Worthington, Ohio---For the first time, the Shell Rotella Cup Series presented by O'Reilly Auto Parts had a divided attention span, as two of the 10 events in its expanded 2018 format coincided. Each within a few miles of the Indiana border, the Fort Recovery Grand Nationals in Fort Recovery, Ohio and the Meade County Grand Nationals in Brandenburg, Kentucky featured two Cup classes apiece among their four appearing GN divisions.
Fans at either venue didn't have to wait long to feel the extra electricity that accompanies Shell Rotella Cup competition, as the Super Stock Diesel 4x4 Trucks and twin-engine Light Unlimited Modifieds began the Fort's Friday proceedings on its side-by-side tracks, while Light Super Stock and Pro Stock Tractors were the first two classes to appear on B-burg's singular surface.
In Fort Recovery, the Super Stock Diesel 4x4s entered with four prior Cup appearances to date across Benson, North Carolina and Tomah, Wisconsin. Justin Gearhart's "Cream of the Crop," having swept the GALOT Motorsports Park event, held a three-point lead over Shane Kellogg's "Trump" and a four-point bulge over the third-place "Pulling for the Cure" of Don Bowling. The Session One class was really two classes in one---or three, counting the pull-off, as seven of the final 10 trucks in the class of 18 exceeded the 330' track length. Finding himself on the outside looking in at that bonus round was Gearhart (322.1', 10th), who knew that his point lead would contract but did not know yet by how much. When Stephen Nagy took Bowling's "Cure" (FP/305.9') to fifth and Kellogg drove "Trump" (FP/305.4') to sixth, it resulted in a three-way tie atop the Cup standings entering Session Two. Kent Crowder drove his own "Scheid Diesel" (306.2') to fourth and Carl Atley's "Lethal Weapon" (FP/312.6') to second, while class winner Matt Clemons and his "Alter Ego" (FP/313.0') participated in his first Cup event and put himself in prime position for the O'Reilly Hardest-Working Puller total-distance award for the weekend.
The gate hung open once more in Session Two, and six trucks snuck out the end and into a final round. Crowder again qualified both his own "Scheid" (FP/311.7') ride and that of the ailing Atley, whose "Weapon" was first to fire in the pull-off and got to an ultimately insurmountable FP/325.0' to win the gift card. Finishing second was regional contender Cody Hastings with "Against the Grain" (FP/313.0'), and completing the pull-off were Shane Wurm's new Dodge (FP/311.2'), Chase Eller's "Caretaker" (FP/310.0'), and Clemons (FP/308.5'). The win moved "Lethal Weapon" to the top of the Cup tally, with "Trump" at minus-two and "Cream" at minus-three. The diesel trucks are in Grand National action this weekend in Illinois; only BG remains among Cup appearances.
Meanwhile, the twin-engine Light Unlimited Modifieds were visiting their second-ever venue as Shell Rotella Cup participants after their season-opener in Tomah. "Money Pit Screwed Up," a wry reference to screw-type superchargers that are gaining popularity across the NTPA's Unlimited ranks, was driven in Wisconsin by Craig Corzine. But on this night, Corzine was otherwise occupied winning a class in Kentucky with the Shell Rotella-sponsored "Burn Notice" Two Wheeler. So duties fell to the chassis' owner Steve Bollinger, who for decades pulled it and its predecessor "Money Pit"s with Allison aircraft-engine power. The first to qualify for an eventual three-way pull-off alongside the last two division champions---Brandon Simon's "Simon Sez" (2017, 2016, 2014) and Keith Wayson's "Super Bee" (2015)---Bollinger (FP/315.8') got his Hemis to take flight and claimed the team's second win of the year. Entering Session Two and the second half of their six-hook Cup campaign, Simon (FP/315.7') and Wayson (FP/307.8') were tied for second (-3).
But in tractor pulling, hungry champions never stay down for long, and on Saturday night Simon and Wayson staged a pull-off that would snap that tie and put one of them into first place in Cup after Bollinger (315.2', fourth) was stopped short. "Super Bee" (FP/3315.7') took the green flag first in round two, and then Simon brought the thrilling class to its conclusion with an FP/319.7' aboard "Simon Sez" that hearkened to his Saturday night win exactly a year before. Simon also drove his brother R.J.'s "Simon Sez Show No Mercy" (322.1)' to third as the best non-qualifier. The chart now reads "Simon Sez" and "Money Pit" tied for first, "Super Bee" (-1) third, and "Show No Mercy" (-6) fourth.
