The Budweiser Dairyland Super Nationals in Tomah, Wisconsin, an anchor event in the Shell Rotella Cup Series presented by O'Reilly Auto Parts since the bonus program's inception in 2007, has now hosted its largest points event to date. The 2018 edition awarded Cup Series points and O'Reilly Auto Parts Hardest-Working Puller Awards across a dozen divisions from Thursday through Saturday, June 21-23.
Or make that Friday and Saturday. Precipitation ended Session One before it could get going, as an intermittent drizzle throughout the week leading up to the contest intensified on Thursday morning and afternoon. The rainout left six Grand National divisions with only one opportunity in Wisconsin to compete for Shell Rotella Cup points and O'Reilly gift cards. In particular, for the Light Super Stocks and Light Unlimiteds, it would mean one more evening and morning of waiting to get their seasons and Cup debuts off the saturated ground.
In truck and tractor pulling, vehicles drag a 20-ton weight transfer sled along a straight, dirt track as the sled's resistance increases. Within a class of similar vehicles, the puller that achieves the greatest distance is victorious. The NTPA is the world's number-one sanctioning organization for premier-level events that feature highly specialized machines resembling farm tractors, trucks, and dragsters and dedicated competitors that battle for purse money and end-of-season championships. No other motorsport offers the diversity of vehicle types, variety of engine combinations, intensity of brand rivalries, and accessibility of competitors. If you're looking for fierce, fair competition in a family-friendly, patriotic atmosphere, give truck and tractor pulling a try in 2018.
In Light Super Stock, Brian Korth took an early lead with "Excessive Force," the first of Mike Chizek's Armed & Dangerous Team's three entries. Hooking third in the Friday afternoon class of 16, Korth posted a 313.3' for a lead that lasted just one pass. Last year's Tomah winner, Jason Hootman and "The Commander," looked to earn his second straight single-hook weekend championship with a 319.5'. But in a microcosm of the 2017 season, a large portion of which was led by Hootman's classic Ford, the most established of the Korth/Chizek Case IH entries came through at the end. "Considered Armed & Dangerous," the reigning champion tractor, took draw number 14 to 324.6' for the victory and an early lead in the Shell Rotella Cup standings. (Next NTPA/Cup event: Brandenburg.)
In Super Stock Open, the "International Threat" driven by Josh Blackbourn made the A&D squad two-for-two on the weekend. Blackbourn's 372.3' was easily the best of the 10-tractor field, with dad Terry and "Extremely Armed & Dangerous" coming the closest (349.3'). Earl Wells' GALOT Team tractors, the Brent Payne-piloted "Get a Load of That" and the reigning champion "GALOT II" operated by John Strickland, were third and fourth; Strickland remains atop the standings (+1) by virtue of his two home-track wins earlier this month. (Next NTPA event: Monroe; final Cup event: Bowling Green.)
In Four Wheel Drive, Carmen Foster took the test hook out to 330.6'. And that was that, as 34 trucks followed---and kept right on following. Dad Rob had taken "Foster Child" to victory lane in Hutchinson last weekend for the family's first first of the season, but on Saturday, Carmen returned to the state which witnessed her first Grand National win two years ago (in Norwalk) and in so doing extended her GN lead to 10 points and tied "The Rock" of Ted Skelton for tops in Cup. Bill Suchy's "Totally Geared" truck finished second in the class, while Ted's son Tim ("The Bone") and Peyton Davis ("Young Gun") earned the second- and third-most Cup points. (Next NTPA event: Rockwell; next Cup event: Chapel Hill.)
In Super Stock Diesel 4x4, the class began as the previous two ended with Benson double-winner Justin Gearhart and "Cream of the Crop" (302.2') leading off and Don Bowling's "Pulling for the Cure" pulling in right behind. But on the sixth hook, Kent Crowder's "Scheid Diesel" made its first appearance of the 2018 campaign and pushed past (304.3') to claim the Hardest-Working Puller designation. While Gearhart's winning streak did not persist, his position at the top of both the Cup and GN standings did. Shane Kellogg's "Trump" (303.4'; second, -3) continued its incremental improvement (it was fourth and third in Carolina) to brush by Bowling (third, -4), while Brion Withrow's "Nut Job" (302.8') bounced back from a rough Benson to finish on the podium. (Next NTPA event: Rockwell; next Cup event: Fort Recovery.)
