Worthington, Ohio---The rain reigned for a night and a half. But still, it ended well in Rockwell.
Competitors, officials, and fans fought a valiant battle against two storm fronts that brought early ends to the Thursday and Friday night sessions of the July 4-6 North Iowa Nationals, the fourth stop of the 2019 Shell Rotella Cup Series. But those disappointments served as a contrasting prelude to Saturday night's thrilling session of action that actually offered the dedicated attendees more than was advertised.
In NTPA Championship Pulling, vehicles drag a 20-ton weight transfer sled along a straight, dirt track as the sled's resistance increases. Within a class of similar vehicles, the puller who achieves the greatest distance is victorious. At events across the United States, elite competitors campaign their specialized machines---which resemble farm tractors, trucks, and dragsters---for chances at purse money and precious points toward end-of-season championships.
In 2019, the Association is proud to complete its first half century as the world's original and number-one sanctioning organization for premier-level truck and tractor pulling contests. Fierce, fair pulling competition and a family-friendly, patriotic atmosphere are hallmarks of NTPA Championship Pulling. If you haven't experienced the rumbles, roars, and rivalries of the heaviest sport on wheels, why not give it a try this summer?
Granted, the sadness that accompanies any lost opportunity to participate in or witness truck and tractor pulling is small when compared with the devastation that such weather patterns can wreak on farmlands and the communities that depend on their productivity for economic stability. The Hawkeye State has certainly claimed its share of 2019's Midwestern misery that has disrupted and even desisted planting in flooded fields. But the Nationals, while impacted itself by the two latest downpours, served as a brief respite for the weather weary, an opportunity to experience a carefree evening of masterful performances by drivers from all corners and machines of all configurations. And for all seven Grand National and three Regional National divisions present, there was afforded the chance to hook at least one time competitively. Even the Four Wheel Drives, which were unlucky enough to have their scheduled appearances cancelled and terminated during Sessions One and Two, put on an exhibition class in Session Three thanks to the generosity of the event's promoters and sponsors.
For five GN divisions, there were precious Shell Rotella Cup points at stake as well as the weekend's Hardest-Working Puller total-distance awards. So let's talk Rockwell and bring you up to date on the state of the races.
Said race just got underway for the Super Farms, as the North Iowa Nationals served as their first Cup event of the summer, and Jon Silsby (HWP) and his "Crop Doctor" International were surgically precise in winning twice. On Friday, the "Doctor" carved out victory by 3/4" over Ryan Anderson's "Checkin' Out" and by less than 2" over Brady Ferris' "Absolutely Nuts" in the class of 17. Then on Saturday, it was Chris Weidinger's "Black Power" that mounted a late challenge to Silsby but stopped 4' shy. Silsby's sweep, coupled with scrambled finishing orders behind him over the course of Friday and Saturday nights, has staked him to a nine-point lead over four challengers: Anderson, Ferris, Brad Hart's "Don't Ask," and the Freeze family's "Deere Traxx." Next NTPA/Cup stop for SF: Ionia, Michigan.
For Super Stock Diesel 4x4s, it was a third Cup weekend in a row dating to Tomah, Wisconsin and Hutchinson, Minnesota, which leaves only one more chance---the finale in Bowling Green, Ohio---for someone to defeat "Trump." That's the name of the Dodge that has been piloted by Shane Kellogg (HWP) to two wins over that span including the diesels' only on-track crack at Rockwell on Saturday night when Thursday's hook was washed away. Pulling directly after Carl Atley's "Lethal Weapon" in the class of nine, Kellogg's 345.8' edged the defending GN and Cup champion by 11" and upped his advantage in the polls to nine points over Atley and class newcomer Shane Wurm with "Boost." Next GN stop for SSD 4x4: Fort Recovery, Ohio; next Cup stop: Bowling Green.
