March Madness? More Like Pulling Pandemonium!

March Madness? More Like Pulling Pandemonium!

Did you fill out an NCAA basketball tournament bracket? Even if you didn’t, surely you have heard of it. March Madness, as it’s known. It’s become one of those culturally synonymous American things, like the Super Bowl, or The Daytona 500, or April 15. Scratch that last one, taxes aren’t fun. Whether you are a basketball fan or not, there is no denying that the big tournament sweeps the nation with excitement this time of year. Now, you are probably scrolling down your phone saying to yourself, “Ok, Mike, ya long-winded talker, what on Earth does a sportsball tournament have to do with tractor pulling?! And, unless you are a Western Kentucky Hilltopper hooper turned mini-rod driver, the answer is, to most of you, not that much at first glance. 

Except for one strong parallel that I have found very useful when explaining tractor pulling to new fans. The concept of three professional leagues tends to muddle the waters for new-comers. I encourage them to think of the leagues like sports conferences. Exactly like what is used to determine the NCAA championship tournament bracket. Now, if we have any die hard basketball fans reading this, you probably know there are five major conferences based (loosely) on geographical regions that help conduct intercollegiate sports. I think our three major professional tractor pulling associations operate similarly. Very similarly, in fact. I think we can even draw direct comparisons between each association and a well known NCAA conference.

 Let’s start with the National Tractor Pullers Association. The NTPA. There is no doubt in my mind this is the Big 10 Conference. They are based in Ohio. They draw from states such as Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. This should draw to mind Big 10 powerhouse schools like Ohio State, Penn State, or Purdue. Long standing midwestern rivalries. Moving to the Outlaw Truck and Tractor Pulling Association. The Outlaws. No doubt about it, this is the Big 12. These are the west of the Mississippi River schools. Cowboy country. Heck, could you have found a better name for the pulling association? This should bring to mind schools like Iowa State, Texas, Texas Tech, and Kansas. Missouri and Nebraska have left the Big 12, but shoot, we will throw them in there too. Finally the Pro Pulling League. PPL as it’s known. I struggled with this one. It blends the two. It's located somewhere in the middle, I think India or Illinois possibly. That conjures up ideas of Big 10, but then I remembered, their banquet was held (I think), in Louisville, Kentucky. University of Louisville. That’s an Atlantic Coast Conference School. Known as the ACC. As a matter of fact, so is Notre Dame; located in South Bend, Indiana. Shoot, I’m pretty sure I drove through South Bend on my way to Goshen, Indiana; one of PPL’s biggest pulls. Ok, there ya have it. PPL is the ACC. 

Ok, Mike, you turned pulling associations into college basketball conferences. I can almost hear my buddy Larry looking at me, and groaning, “...ok? Uh… why?” Well, what can you do with basketball conferences during late March and early April? You can have a tournament! Move over March Madness, it’s time for Pulling Pandemonium! Instead of teams from each conference/ association, though, we have classes. I have created a 16 team tournament comprised of four brackets that will lead us to the “Final Four” of tractor pulling classes. 

Bracket 1: Truck Classes. 

1 seed Outlaw Two Wheel Drive Trucks versus 4 seed Outlaw Four Wheel Drive Trucks

Outlaw two wheel drives received the number one overall ranking in the truck bracket and will take on their inter-association rivals, the four wheel drives. Each of these classes routinely boast well over 15 competitors. The classes are entertaining, but the win goes to the two wheelers. They are some of the most competitive in the land. They have multiple wins at Freedom Hall. They move on to the Elite Eight. 

2 seed PPL Super Stock Diesel Trucks versus 3 seed NTPA Semis. Torque and heavy hitters. Tight point races. This matchup ends with an upset. DeBroux winning both semi divisions helps put the Semi class to the next round. 

1 seed Outlaw two wheel drives versus 3 seed NTPA semis. Wow, these two classes are at complete opposite ends of the spectrum. Maybe it’s because I have a soft spot for my home organization, or maybe they are just that good, but I’m picking Outlaw two wheel drives to advance to the final four. 

Bracket 2: Tractor Classes

1 seed PPL Pro Stocks versus 4 seed NTPA Diesel Super Stocks. Numbers are the big difference here. These are arguably the two best classes in all of pulling. However, with Masterson and Folz doing what they did in 2023, you can’t pick against them. PPL pro’s advance. 

2 seed NTPA Pro Stocks versus 3 seed PPL Light Super Stocks. I love alcohol burning tractors. Everything in my heart wants to go with the alky boys here. But I think head to head, the fans would speak for themselves. Simons, Meyer, Cains, Connie/ Ray. I have to go with NTPA big pro’s.

1 seed PPL pro’s versus 2 seed NTPA pro’s. After listing off the competitors in the previous sentence, I smell an upset. NTPA pro stocks advance to the final four. 

Bracket 3: Modifieds. 

1 seed NTPA Unlimited versus 4 seed Outlaw Light Limited Modified. Run what ya brung, and hope ya brung enough! Make it weigh 8,000 and good luck. True unlimiteds. Baddest in the land. But, screw blower plus hemi. End of story. That is what you will see. The four seed here gives us the biggest variety in the country. Diesel motors, turbo charged small blocks, super charged hemi’s, allisons, turbines. It has what modifieds were always meant to have. That being said, no upset happening today. Unlimited advance. 

2 seed PPL Modifieds vs 3 seed PPL Mini Rods.. Here we have the matchup of the old school versus the new school. You have the young, fun, and wild “no practice” kind of guys in the mini rods versus heritage names like Walsh and Leischner in the modifieds. I think mini rods are the most marketable class in pulling right now. Minis advance. 

1 seed NTPA unlimiteds versus 3 seed PPL minis. I stand by my last statement. They are too marketable and too entertaining to bet against. Numbers are high. Fan engagement is high. And any time you get to watch Jeff Hirt, in a mini rod? C’mon. PPL minis to the final four. 

Bracket 4: Miscellaneous 

1 seed NTPA Mini Rods versus 4 seed Outlaw Diesel Super Stocks. Meissinger and Goodwin are essentially unbeatable in the diesel super world. But are those two names enough to knock off rides like Funny Li’l Farmall, Iron Toy, and Pretty Wicked? This one was very close. The win goes to NTPA mini rods. 

2 seed Outlaw Limited Pro Stocks versus 3 seed NTPA Super Stock Open. Thirty years ago the super stock open class was the best class in pulling. Heavy supers, running diesel or alcohol, with upwards of 25 competitors per pull. That was grass roots pulling. But numbers are down these days. They are not down in the 4.1 class. The limited pro’s. And west of the river (Wisconsin or Outlaw) is where these things live, breath, and dominate. Picking the class of the future: Outlaw limited pro stocks. 

1 seed NTPA mini’s versus 3 seed Outlaw limited pro’s. Cinderella watch. I smell an upset. Every fair board in the country wants to bring the 4.1’s to town. They are reliable. They blow smoke. They put on a great show. The kids want to build them and watch them. Outlaw Limited Pro’s with the major upset victory. 

That brings us to the Finals Four! It looks like this: 

1 seed Outlaw Two Wheel Drives versus 2 seed NTPA Pro Stocks.

3 seed PPL mini rods versus 3 seed Outlaw Limited Pro Stocks. 

If those four classes were putting on an independent pull, I think you’d draw just about every fan in the land. This bracket was crazy, wild, unpredictable, unrealistic and 1,000% my personal opinion. Who advances to the championship and then wins the whole thing? Eh, I’m going to leave that up to you to decide. 

Green Flags and Tight Chains. 

Pullin’ is Fun.

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