Lloyd Luedtke | 1995
Lloyd Luedtke | 1995
Too often when folks speak of pulling they forget that when all is said and done, it really does take "two to tango." We concentrate so much on the pulling vehicle that we often forget about the sled. It's just like we do in baseball, for example. We remember the heavy hitters - the Babe Ruths and the Mickey Mantles, but forget the pitchers - the Luis Tiants and the Whitey Fords. If it weren't for the sled, this sport wouldn't go very far.
LIoyd's immediate reaction to being inducted into the Hall of Fame was one of shock.
He was watching pictures of Bob Williams on the screen and then suddenly there his picture was. It was, he explained, a very emotional moment. "Just overwhelming. It took a while for it to really sink in. Can this be happening to me?"
Lloyd's career in pulling, which stretches out some 30-plus years, is a testament to his tremendous impact on and contribution to the sport. It all began in the late 1960s, back when step-on sleds were all the rage, yet there were clouds on the horizon that spoke of change.
He was at a particular pull and an incident arose where a sled was going a little too fast and a man tried to step onto the sled and slipped and almost got pulled underneath. Quick action saved what was developing into a serious situation.
The proverbial light bulb went on in LIoyd's head. There must be a better, safer way he thought. He also knew that stepan sleds were probably in the twilight of their years what with the age of horsepower struggling to be born. Something had to be done. He saw the opportunity and seized it. As the saying goes, the rest is history - LIoyd's as well as NTPA's.
Shortly, he debuted Eliminator 1. But no sooner was Eliminator I doing its best to stop 'em, pullers ever searching for ways to make more horsepower, pushed the horsepower curve up a notch or two. Lloyd said, "I was always locked in a horsepower race with the Banter brothers, Art Arfons, Danny Dean," all the strong, tough pullers who, kept pushing the envelope. They pushed it one way; he'd push back.
Eliminator II was LIoyd's answer to that tug-of-war between him and pullers. And because what goes up is destine to go up further as pullers started adding engines to their Modifieds, it sent him back to the drawing board yet again and gave birth to Eliminator III and after awhile Eliminator I's great-grandson, Eliminator IV. The game of the sled vs. the vehicle was and is always a game of "Stop me if you can." LIoyd each time answered that call with a firm "You bet I can!" Like the old Miller beer commercial. "Tastes great" - "Less filling."
Eliminator IV, which prowls the pulling tracks of today, is the culmination of some 25 years of evolving technology and innovation to try and keep one step ahead of NTPA's powerful pulling vehicles. Comparing it to Eliminator I is like comparing a Model T to today's sleek and powerful sedans, even though at the time, Lloyd said, that they thought Eliminator I was top-notch.
But Lloyd is more than a preeminent sled builder. He is a fine student of the game. And though we invariably think of him as a sled operator, in his early days he was "on the other side" for awhile up until the late 1970s, campaigning a Ford SS tractor he called Operator.
Lloyd's philosophy of sled operations is a simple one. "Build them (sleds) light and let them (the pullers) run quick, and then hammer them." That philosophy has produced many exciting shows for pulling fans and some tough pulling contests for many competitors who have tried (unsuccessfully, we might add) to take Lloyd "out the gate." When the hammer drops, that's all she wrote. Eliminator has more than lived up to its name.
His experience in the sport has covered all sides, including the administrative side. Early on, the Hartford, Wise. resident served on the Wisconsin Tractor Pullers Association board of directors and later, on the NTPA Executive Board.
Some of Lloyd's most vivid memories from his three decades in the sport are those that come from his rides on those sleds. "It's like being on a racing dog with the tail wagging and you're the tail. It's just a real thrill."
If he has one disappointment, it's one that he recognizes that comes with ;the territory. When the show goes well, not many seem to acknowledge his efforts. But if there's a problem somewhere and it hurts the show, then everybody is ready to throw darts at the sled. Lloyd has accepted this aspect of pulling philosophically. "I've always done my best," he said. "That's all anybody can do."
Lloyd's best has put him in the Pulling Hall of Fame. How many of us can say the same?