Most motorsports are all about speed, but there’s one that’s about sheer power: Truck and tractor pulling.
According to the National Tractor Pulling Association (NTPA) website, the sport involves modified vehicles dragging a metal “sled” along a designated dirt track. The sled contains a box filled with weight that is mechanically moved forward as it progresses along the course, causing the pulling vehicles to lose forward momentum and torque.
Numerous “classes” exist within the sport, pitting trucks and tractors of similar design against one another. There are classes for both gas and diesel-powered machines, and the idea is simple: The vehicle that pulls the sled farthest wins.
Last Saturday in the arena at the Houston Area Chamber of Commerce Fairgrounds, the Southern Missouri Truck and Tractor Pull Association (SMTTPA) staged an event with 10 classes. Competitors came from many parts of Missouri and multiple surrounding states.
Two of the truck drivers were local men who also helped put the event together and prepare the dirt strip in the arena: Licking resident Buddy Brazier and Houston resident Jason Beasley. Both have been “pulling” for about eight years, and have been event organizers for about four.
They compete in pulls almost every weekend from spring to fall all over Missouri and down into Arkansas.
“It’s really loud and there’s a lot of dirt slinging,” Brazier said, “and there’s people breaking stuff right and left.”
Brazier runs a 1985 Chevrolet named “Slim Shady” in the small block pro street class, while Beasley pulls in the 2.6 diesel class in his 2006 Dodge 3500 “Mega Hooker” rig. Both have had their share of success, taking top honors in their classes on multiple occasions.
The SMTTPA brought the Bungart Motorsports Lucas Oil “X Factor” sled – out of Jefferson City – to last weekend’s pull in Houston. That marked the first time the sled had been pulled here; the Vanzant-based “Draggin’ Wagon” sled is the more familiar to local pulling fans, having appeared several times at competitions in Houston, Raymondville and Cabool.
Brazier – who works as a logger and a maintenance contractor at Fort Leonard Wood – said the two sleds operate differently.
“The X Factor sled is made more for the tractors and diesel trucks,” he said. “It’s easier to get off the line, but once you get rolling, it puts the weight on you and shuts you down pretty quick. It’s called a ‘free-running’ sled and the Draggin’ Wagon is a ‘drag-type’ sled.”
Combining high levels of horsepower and torque is crucial in pulling, but so is setting up a vehicle to perform its best when “hooked up” on a given track.
“Some tracks can be real loose and you can hardly get a bite to go anywhere,” Brazier said. “Other tracks are real sticky, and they’ll even get stickier as the night goes on. That’ll suck the horsepower out of a truck fast – I don’t care how big of a truck you have.”
Brazier said he and Beasley have tried hard to make the Houston track as fair as possible.
“You take 15 trucks, and they’ll all get almost an identical track,” he said. “And we groom it between every hook; that makes things take a little longer than when they just groom between classes, but we think it’s worth it to make it as fair as it can be.”
Like in any motorsport, driving is also integral to winning.
“Like with my pickup, you have to know how hard it’s going to come off the line on the track you’re on,” Brazier said. “I’m wearing ear plugs when I leave the line, but I’ve driven my truck enough that I can drive it by vibration.”
“A lot of it is technique,” Beasley said. “I don’t have the money to spend on it that a lot of guys do, but I’ve still beaten them.”
Brazier’s truck has never been licensed for the road.
“It was bought new in 1985 and has been a pulling truck its while life,” he said.
“Mine started out as a truck I drove every day,” Beasley said, “but as technology progressed to where we could make more and more horsepower, you couldn’t drive it on the street any more.”
Beasley has been a diesel truck fan for a long time and owns and operates a shop called Mega Diesel Performance, east of Houston.
“I got into diesel right out of high school and I’ve always tinkered with them,” he said. “I just like them.”
Brazier said he knew he wanted to pull as a young boy.
“I was hooked as a little kid,” he said. “When I was young, I drew pulling trucks all the time and I always wanted to build one. I still have my first one at the house.”
For men like Brazier and Beasley, competition gets the juices flowing.
“There’s a lot of pride in it,” Beasley said.
Brazier looks for an edge by using methanol instead of gasoline.
“It’s neat being the underdog,” he said. “Everybody I pull against has more horsepower and torque than my truck makes. I’ve pulled against guys with twice the truck I have and put it on them more than once.
“They could keep that extra 40 bucks I go home with for winning. I did what I wanted when I beat them – that’s all I went there for.”
Southern Missouri Truck & Tractor Pulling Association:
National Tractor Pullers Association:
Truck and tractor pulling “101”: