staff.
10. We pulled all night and into the morning in Bowling Green, Ohio. Due to rain that started just as the Saturday afternoon session was wrapping up, the night show kicked off three hours late at 9:33 pm. The action continued long into Sunday morning with the final Super Farm hooking at 2:47 am.
9. We were shaken by the news that Esdon Lehn was diagnosed with cancer and would stay close to home for treatment throughout 2016. The King of Smoke’s first time out this summer in Ellsworth, Wis. was impressive, though, as he put 20 plus feet on the class to finish first en route to the Region III and Region V championships. Even better: his health is looking good, and he plans to be back out on the Grand National circuit again in 2017. (Ellsworth Video)
8. Growing Up: While some events have been on the schedule for decades, others are fairly new. Two up-and-coming events decided to mix it up a bit and go to three sessions in 2016. The first: January’s NTPA Winter Nationals at the C Bar C Expo Center in Cloverdale, Indiana. (Hint...get your 2017 tickets now...) The second: the Mule City 300 at the GALOT Motorsports park in Benson, North Carolina. Both great facilities should be on your list to attend this year or in the near future.
7. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words (or thousands of dollars), Jacked Up at Bowling Green... Also for further enjoyment, Young Blood at Bowling Green.
6. Kent Enderle, founder of Enderle Fuel Injection and the Enderle Pull-Off invitational event, passed away on the evening of Saturday, November 19 after battling pulmonary fibrosis. Transcending their longtime sponsorship, Mr. Enderle and his late wife Joan were two of the NTPA's greatest supporters and friends and were inducted into the Pulling Hall of Fame in 2011. We are saddened to have lost such an esteemed member of our pulling family, but we are thankful he was able to make it to the 30th annual Enderle Pull-Off last September. The event will go on as the Enderle Memorial Pull-Off, honoring Kent and Joan.
5. We had some uncommon champions in 2016. An inline six cylinder claimed the Open Super Stock title, the first to do so since 2008 (Ken Measel). Earl Wells put together the team of driver John Strickland and mechanic Brent Payne to show they could beat the V-8s. Jody and Colin Ross also earned a championship in Super Stock Diesel with a McCormick. Besides the unconventional brand, they employed the power of three turbos when most of the field used four.
4. But 2016 engraved familiar names on trophies, too. Mike Chizek and Brain Korth continued to hold the top spot in Light Supers for the Armed & Dangerous Team’s second three-peat (2014-2016, 2010-2012). The Holman Brothers were back on-top of the Four Wheel Drive division, bring their number of GN titles to 12. The Petro Motorsports crew claimed three of the top five spots and a championship in the Two Wheel Drive division, Jessie’s fifth straight and sixth overall. And in the Minis, Koester Motorsports achieved the same top-five feat as the Petros, and Adam’s new "Walk the Line" entry earned him his second title (2007).
3. Mike Conny had an amazing season in 2016 to clinch his first Grand National championship. He and NTPA Mechanic of the Year Tim Shipley finished first and second with the powerful John Deeres “MAC Nasty” and “Mr. MAC Daddy” in the very competitive Pro Stock division. A new event for Pro Stock tractors---the Lions Super Pull of the South in Chapel Hill, Tennessee--provided a particularly stellar weekend for the team: Shipley won both hooks at the Super National event aboard “Daddy,” and Mike was second both nights with “Nasty.”
2. We got some exciting news in early December, and just before Christmas it was confirmed: pulling is moving to prime time! Beginning Tuesday, January 3, “NTPA Championship Pulling” on RFD-TV presented by Case IH will appear on Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. Eastern/8:30 p.m. Central. The shift to prime timeslots in these two zones reflects the show’s impressive audience size and intense viewer loyalty. The show will be re-run on Mondays at 12:30 a.m. in the East, meaning that “NTPA Championship Pulling” will also be seen Sunday nights at 9:30 in the Pacific zone. The other encore appearance of each episode will be Mondays at 6 a.m. EST/3 a.m. PST.
1. You just can't recap 2016 without mentioning the milestones. First, the 50th National Tractor Pulling Championships: In commemoration of the first half century of the NTPC, competition began in Pulltown U.S.A. on Thursday night. NTPA competitors earned points for classes in the first five sessions. The sixth marked the return of Super Sunday, an invitational session for the top five competitors in each division who qualified based on average placings earlier in the weekend. Super Sunday winners were awarded the Bowling Green championship rings. Also celebrating birthdays ending in zero were Chapel Hill with their 40th anniversary edition, the 40th Pinetops 300, and the 30th annual Enderle Pull-Off.
2016 sure was fun, but now we prepare for 2017. First stop: Cloverdale Indiana; January 20-21.