Small-Town Sled Pull Throwdown
It’s hot, it’s humid, the corn is beginning to dry out and there is a hive of truck and tractor pulling activity in the middle of the country. Fall is quickly approaching in the Midwest. As summer gradually grinds to a halt, competitors in the heartland cram as many hooks (and points) as possible into their schedules before it’s time to pack it in for the year. On the third weekend in August, the rural community of Fulton County, Illinois held its first annual truck and tractor pull in the county seat of Lewistown.
While not a points pull, it gave dozens of seasoned competitors the perfect opportunity to prepare for the next points hook in their respective pulling circuit. At the same time, it offered the green-behind-the-ears crowd a chance to drag the iron sled for the very first time. With a 100-hook turnout, we’d say the late-summer, non-points pull appealed to plenty of prospective competitors. The event was well-received by the locals in the area, too. After all, where else in America can you pay $6 to take in seven hours’ worth of entertainment?
After receiving an invite from the event’s chief organizer and longtime truck puller, Nick Christy, we crisscrossed through Illinois’ corn-country toward the fairgrounds, camera in hand. This is what we saw.
A Perfect Pulling Surface
The track itself wasn’t much to look at when the sun rose on the day of the pull, but Craig Brooks, a veteran tractor puller of 25 years, didn’t let that last long. In a few short hours, he had the track deep-ripped (for a good base) and packed back in so tight you could build a house on it. The soil seemed to have the ideal amount of clay and moisture mixed in, was smooth as a road when it was finished and yielded very little dust throughout the day (dust being one of the most unwelcome sights on any pulling track).
Factory Stock 4x4
The Factory Stock 4x4 class kicked off the action at the Fulton County fairgrounds. In this category, gas-powered one-ton or smaller pickups had to be equipped with an engine, transmission, transfer case and front and rear axle that was available in the same model and year of the truck. The one engine exception came in the form of pre ‘80s trucks, which were permitted to run big blocks. On this day, it was Jeffrey Buerk and his ’78 F-350 pulling out the win in the class, finishing six feet ahead of second place.
Hooked for Life
True story: Chris Schertz went on a first date at a truck pull in central Illinois and didn’t like the price of entry to spectate, but found that for $3 more he could hook his Duramax to the sled and then enjoy watching the rest of the action from the pits. Long story short, thanks to that decision Schertz is now quite fond of truck pulling. As for the lucky lady? That might be a story for another time. Above, Schertz’s ’06 GMC is in the midst of a 283-foot, second place effort in the Daily Driver Diesel class.
Devin McGinnis’ 1066 International was able to lug the sled the furthest in the first tractor class of the day: the 10,500-pound Farm Stock category. Key rules in Farm Stock dictate that the inducer diameter of the turbocharger’s compressor wheel be no larger than 2.36 inches (approximately 60mm), the engine sees no more than 2,850 rpm, the tractor goes no faster than 12 mph and that each tractor utilizes a maximum hitch height of 20 inches.
Hard Luck on the Line
After suffering a broken rear driveshaft on the starting line of the Stock Turbo Diesel class, Joe Reindl robbed the driveshaft off of his tow rig (carrier bearing and all) and, with the help of a few good friends, set to work installing it. Joe’s ’04 F-250 represented one of three 6.0L Power Stroke-equipped Fords that hooked to the sled throughout the day.
Spare Parts FTW!
Although the driveshaft mishap kept Joe Reindl from competing in the Stock Turbo Diesel class, he signed up for the Work Stock category and let things rip when it was his turn to pull. Despite being underweight, underpowered and the sled transferring its weight more aggressively in this uber-competitive class, Joe’s Mud Grappler-equipped Super Duty still managed to go 254 feet.
Hot Street Gas
To bridge the gap between the Stock Gas and Pro Stock gas classes (further widening the event’s appeal), a Hot Street Gas category was added to the itinerary. Here, any engine modification other than a blower, turbo or supercharger was allowed, along with dual rear wheels, blocked rear suspension and fuel cells. A maximum weight of 7,200 pounds was observed unless a Stock Gas competitor tried his luck in the class (in which case he or she could weigh as much as 7,500). Curtis Wright’s immaculate ’84 F-350 dually picks up a head of steam in the class in the image shown above.
In the 12,500-pound Open Tractor class, fifth generation corn and cattle farmer Eric Stanley and his 1066 International dug their way past the 300-foot mark in a bid to catch the front-runner. At 310.89-feet traveled, Eric fell shy of the win, but ended up a solid fifth place overall. Being allowed to run faster than 12 mph was the biggest difference in rules between the Open Tractor class and the other Farm Stock classes that were run.
6,500-Pound Pro Stock 4x4
As all the open header, big-blocks began to roar to life in the pits, we knew it was just about time to watch the 6,500-pound Pro Stock 4x4 trucks take to the dirt. In this class, two cubic inch limits were observed: 485 ci if you ran a drop box transfer case/reverser transmission and 540 ci for competitors running a traditional driveline. Aluminum heads were allowed, with the exception of Hemi or Brodix SR20 heads. Aluminum intakes were also allowed, with any single carburetor. Above, Grant Peterson’s ’79 F-250 named “Boogie” claws its way to a 317-foot finish, some 15 feet ahead of the rest of the field.
Even though Dale Thomas’ hard-running square body Chevy came up short of catching Grant Peterson’s aforementioned Ford in 6,500-pound Pro Stock, he did put 10 feet on the nearest competitor while securing the runner-up spot. For the rest of the Pro Stock class, the competition would be tight, with third through seventh place only being separated by a few feet.
8,500-Pound Work Stock Diesel Trucks
The 8,500-pound Work Stock Diesel Truck class is chock full of close competition. In this category, modified or multiple injection pumps are allowed and trucks can either run a single T4 flange S300 turbo or a stock-appearing charger. The stock-appearing turbo rule highly benefits 6.4L Power Strokes, with the Navistar-built V8 having come from the factory saddled with a compound turbo configuration. Taking full advantage of this was Nick Christy. His ’09 F-350 finished second in a tough field of battle-tested trucks.