In Brandenburg, the Light Super Stocks opened the Friday scoring with their second event---and like the Light Unlimiteds, just their second hook, given the Thursday night rainout in Tomah. It began with a surprise visitor: the "GALOT II" (Heavy) Super Stock from the Earl Wells camp, which made its first-ever light-class pass and ended up sixth. And it continued with what must be characterized as a surprise winner: the "Detonator Black" of Adam Spiegelberg, which ran up the right-center lane and carried the front axle from the 50' to the leader cone, which it repositioned at 315.0'. By an inch and a quarter, it was enough to hold off Brian Korth's "Excessive Force" (314.9') and the rest of the field that included Jason Hootman's "Commander" (314.4') and Korth's incoming point-leading tractor, "Considered Armed & Dangerous" (298.6'). That tractor's eighth-place finish dropped it into a third-place tie with "Detonator" behind the new co-leaders "Excessive Force" and "Commander." For Spiegelberg, in his first GN-licensed season, it's a dramatic improvement from his Budweiser Dairyland performance (15th); for Brandenburg, it marks the second Friday night first-time LSS winner in three years (Kyle Karlen, "Bad Blood," 2016).
And on Saturday, Hootman staked his claim to the lead on the test hook by pulling 310.8'. But that lead would only last until Korth's "Force" (311.1') tugged the "Southern Express" weight transfer two draws later, a run that ensured the standings tie would be broken, When "Considered" arrived with hook number seven, Korth coaxed it to 312.3', its second win in three hooks, and enough for third in the standings (-3). But it's "Excessive" that claimed the HWP and sole possession of the Shell Rotella Cup standings lead (+1). Spiegelberg's "Detonator" (308.7') finished fourth and now resides in that standings position (-6) as well.
After last weekend's turn of events in Chapel Hill, the inescapable Session One Pro Stock question was, "Is Charley back?" Charles Pelletier and his reigning-champion "CP Dream II" broke a camshaft in Lions Motorsports Park and finished out of the money and out of the GN point lead for the first time all year. The answer came on hook number 11, when the "Dream" realized a 323.3' for the only full pull on the 320' track. Ending up in second was the "Bootlegger" of Jason Svonavec (319.4'), which had led for three hooks, and in third the "New Generation Plus" of Robby Lemke (319.3'), which had led for six before that. Svonavec subsequently moved within two points of Pelletier for the Cup lead, while incoming co-leader Mark Lawyer and "Rapped Up with a Vengeance" dropped six points behind.
By the time all had reconvened for Session Two, it baen discovered that a valve problem the previous night meant Pelletier had reached the end of his winning pass on five cylinders. Six strong on this night, "CP" (311.0') drove into the lead by passing Tim Cain's "Red Gambler" by 4'. But Lemke (313.7') took a brilliant wheelstanding ride on the very next hook to snuff out the sweep, and his "New Generation Plus" hung on for its second Meade County victory in as many years. Chapel Hill double-winner Darrin Hunt took "D2 Pro Stock Edition" to second on the class' last pass. The standings shakeup? "CP Dream II" in first, "Bootlegger" second at minus-three, and "New Gen" third at minus-eight with just Bowling Green to go.
Next weekend's Issue 8 update will come to you from Langford, New York, where the Northeast Nationals will host the Light Super Stocks for their fifth and sixth appearances in GN and Cup.
Then, Issue 9 will arrive during the Cup's first off week in over a month as we set the table for the National Tractor Pulling Championships, the season's fourth and final anchor event. There, all 13 Shell Rotella Cup divisions will see their seasons conclude and their top three finishers honored in Bowling Green, Ohio's winners circle.
But there's still plenty of other NTPA action both before and after BG. Be sure to stop by www.NTPAPULL.com for our complete event schedule.
(Photos by Jeff Mainous and Anna Galloway/MAD Pulling Pics)
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 is 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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