Two Fuels Pulling for a Common Goal: Put on the Best Show

Two Fuels Pulling for a Common Goal: Put on the Best Show

The mid to late 1990’s was the golden age of pulling, right? This is what we hear so many veteran fans, and die hard enthusiasts claim. And heck, when we examine what was happening, there might be quite a bit of proof in the pudding. We were on the tail end of hall of fame pulling names such as Tim Engler, Gardner Stone, Dave and Ralph Banter, J.R. Collins, we were at the budding beginning of future legends such as Terry Blackbourn, Jordan Lustick, and Brian Korth, and we were watching the prime of the career of drivers like Steve and Stan Blagrave, and Esdon Lehn. Enough said, right? But it takes more than just excellent drivers to deem an era the golden age, in my opinion, as we have an absolute surplus of top notch drivers right now, including many of those just listed, who are still pulling. But I can’t deny that there was something special occurring from the years of 1990 to about 1998. What was it? What did they have that has slipped from our lineups? Why are we so nostalgic for that time? Well, for one thing, how about super stock pulling classes that combined both alcohol burners, and diesel powered tractors. 

I think this is the primary ticket. The main attraction that we long for. We saw the previously mentioned Terry Blackourn pointing the Slowride Case IH skyward as he walked it with blazing speed down the end of the track, followed by Red Horse or Red Line Fever bellowing smoke skyward in a self created tornado of coal. It wasn’t just “Look out John Deere!” When these beasts went down the track, it was also, “Look out alky burners!” The alcohol guys would win at the speed tracks. The diesels would win at the power tracks. The alcohols would blow up in extraordinary fashion, but then miraculously be back together in two weeks. The diesel guys would ride consistency to points championships. Until they weren’t. We all know what happened. The alcohol became so wildly competitive it looked like the diesel super stocks would go the way of the dinosaur. So instead of having a super stock class that was entirely and exclusively alcohol burners, the diesel guys and alkys split. The class of Super Stock Diesel was born. And let’s face it, it’s awesome! 

But every year since 2020, after the National Farm Machinery Show, we witness the “Duel of the Fuels” where they combine the classes, and something inside us fans ignites. We say, “Take us back!” We long for that rivalry we saw in the past decades and the question must be asked, “Is it time to re-combine the classes?”I mean, the answer seems so simple. They are putting on a perfect show side-by-side in Louisville, pulling an identical sled. And the results seem to indicate there is no strong advantage to one side over the other. By and large, in this setting each fuel is winning just as much as the other. What a show it would make for outdoors! Bring them back. That is the cry heard by the fans. 

There are small logistical issues. The diesels are allowed more weight indoors. The alky burners have a larger cubic inch limit. So would it truly be fair? Ah, surely the powers that be can line out the fine print and find something of a compromise that works. But while this might be what we fans dream of, there is another element to this story that we often times fail to consider. Is this what the drivers want? The answer to this question is a little less straight forward. 

While I have not gone from driver to driver and asked each of their individual opinion, the general consensus seems to trend towards this: If the classes are combined the diesel burners will be less inclined to travel the whole circuit and compete. So, ironically, by combining the two classes, in all actuality we would only be removing one class. It could be the death of the diesel super stock class. And let us not forget, that class is awesome! Arguably the best in pulling. Combining the classes might not double the numbers of any given super stock hook, but rather, might simply turn all hooks into the current Super Stock Open class. Sure you would see the occasional diesel crossover at the big money hooks, or the ones closest to their homes. But, if this is not what they want, then we really should be careful what we wish for. 

One puller I have spoken with compared drivers to actors. He claims drivers and pullers and sled operators are all here for one purpose: To put on a show. How many shows in recent memory have been ruined by terrible remakes and reboots? If we have a beautiful nostalgic image of combined super stock pulling in the past, perhaps we should not taint that image by trying to recreate it. Super stock diesel pulling is awesome. By wishing for more, we might inadvertently harm or even kill the pulling opportunities of the pullers in that class. Never forget, as it stands a diesel can jump into the Super Stock Open class at any time. Combined fuel pulling is awesome, I am just saying we should be careful what we wish for. Let’s make sure that two stacks full of black smoke always has a comfortable home in pulling. 

Green Flags and Tight Chains. Pullin’ is fun.

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