For more than 50 years, they’ve been filling Freedom Hall at the Kentucky Exposition Center with dirt. It’s a labor of love as the dirt is dumped on the concrete floor, and heavy equipment starts shaping what will become a track for the 53rd Championship Tractor Pull that occurs every night after the National Farm Machinery Show.
Mike Whitt, part of the organizing committee for the event, notes the group looks at changes to the event every two to three years. The changes are aimed at keeping this pioneering event fresh for visitors.
“We’ve made quite a change really for 2020,” Whitt says. “We changed our alcohol super stock on Friday night to a combined event with six alcohol and six diesel competitors. It’s similar to what it was years ago. We put this together to see who comes out on top.”
That combination also opened up a class spot in the competition where organizers have added lightweight super stock alcohol tractors on Thursday night. “We’ll have two classes of light supers going with six of those going into the Saturday night finals.”
Whitt says the organizers have also modified the rules. In the past, this event has followed the Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League rules, which kept competitors in other races out of the Championship Tractor Pull. “We tweaked the rules a little bit and that’s going to help our modified tractor class,” he says.
The result is that for 2020, the CTP will have more entries and variety among the competitors. “You make one little change and another, and before you know it, you’ve made quite a few,” Whitt says.
But he also says for the CTP, not every competitor can get into Freedom Hall. Competitors that apply for this signature event have to be successful during the past year in other competitions. “We look at their results for the last year, the times competed and what organization they participate in to see who they’re running with and see how they performed in that class,” he explains. “We’re throwing up some good numbers for Louisville.”
And given the new classes and the more open structure, each night of the competition will be different. Saturday night is the culmination of the previous four competition periods (including Saturday afternoon), creating a tough lineup of machines pulling that sled.
Four years ago, the organizers took a chance on providing the event as a pay-per-view program that anyone could watch from essentially anywhere. “There was some skepticism that we would hurt attendance at the show itself,” Whitt recalls.
But attendance has increased, and more people are buying a pay-per-view package, too.
For attendance, a restructuring of the ticket prices helped, with prices ranging as low as $10 per person to $40, depending on location. That lower price brought in more people and benefited the event.
However, those livestream customers increased, too. “A lot of people can do the truck and tractor pull for two nights; then they head home. So when they get home, they can check out how the finals do,” he says. “And family members who can’t make it to Louisville also buy the package.”
Or you can buy the pay-per-view package for Wednesday and Thursday to see who may be heading toward the finals, and then sit in live Friday and Saturday. That’s just another way to see the entire CTP for 2020.
Check out the schedule on Page 20 to see when your favorite class is up for the 2020 event.
Syngenta, a longtime supporter, is the presenting sponsor of the 2020 event.
You can find links to livestream the event, buy tickets for the pull and check out the schedule all at champpull.org.
Getting up close and personal
A key benefit of the Championship Tractor Pull that happens during the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville is the chance to see those muscle machines up close, and perhaps chat with drivers and crew.
Long a part of the event, visiting the Pit is a staple for pull lovers. A visit to the Pit in Broadbent Arena is your chance to see the machines and look at what drivers and mechanics have done to find new ways to grab more inches from every pull. And you can meet the drivers and maybe snag an autograph, too.
The Pit, sponsored by Wright Implement Co., is open to the public each day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Saturdays, the Pit is open from 9 to 11 a.m., closing just before that day’s matinee pull.
New voices of the pull
Last year, Butch Krieger set down his microphone and retired. The longtime pull announcer was a legend, leaving some big shoes to fill for 2020. So big that two people will be replacing him for 2020 — Leslie Mears and Mike Krieger.
Here’s a look at all the main announcers for this year’s event:
Dave Bennett. The senior member of the team, Bennett is in his 11th year with the CTP. He started his career in 1980 after a stint as a puller himself. He has extensive knowledge of pullers and keeps fans informed and entertained.
Dan Mayer. A recent addition to the team, he joined Krieger and Bennett in 2017. Mayer started announcing pulls in 2006 and never looked back. He is a truck and tractor pulling historian and operates the website pulling-reference.com.
Joining Bennett and Mayer will be two new members to the announcing team for 2020:
Leslie Mears. A veteran pit reporter featured on NBCSN and Fox Sports 1, Mears will join the crew for 2020. She started reporting from arena shows in 2008 and entered the pits as a reporter in 2015 for Fox Sports 1. She’ll be offering commentary during all four days of the tractor pull.
Miles Krieger. Joining the team too is Butch Krieger’s son, Miles. He grew up touring the pull circuit with his father and has essentially entered the family business as an event announcer as well. Check out his website milesbeyond300.com.