In Modified Mini, it took a couple of restarts to dial everything in, but then regulars from both the Grand and Regional National circuits mixed it up to give the Budweiser Dairyland crowd 19 hooks' worth of excitement. On the second of those, 2017 GN champion Bertus Boer took his "Bobcat Jr." for the longest ride (353.8') down the Tomah trail. Fellow Netherlander Gert Dingerink and "Lambada" (351.9') were the only other pair to dance beyond 350', doing so at the class' halfway mark, and consequently established "Lambada"'s Cup standings lead at five over the Bobcat Team. Meanwhile, Chad Timmerman well represented his home region in his home state by posting a 343.2' two runs after Boer. Finishing sixth in the class was Adam Bauer, whose "Iron Toy" (-6) fell to third in the ruthless Cup chase. (Next NTPA event: Rockwell; next Cup event: Chapel Hill.)
And in Light Unlimited, we witnessed the thrill of a first victory by a winners circle veteran. How's that? Craig Corzine, pilot of the Shell Rotella-sponsored "Burn Notice" Two Wheel Drive, moonlights as the wheel man of the "Money Pit Screwed Up" in this twin-engine Modified class. The chassis, owned by the Bollingers of Taylorville, Illinois, has been powered for much of its life by two or three V12 Allison aircraft engines. But last year it appeared on the NTPA circuit with screw-supercharged Hemis, and Friday afternoon at Tomah, after dropping to last to address a mechanical problem, Corzine and "Money Pit" picked up their inaugural 16-cylinder win together by 13'. 2015 GN champion Keith Wayson and "Super Bee" were second, while three-time titlist Brandon Simon took third aboard "Simon Sez." (Next NTPA/Cup event: Fort Recovery.)
The other six of Tomah's 12 Grand National divisions got their full complement of two appearances on the Budweiser Dairyland track.
In Super Stock Diesel, it was a Friday night walk-off for Stan Blagrave, whose "Red Horse" (350.3') raced past Travis Schlabach's "Bone Twister" (333.9') for its third win of the year and second in Cup competition. The "Triple Bypass" of reigning champion Colin Ross (332.6') was close behind in third. Getting off to a hot start on Saturday night were the "Red Line Fever" of Esdon Lehn (338.6'; third, -11) and Schlabach (331.5'; second, -3), but the pair and the huge Dairyland crowd only had to wait through four more hooks this time to see Blagrave's "Horse" (338.6') gallop to its fourth win of the young season (and second HWP). On the opposite track at about the same time, Stan's nephew Trevor was laying down the winning pass in the Two Wheel Drive division with "Wild Horse." That truck won in Tomah in 2016 with Stan's brother Steve at the wheel. But astoundingly, Stan's victory was the brothers' first in Super Stock at Tomah since 2002, which incidentally was also their first championship season. (Next NTPA event: Rockwell; Next Cup event: Chapel Hill.)
In Pro Stock, GN newcomer Jason Svonavec and his "Bootlegger" had just enough to hold off Mark Lawyer's "Rapped Up with a Vengeance," which came within 3" of Svonavec's lead at the midpoint of Session Three. But one hook later, reigning champion Charles Pelletier put 9' on both, and Wisconsin native Robby Lemke's "New Generation Plus" snuck into second on a late pass. Pelletier, who made an engine change in his "CP Dream II" since his win in Hutchinson, Minnesota, nabbed a runner-up finish to Svonavec (second, -1) on Saturday night to take the HWP and the standings lead after the first of four Cup appearances for the Pros. By 7", it marked the first Grand National victory for Svonavec, who had three on the Region II circuit last season. Lawyer (third, -4), two-time Cloverdale Winter Nationals winner, has four top-fours but is still looking for his first regular-season win. (Next NTPA/Cup event: Chapel Hill.)
In Two Wheel Drive, the three-hour wait on Friday night for a chance at the infield track was worth it for Randy Petro, as his "Kathy's Komplaint" took the last of 45 hooks to a 4.5' win over Corzine's "Burn Notice," which had led for the previous 16. Chad Haggerty's "Hillbilly Hot Rod," LeAnn Tormoehlen-May's "Thriller," and LeAnn's dad Tommy's "Showtime," all pulling from the latest third of the lineup, rounded out the top five. On Saturday, you already know who won, but "Burn Notice" was on top for 19 trucks this time, and its pair of runner-ups was sufficient to claim the O'Reilly Hardest-Working Puller Award. Bryan McDonald's "Suffering Sanity" (second, -8) was third in the class, A.J. Riedl's "Shafted" fourth, and Ashley Corzine's "Second Degree" fifth, while Jessie Petro ("Buckeye Hauler," third, -9), Randy (-10), and Blagrave (-11) have work to do to catch Corzine in the four remaining Cup hooks. (Next NTPA/Cup event: Ionia.)
