Farm Progress

The Championship Tractor Pull has been an important part of the National Farm Machinery Show and enters its 49th year in 2017.

Willie Vogt

January 31, 2017

6 Min Read
MORE TO SEE: For 2017, the Championship Tractor Pull at the National Farm Machinery Show is adding new classes.National Farm Machinery Show

Some changes are coming to the 2017 National Farm Machinery Show Championship Tractor Pull. And some of these changes are in preparation for an even bigger event in 2018. What do you need to know for the Feb. 15-18 show?

“We’ve added two classes for 2017, and we’ve done more,” says Mike Whitt, who with Dan Cristiani and Gayle Medford, is part of the NFMS Show Tractor Pull committee. “We’re changing the event’s start time from 7:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday night.”

The earlier start time makes room for two more classes. “We’re bringing in four-wheel-drive trucks on Wednesday night, and we added a class of limited pros on Thursday,” Whitt says.

That extra time allows organizers to make presentations and ready the track between the added pulls. About nine to 12 more vehicles will run each night, but the number of hooks is remaining about the same.

Also, ticket prices for seats behind the starting line will cost less, Whitt says. For Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday afternoon, those tickets are now just $20. And for Friday and Saturday night, they’re just $25. Organizers recognized that the seats behind the starting line still get the roar of the event, but not always the best view.

The schedule is also changing a bit for 2017. The Diesel Super Stock tractors have been moved to Friday night from Wednesday. And the Super Farm Tractors have moved to Wednesday from Friday. “We had a lot of requests for the Diesel Super Stock Tractors to run on Friday night versus that opening night on Wednesday,” Whitt says.

And meeting customer expectations is what drives the new classes, too. Whitt says the pull once included 4wd pickups for 20 years. While the diesel pickups remain popular, organizers wanted to bring back the modified 4x4 pickup class. “We wanted to get those classes in this year ahead of our 50th anniversary pull,” he says. “We’re trying to think ahead to get those classes accustomed to what we’re doing, instead of trying to do everything new at the 50th anniversary show.”

A look at the field for 2017

The event is going to be packed with a wide range of competitive drivers for 2017. The show will be filled with former champions. During the 49th annual event, the nation’s best drivers will compete for the Grand Champion title and a share of $250,000 in prize money.

“We have the points winners from Outlaw Pulling, NTPA and Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League coming this year,” Whitt says, and points winners from all three of those divisions who meet the rules set up for the NFMS event will be on hand. “Just about every class has a points winner from one of those circuits.”

He notes that points winners will be competing in Pro-Stock, Super Farm Tractors, Two-wheel Drive Trucks and more. Modified tractors will see a host of top point getters from the Lucas Oil Series, too.

Returning 2016 Tractor pull Grand champions include Terry Blackburn, Newton, Wis.; Steve Bunnage, Golden Gate, Ill.; Matt Clemons, Wakeman, Ohio; Mendi Nelson, Cat Spring, Texas; and Keven Schmucker, Louisville, Ohio.

And the 2017 event will break 2016’s record high for women competitors — with Anna Belle Bradley, Elora, Tenn., Ashley Corzine, Assumption, Ill.; Bethany Nelson, Altamont, Ill.; Mendi Nelson, Cat Spring, Texas; Misty Nelson, Sidney, Ill.; Julia Ray, Beloit, Ohio; Monica Shaw, Frankly, Ky.; Lisa Tatum, Bardstown, Ky.; and Renee Theobald, Shelbyville, Ind.

Clearing the air

Whitt says more classes running at higher horsepower will mean more smoke is in the air. For the 2017 pull, the smoke system was completely upgraded. “We need to deal with equipment exhaust,” he says. “We want to take care of the air for the diesels running and keep things more clear for the fans in Freedom Hall.”

The upgrade includes large fans added to the top of Freedom Hall, 80 feet above the attendees. “It’s going to be a big improvement to that system,” Whitt says.

Horsepower ranges have increased over the years. In the early days of the pull, machines commonly used 700- to 800-hp modified engines. Today, competitors keep tweaking their power plants, with some reaching 4,000 hp. Those same big-muscle engines generate plenty of exhaust. The new smoke-handling system is designed to keep up.

Schedule and tickets

Tickets are available at the Kentucky Exposition Center Ticket Office, by phone at 800-745-3000, or online at Tickets and prices vary by day:

Wednesday, Feb. 15 — 7 p.m. (note earlier start time), tickets $20 and $40 

Thursday, Feb. 16 — 7 p.m. (note earlier start time), tickets $20 and $40

Friday, Feb. 17 — 7:30 p.m., tickets $25 and $45

Saturday, Feb. 18 — 1 p.m. event, tickets $20 and $40; 7:30 p.m. event, tickets $25 and $45

New classes will be appearing — Modified 4x4 Trucks on Wednesday and Limited Pro Stock Tractors on Thursday. Here’s the schedule:

Wednesday, Feb. 15 - 7 p.m.

* 10,200-pound Pro Stock Tractors

* 7,500-pound Modified 4x4 Trucks (new class for 2017)

* 9,300-pound Super Farm Tractors (moved from Friday
for 2017)

* 7,500-pound Modified Tractors

Thursday, Feb. 16 - 7 p.m.

* 9,300-pound Super Farm Tractors

* 6,200-pound 2wd Super Modified Trucks

* 8,000-pound Super Stock Alcohol Tractors

* 9,500-pound Limited Pro Stock Tractors (new class for 2017)

Friday, Feb. 17 - 7:30 p.m.

* 6,200-pound 2wd Super Modified Trucks

* 8,200-pound Super Stock Tractors (moved from
Wednesday for 2017)

* 10,200-pound Pro Stock Tractors

Saturday, Feb. 18 - 1 p.m.

* 7,500-pound 4x4 Super Stock Diesel Trucks

* 6,400-pound Lightweight Super Stock Alcohol Tractors

* 10,200-pound Pro Stock Tractors

FINALS - Saturday, Feb. 18 - 7:30 p.m.

* 6,200-pound 2wd Super Modified Trucks

* 7,500-pound Modified Tractors

* 10,200 pound Pro Stock Tractors

* 8,000-pound Super Stock Alcohol Tractors

* 9,300-pound Super Farm Tractors

* 8,200-pound Super Stock Tractors

CHECK 'EM OUT: Want to see the competitors at the Championship Tractor Pull up close? Visit the pit where machines wait to compete - it's free.

Visit ‘The Pit’

Before the indoor roar of the Championship Tractor Pull begins, be sure to visit “The Pit” in Broadbent Arena, sponsored by Dow AgroSciences.

This is your chance to see the pulling trucks and tractors up close. Tractor pull fans can walk beside the trucks and tractors, meet the drivers, get autographs, and take pictures of the vehicles that will compete in the Championship Tractor Pull.

The Pit, which is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. inside Broadbent Arena each day, gives fans a chance for a firsthand glimpse of the hard work that goes into preparing the machines for competition.

Pit admission is free. The Pit closes at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18.

About the Author(s)

Willie Vogt

Willie Vogt has been covering agricultural technology for more than 40 years, with most of that time as editorial director for Farm Progress. He is passionate about helping farmers better understand how technology can help them succeed, when appropriately applied.

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