Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Running Full Speed, But in What Direction? An Examination of Pulling’s Fastest Growing Class, Limited Pro Stock 4.1

During the weekend of May 4th-5th, I attended two pulls that transcend The HOOK Magazine. During the evenings, I attended the MSPA H&R Agri-Power Pulling Series events in Ardmore, Tennessee, while during the day of the 5th I covered a local antique pulling event in Shelbyville, Tennessee. While at the antique event I crossed paths with a couple who field three antique tractors and enjoy the sport of pulling at all levels. We had spoken briefly the evening before as they had been at the Ardmore event, but we had opportunity for more conversation during the antique pull. In our conversation, without prompt or asking the gentleman remarked, paraphrasing here, “that was a good pull last night…but that Limited Pro Stock class was really good.” He continued on to reveal his understanding of the class and how good a place it holds within a given show. Basically the message I got from this was: The fans are watching…and keeping score. I was first introduced to LPS 4.1 two years ago at an event in Illinois. It certainly had a different feel and flair that Super Farm didn’t possess, but was still that diamond in the rough, ready to be polished so that it might shine brightly to the pulling world. Fast forward to the Missouri State Fair in 2011, where nearly 30 of these tractors made pass after pass, wheels up, with a sound and presence only eclipsed by a Pro Stocker. I too became a believer in that evening, recognizing that the class has some fantastic potential. With every up-and-coming class there is a certain new-kid-in-town novelty. The novelty here is that in many circles LPS is thought to be the class that Super Farm should have been all along, as well as the great show they provide. But as the headline suggests for this class that is already being booked heavily throughout the Midwest, what direction is the class heading in? As a person who has a deeply vested interest in keeping the sport of tractor and truck pulling alive and well personally and professionally, I think it’s important that history does not repeat itself so that LPS does not fall victim of the ills that other classes that have fell prey to in their formative stages. In short: 1) Align rules across organizations. It’s important that a tractor in Missouri or from any other state should be able to go anywhere in the pulling world and roll off the trailer without having to change their setup beyond those changes they normally make through the season. Uniformity of rules also saves money in the long run, plain and simple. If not, LPS pullers that travel will have to keep multiple setups to run given on the set of rules they’re running into. Diesel shops will make money still, just won’t have to develop different setups on their end, allowing them to focus on one for LPS. 2) To promoters and sanctioning bodies: overbooking the class makes for a long, hard summer. They are reliable, but they will break with enough pounding through the season. There’s also a certain responsibility on the part of the puller to say “when,” and “when” more often than not is when the parts funds dry up or the supplier’s ability to provide replacement parts becomes an issue. This is probably the hardest measure of all; it is truly hard to say “no.” 3) Maintain this class as a regional class only; The knock from many is that Super Farm isn’t a class for the national stage, and in the grand scheme LPS 4.1 is not either, even though it is more attractive to be at that level. There are already enough hooks to support this class with less travel, and it finally pushes Pro Stock into national-only status like the USS, Mod, and Unl Mod classes. It is indeed fun to sit back and watch this class when all is said and done. The speed, noise, and overall display of brute power is remarkable; where some classes might seem to bring a pack of sparklers to the show, LPS is a stick of dynamite; furious, loud and uncompromising. Every effort needs to be made to project the path of the class in the right direction, and I don’t think by any stretch I have all the right answers. I do know after a visit with a fan on a beautiful Saturday morning is that the fans are watching, and want more. Let’s give it to them. P.S. After initially writing this piece back early in the season I have had several more fans specifically come up to me and make note of the quality and speed of this class—even a promoter. Though some may grumble that the class is “too big” “broken” or whatever, it again ultimately matters what the fans are doing when LPS 4.1 is going down the track—they’re standing and cheering and evidently telling people about the class after they’ve seen it the first time.