Mark Peissig | 2022
Mark Peissig | 2022
For our next Hall-of-Fame inductee, the rekindling of a Grand old class was the spark that lit the fuse on four consecutive championships. But the blue flame that shone its brightest during this period of on-track dominance was only the tip, fueled as it was by an ambition to advance his class, his event, his state, and his sport.
The word got out in late 2004: After a decade's absence from the Grand National schedule, the Light Super Stock division would be back in the fold for 2005. Encouraged by the news, some competitors scrambled to get back in. Others bought or built anew to capitalize on the rejuvenated class. But to still others who had remained loyal to the Lights during this 10-year period of dormancy, the comeback announcement just meant there would be more places to run and bigger crowds to please.
One such mainstay was Mark Peissig. Having started at the age of 12 pulling Farm Stock on blacktop with a Massey Harris 44, Peissig served as a trusted wrench on good friend Kevin Lynn's "Notorious" Ford Light Super. The crew were two of the last four top point-earners of the earlier GN era, in 1988 and 1993. Meanwhile, Mark teamed with Kevin's brother Jon on a Ford 7810 9,000-lb. Pro Stock beginning in 1992 and won a title on the central Wisconsin Dirt Flingers circuit.
As the nationwide Light class faded to black, Mark and the Lynn Brothers switched colors accordingly and campaigned a four-charger Heavy diesel named "Fat Boy." Peissig related that the name had a double meaning, half of which was as dark as the International 5488's paint job. "My nickname forever has been 'Fatboy'," Peissig told The Puller in 2005. Oh, and: "The first [atomic] bomb dropped on Hiroshima was named 'Fatboy'." Starting in 1994, Peissig and the Lynns' nuclear weapon was a force in the upper Midwest, claiming runner-up finishes twice in Region III and thrice in Wisconsin over the next five seasons. Soon after, Peissig's service to the motorsport expanded from involvement in the pull held annually in hometown Dorchester and chaired by his father to a directorship on the Wisconsin Tractor Pullers board.
Then in 1999, "Fat Boy" had reached the end of its half life, and its components were recycled for use on friend and chassis builder Dave Pfund's Super smoker "Mister Ed." Kevin went back to being a main driver, now on the newly constructed "504 Rocket" New Holland, and Mark returned to a supporting role on the sidelines. His contributions on "Rocket"'s launchpad resulted in his election as 2001's NTPA Crew Chief of the Year.
When Mike and Tom Wilhite from Kentucky then put their Ford alky puller up for sale, this "diesel guy at heart" was more than ready to jump back in the seat. The first season, "The Bomb"'s pattern of destruction was uneven. "Broke three front ends off, sent some connecting rods through the block," Peissig reflected after the season before putting it in perspective: "Usual first-year tragedies." One consolation to this period of frequent breakage was his selection as Wisconsin's Promoter of the Year for his work with Dorchester and behind-the-scenes cheerleading for events across Dairyland.
Dialed in for 2003, Peissig and "The Bomb" had a blast while capturing the WTPA championship and finishing second in Region III; this, as he completed his second year as the state Association's president and partnered with his brother Gene in the operation of the family business, Bob's Dairy Service. "My three brothers--- Gene, Jeff, and Tom---all pulled at one time or another," Peissig noted, "I guess I just got the bug to do it more than the rest. Gene is very supportive of my pulling, but he thinks I'm nuts for putting in all of those late hours."
"The Bomb" and "504 Rocket," now stablemates, required more moonlit mending from their technicians in 2004. In particular, Peissig's ride debuted a new Gene Scharber engine with a Ron Bultemeier head and a three-charger setup. The bugs were worked out of the powerplant over the course of that season and just in time for two major developments: One, a Pfund-built component chassis, and two, the 2005 reawakening of the Grand National class.
Which is where we came in. Peissig and "The Bomb" hooked at 25 state and national events that season, seven of which were GN, and came away with victories at Montgomery City and Hillsboro, Missouri en route to the division's first top-shelf championship in 11 years. "The GN success is a result of being very consistent," Peissig remarked of his inaugural big-league season, which also included six second places that were sufficient to exceed the Wilhite Brothers' "Blue Blazes" by five points. "I just didn't make a lot of mistakes or [get] plagued with major misfortune."
Peissig and the Wilhites waged an even more intense battle for most of 2006, with "The Bomb" exploding for eight wins and piling up 436-1/2 points while additionally fending off Larry Phillips' "Insanity"s, the Sandefurs' "Farmboy's Fantasy," and Al Koch's "Entertainer." Mark also completed his work as WTPA's president and joined the NTPA Executive Board for what would be a highly productive two-term run representing the competition membership.
In 2007, Peissig was a winner only in season-opening Midland, Michigan, but he made it stand up for his third consecutive Light Super championship with a one-point ending margin over Lynn and "Rocket," who had returned after a year off the trail. Mark was quick to credit his wife Terri and children Emily, Tim, and Logan for the backing both at home and at the pulls, where Terri frequently helped the WTPA as an entry clerk during Mark's time running the circuit.
Then, in 2008, "The Bomb" got a new shell in the form of retro 9600 tinwork that had the blue fans drooling. It continued to run as good as it looked: In its debut dance in its vintage dress, Peissig's throwback was a Tomah Session One pull-off winner. Three more GN wins followed among 13 top fives, but "The Bomb" needed a pressure win and a third on Sandwich Saturday to prevail, by a single point, in a season-long duel over Phillips. "Our whole class is a class act, and I love having a good time with everyone and my crew afterwards," Peissig told The Puller once he became a four-time champion. "We’re competitive on the track, but we all help each other behind the scenes." The pair burnished their latest achievement with an Enderle Pull-Off win and were awarded the Hard Charger trophy that December.
No one could have known, but 2008 augured a transition. Besides traditional powers Phillips and Sandefur, victories were registered by up-and-comers Marcus Wettleson and Brian Korth, two names that would shape the next decade of Light Super Stock after Lynn and "Rocket" flew the blue banner for one more championship season in 2009. Mark, elder son Tim, and "The Bomb" gave the Grand National series another shot together, taking seventh in the standings in 2015. Tim and Logan have since acknowledged their dad's storied career by naming their Modified Mini "Fallout" and lacquering and striping it in Ford blue and white.
Mark Peissig's story is that of a man committed to the betterment of pulling, whether as a driver, a helper, a promoter, or a director. His run of titles with "The Bomb" heralded a boom period of Grand National Light Super Stock and by itself makes him a most fitting initial inductee from that division. But when all of his contributions are considered, pulling will be feeling Fatboy's aftershocks for many years to come.