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Quarter-scale tractor pull returns

3/20/2013

Pullers from Iowa and surrounding states will participate in this indoor, family-fun, tractor-pulling event. Jim Malmberg, from Hills, Iowa, pulls the tractors for Lightning Pulling Team in the Sport Stock V-Twin class.

Pullers from Iowa and surrounding states will participate in this indoor, family-fun, tractor-pulling event. Jim Malmberg, from Hills, Iowa, pulls the tractors for Lightning Pulling Team in the Sport Stock V-Twin class.

Since man’s early rise, he has sought to have more, do more, be more. The previous century seemed to be about man’s dominance over things twice or triple his size. Bigger was always better. A cheeseburger meal? Make it a triple cheeseburger meal mega-sized with a liter of cola. A car to get around town? Only if it’s a Hummer that can conquer the treacherous terrain of Des Moines.

Things began to change around the turn of the millennium, and suddenly everything needed to be smaller, more compact. Phones and computers combined and shrank to pocket size. Cars were made more efficient, burning less fuel per mile. But the desire to go big hasn’t gone away; it’s simply been curbed. Now it’s about doing more with less. Simply take a look at quarter-scale tractor pulling to see how the little now conquers the large.

The Ninth Annual Spring Shootout returns to central Iowa this weekend. Though the event was started years ago by another pulling group, Ken Long and Prairie Tractor Pullers have continued to make the event big and exciting.

“Each year has been bigger and better, and now we are on our ninth annual,” said Long, president of Prairie Tractor Pullers.

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All the excitement that comes from watching a heavy-duty tractor pull can be found in spades with these garden tractors but at a fraction of the size. To the untrained eye, most folks might recognize these little beasts as garden-variety lawnmowers. Those people aren’t incorrect, though their eyes deceive them.

“This event is not as simple as just taking your mower deck off and going out and pulling,” said Dave Draker, a longtime competitor in quarter-scale tractor pulls. “Most of these garden tractors are modified.”

Some of these machines will be looking to pull as much as 1,300 pounds, a little more than the 20-30 pounds of grass these mowers would tow without any modifications.

“The idea here is pretty simple: These are miniature versions of the full-size tractor pulling competitions,” said Draker.

Just like the tractors that have been scaled down, so too have the sleds they will be pulling. The sled — as it is known — is basically a box of weight that progressively gets heavier and more difficult to pull as the tractor goes further and further forward. The sleds are an impressive engineered technology with a sophisticated gearing system that strengthens the restraint the further the sled is pulled.

“This isn’t about getting out the gate quickest or having the fastest tractor,” said Draker. “The point is, quite simply, to get the sled further than anyone else in the competition.”

Whether competing or just there to watch, one thing is for certain: Everyone is going to have a good time. The competition is fierce, and these little machines pack one hell of a punch under the hood.

For Draker, it’s an opportunity to spend time with his son doing the thing they love. And it’s hard to argue with seeing a lot of great craftsmanship and performance on a miniature scale.

“This is a family-fun event from stock youth class age 5 to 12 and up to car engine mini rod classes for adults and lots of different classes in between,” said Long. “So whether you’re interested in the various engine sizes or the different tractor models, you’ll find something here you can’t resist — best of all is the thrill of competition and the noise!” CV

The Ninth Annual Spring Shootout begins Friday, March 22 at 2 p.m. at the Pioneer Pavilion/Cattle Barn at the Iowa State Fairgrounds and continues into Saturday starting at 10 a.m. Walk-ups are welcome. Print entry forms from the Prairie Tractor Pullers website at www.prairiepullers.com. The cost is $50 to participate. For spectators only, the cost is $6 per person with 14 and under getting in for free.

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