Like their four-tired counterparts, the Super Semis were on their third straight Shell Rotella Cup haul as the series entered Iowa. Lamentably, their trip to Rockwell was attenuated like the 4x4s' to a one-and-done. But in a scintillating Saturday night show-stopper, Ryan DeBroux's "Playin' with Fire" (HWP) Kenworth took the "Ironman" sled 358.1' southbound and down to thwart reigning champ Dean Holicky's chance at a third W. Holicky's "Mother Trucker" continues to lead both the GN and Cup standings by a solitary point over Pat Eilen's "Just Passin' Thru in Class" after each posted double wins ("MT" in Tomah, "JPTIC" in Hutch). Next GN stop for SEMI: Morley, Michigan; next Cup stop: Bowling Green.
The multi-engine Modified class saw its Cup chase turn once and then again over the first two nights in North Iowa in which the division's participants, pulling early, got done just in time to don coats and covers. On night one, the last three hooks were the best three, as Bret Berg's "Money Maker," Doug Lively's "Bank Robber," and Jeff Rose's "Giddy Up" ended the class in top-this fashion. But Saturday night brought a dramatically different outcome, as Corey Kielmeyer, the leader who got brushed aside for the Thursday podium, willed his three-engine "Double Trouble" to 311.2' to finish ahead of Bill Douglas Jr.'s "Spook Gone Wild." Third both nights, Berg (HWP) went from one marker down to Lively after Session One to two up on Bob Jostock's "Wild Child" in both Cup and GN points. Next GN stop for MOD: Hagerstown, Maryland; next Cup stop: Bowling Green.
And in Unlimited, it was a Session Three free-for-all as several regular Modified participants joined in to mix it up with their unrestricted counterparts in a 10-vehicle field. But the storyline headed into the Super Pull of the South is this: Can anyone whoa Joe? The four-engine "Polar Air" of Joe Eder (HWP) has found itself in a gulf stream after three consecutive wins dating to last Friday in Hutch and exclusively top-three finishes across five appearances to date. That rarified air has been occupied the last several seasons by Chuck Knapp's "Screamin' D," which finished second to Eder in Rockwell's only roll but now sits six points behind at the halfway point for Cup. With nine GN hooks remaining, however, there's still plenty of time for the four-time champion Knapp to awaken. Next GN/Cup stop for UNL: Chapel Hill, Tennessee.
Remaining events on the season-long Shell Rotella Cup Series tour include Chapel Hill, Tennessee's Lions Super Pull of the South (July 19-20 for Super Stock Diesel, Pro Stock, Four Wheel Drive, Modified Mini, and Unlimited), Ionia, Michigan's Free Fair Pullsation (July 19-20 for Super Farm, Two Wheel Drive, and Light Unlimited), and Bowling Green, Ohio's National Tractor Pulling Championships (August 15-17 for all divisions). Watch this space for more Shell Rotella Cup-Dates after each event, visit the Standings page at www.NTPAPULL.com for up-to-the-minute Cup standings, and check out The Puller, the NTPA's official publication, for comprehensive Grand National event coverage throughout 2019.
(Photos by Rick & Kim Moore/MoorePhotosMN.com)
About National Tractor Pullers Association
The NTPA is the sport’s oldest and most respected truck and tractor pulling sanctioning organization. Governed by a board of directors, the NTPA is managed by World Pulling International (WPI), an independently owned entity. Headquartered in Worthington, Ohio, the NTPA provides rules and regulations and the infrastructures required for organizations throughout the country to arrange truck and tractor pulls. The 2018 NTPA Championship Pulling Circuit was sponsored in part by Case IH, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Alliance Tire, Enderle Fuel Injection, MAC Trailer, Ag Protect 1, Shell Rotella, STOP-FYRE®, Cen-Pe-Co Lubricants, Columbus Diesel Supply, Heritage Iron, Stainless Diesel, Midwest Wheel Inc., the National Tractor Pulling Championships in Bowling Green, Ohio, PowerBore Cylinder Sleeves, Profab Machine Inc., the Budweiser Dairyland Super Nationals in Tomah, Wisconsin, and Riverside Engine Inc.
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