In Super Semi, the 360' Tomah track could not contain pulling's most massive class. Dean Holicky and Dan Prahl got all 10 wheels of their big rigs rolling to force a pull-off. But in their second straight weekend of Cup competition and with another 25-ton load to haul on Saturday, Prahl's "Full Tilt" demurred for second and Holicky's "Mother Trucker" bumped for first. On Saturday, there was no holding the defending champ back, as Prahl's late-class draw resulted in another full pull that elicited the crowd's final roar of approval of the weekend. Brian Elithorpe's "Nikki's Nightmare" had held the top spot through seven trucks. Heading into Michigan, Holicky's Cup lead over Prahl stands at two points, while Ryan DeBroux continued his impressive sophomore season with a third and a fourth and is parked in third (-3).
In Modified, a week after hosting Hutchinson's Power Pull Nationals, Ricky Rose climbed back in the driver's seat and showed the 2017 form that made him a champion. His "Giddy Up" got its second win of the year on Friday night and his first in the three-location Shell Rotella Cup chase by 3' over Doug Lively's "Bank Robber." Saturday afternoon would not be as kind to Rose, however, as one of his three engines dropped a valve mid-run, and the internal damage quickly became external. Rose's fellow Minnesotan Bret Berg returned to the Tomah winners circle for the third time in four appearances dating to last season, while Lively matched his Session Three placing and claimed the Hardest-Working Puller card by 1.145' combined over Berg and a one-point advantage in Cup standings. (Next NTPA/Cup event: Rockwell.)
And in Unlimited, Chuck Knapp and Adam Bauer waged their second memorable battle of the young season in Tomah's Session Two, and as in Benson's Session One, Bauer's "Cross Threaded" (333.1') was victorious over Knapp's "Screamin' D" (330.9'). Rose, Joe Eder's "Polar Air," and Steve Bunnage's "Takes a Lickin'" were also in the top five. The Saturday night finale also saw Bauer finish first in an earthshaking 340' run throughout which smoke streamed from the top engine. Bauer's first and Knapp's third left the two Iowans in a dead heat in Cup standings, with Rose (-10) still within striking distance with four hooks to go. Steve Boyd's "Green Streak" recovered from its Session Two driveline issues to claim second place, and grandson Austin took fourth with "Green Streak Unlimited." (Next NTPA event: Rockwell; next Cup event: Chapel Hill.)
As the calendar swings to July, there are more Shell Rotella Cup events than there are weekends: The North Iowa Nationals in Rockwell (July 5-7), the Ionia Free Fair Pullsation (July 13-14), the Lions Super Pull of the South in Chapel Hill (July 20-21), the Fort Recovery Grand Nationals (July 27-28), and the Meade County Fair Grand Nationals in Brandenburg (July 27-28). By month's end, only two will remain: Langford's Northeast Nationals (August 4-5), and the grand finale, Bowling Green's National Tractor Pulling Championships (August 16-18).
All along the road to BG, check this space for Cup updates and the identities of those O'Reilly Auto Parts Hardest-Working Pullers.
(photos by Tracy Waters)
About National Tractor Pullers Association
The NTPA is the sport’s oldest and most respected truck and tractor pulling sanctioning organization. Governed by a board of directors, the NTPA is managed by World Pulling International (WPI), an independently owned entity. Headquartered in Worthington, Ohio, the NTPA provides rules and regulations and the infrastructures required for organizations throughout the country to arrange truck and tractor pulls. The 2018 NTPA Championship Pulling Circuit was sponsored in part by Case IH, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Alliance Tire, Enderle Fuel Injection, MAC Trailer, Ag Protect 1, Shell Rotella, STOP-FYRE®, Cen-Pe-Co Lubricants, Columbus Diesel Supply, Heritage Iron, Stainless Diesel, Midwest Wheel Inc., the National Tractor Pulling Championships in Bowling Green, Ohio, PowerBore Cylinder Sleeves, Profab Machine Inc., the Budweiser Dairyland Super Nationals in Tomah, Wisconsin, and Riverside Engine Inc.
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